In January 1970, a pilot program offering area physicians the opportunity to spend from four to eight weeks at the Mayo Clinic working in fields of special interest to them was launched.
Groundwork for the pilot program included visits between Mayo consultants and area physicians to determine what type of program would best suit their needs. A questionnaire was sent to physicians affiliated with hospitals in Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato, and with Olmsted Community Hospital (all in Minnesota), asking them to indicate whether or not they were interested in the proposed program. Some fifty physicians—internists or general practitioners—indicated a strong interest.
The program of postgraduate education for area physicians was offered in five fields: cardiovascular disease, neurology, hematology, gastroenterology, and oncology.
The physicians who participated in the program engaged in diagnosis and patient care in both hospital and clinic settings under supervision of Mayo consultants. They also made rounds and attended conferences and seminars.
The number of applicants initially accepted was limited in order to make easier the evaluation of the pilot program. It was anticipated that when the participants returned to their home communities, they would serve as organizers of educational programs that would further the purpose of the Regional Medical Program, which was to bring the best information available to the physician who was treating patients with heart disease, cancer, stroke, and related diseases.