Mayo Clinic employees who use the Mayo patient record or the pneumatic tube system, or who work in the Plummer Building, all have one thing in common: their working lives are touched each day by the contributions of one brilliant man, Dr. Henry Plummer. With the exception of Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo no one has left as significant an imprint on Mayo Clinic as the unforgettable Dr. Plummer.
Dr. Will Mayo once remarked that the hiring of Dr. Plummer was the best day’s work he ever did for the clinic. When he joined the Mayo staff in 1901, Dr. Plummer took charge of bringing the laboratories up to date. A forerunner in the development of X-ray diagnosis and therapy, he also took charge of the clinic’s x-ray work.
Though his primary medical interest involved his pioneering work on the thyroid gland, Dr. Plummer’s understanding of medicine as a whole led to many other “firsts.” Some of these include development of mechanical methods of removing foreign bodies from the esophagus, development of bronchoscopy to remove foreign bodies in the bronchi and development of a method of diagnosing lung disease by removing specimens of lung tissue for examination under a microscope.
But Dr. Plummer’s energy could not be confined to the practice of medicine. During the decade from 1900 to 1910 as the Mayo reputation grew and the shortage of space for the busy clinic became acute, the Mayo brothers considered a new building designed especially for the group’s needs. As chairman of the Building Committee, Dr. Plummer assumed responsibility for the office and examining room arrangements.
Dr. Plummer also was a genius in mechanical detail. The first clinic building, the red 1914 Building (where the Siebens Building now stands) was essentially his work. The architects gratefully acknowledged his leadership. The present Plummer Building, a work of art in the Moorish-Gothic style, is his monument. It is evidence of his inspired knowledge and wisdom.