The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 12, 2013

Doctor is subject of talk that captures spirit of entrepreneurship

MANKATO — For an example of entrepreneurship, you could do a lot worse than the story of Dr. Edward Kendall.

Never heard of him?

Don’t worry. Most people haven’t. But Dr. Thom Rooke of the Mayo Clinic has, and he found his story so compelling that he wrote a book about it.

Rooke was the morning keynote speaker at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Bridge conference Tuesday at Verizon Wireless Center. The conference featured speakers and sessions for people interested in getting started down the entrepreneurial path or to energize or refresh the efforts of current entrepreneurs.

The role of Rooke’s presentation was to give people a peek at a story that illustrates the determined spirit of successful entrepreneurs.

Luckily, Rooke has just written a book on the topic. Not the topic of entrepreneurship per se, but on a man whose story embodies the kind of struggles many face as they try to convince people they’ve got a good idea.

Rooke’s latest book is called “The Quest for Cortisone” and chronicles the unorthodox journey of chemist Kendall.

He was, according to his biographer, a bit of a loner. After college he went to work for pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis. After a year he left and went to work for St. Luke’s Hospital in New York. After a short time, he left that job, too. He just didn’t like the work, he told a friend. He then tried to get a job at the Rockefeller Institute, telling the founder he wants to do work for him studying adrenal glands. The founder says no and sends him on his way.

So he found his way west, to Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic. It so happened Charles Mayo had by that time — around 1900 — become one of the world’s leading thyroid surgeons. Kendall interviewed for a job and was rejected by the clinic’s board of governors. But Charles Mayo liked him and hired him anyway. In a few years he’d be nominated for a Nobel Prize in science for his thyroid research. But he lost.

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