Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

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May 13, 2016 · Memories of Marlow Cowan

Marlow and Fran Cowan play the piano at Mayo Clinic. Marlow Cowan, whose playful piano duet in our Mayo Clinic atrium with his wife, Frances, became a YouTube sensation and led to national and international TV appearances, has passed away at age 97.

I got the news early yesterday in an email from the Cowans’ daughter, DeDe Shour:

One of the last questions a week ago my Dad asked me was, “Do you think there will be a piano in heaven I can play?” (Of course our Dad could never pass up a piano without playing it). I told him I was certain there was something similar to a piano but much more glorious and that I was sure he would be joining with the angels playing it for the Lord.

So if you happen to hear some rag-time music floating through the air, smile….cause it’s just our dad playing the piano as he brings joy to those who have gone before him.

Mr. Cowan certainly brought joy to millions while he was here. So with DeDe’s permission, I want to share some memories of Marlow and also let you remember (or see for the first time) for yourself. 

Marlow and Frances Cowan are most widely known for this video captured and uploaded to YouTube in September 2008 by Jodi Hume, the daughter of another Mayo Clinic patient:

Seven years years ago last month, we saw Jodi’s video and included it here on Sharing Mayo Clinic, and also posted the link to Facebook and Twitter. The video’s view count at the time was just over 1,000.

Good Morning AmericaWithin a month, it had over a half-million views, leading Good Morning America to fly DeDe and her parents to New York for a live studio performance on the morning their YouTube view count reached 2 million.

The Cowans also were interviewed (via something akin to Skype) for a story on the Japanese TV network, NHK, and were featured in many other news stories.

We’ve stayed in touch since then, as I had opportunities to visit with them in Ankeny, Iowa, and as they also have returned to Rochester for some medical appointments and even a couple of concerts.

We’re honored that the Cowans chose to do their last major public performance at Mayo Clinic, an after-hours concert in connection with a health care social media conference we hosted in 2011. In the video below you’ll see Marlow’s wit, as well as his love for music and for Frances:

For Marlow Cowan, music was a ministry. Through it he brought joy to millions (more than 11 million on YouTube as of this morning, as well as countless others through live performances.) I have been blessed to know Marlow and his family.

This video from the first time I met the Cowans at their home in Iowa captures well who Marlow was, and why so many of us will miss him:

Editor’s Note: Lee Aase is a communications director at Mayo Clinic.

Feb 27, 2012 · Mayo Clinic Piano "Rock Star" Celebrates 93rd Birthday

Marlow Cowan with cake

When I first met Marlow and Frances Cowan nearly three years ago, I recall Mr. Cowan joking, “At our age, we don’t buy any green bananas.” So it was especially neat for our Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media staff to help him celebrate his 93rd birthday this month.

You may remember the Cowans as the couple whose impromptu piano duet at Mayo Clinic went viral, having reached more than 8 million viewers on YouTube.

The story began in Sept. 2008 when the Cowans were in Rochester, and their piano duet in the atrium of our Gonda Building was captured by another patient and her daughter and posted to YouTube. Six months later we saw the video, which had been viewed about 1,000 times, and embedded it here on Sharing Mayo Clinic.

Then it really took off. Within just a few weeks their video was viewed more than a million times on YouTube and the Cowans had been featured in The Des Moines Register, and two weeks after that they were flown to New York for a live in-studio gig on Good Morning America.

In February 2010 they returned to Rochester for some appointments, and asked if we would want to schedule a little concert. That led to a big story on KARE TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as a segment on national television in Japan.

With one more return visit last October, we arranged for the Cowans to play what they say will be their last full-blown public concert, in connection with our Social Media Summit and member meeting of the Social Media Health Network. We called it “A Concert for the Ages” and you can see it for yourself.

Mr. Cowan had mentioned that night that he would like to get all the video footage of from this journey put together as a keepsake for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So we conspired with his daughter, DeDe Shour, to surprise him at his 93rd birthday celebration with a package of DVDs to share with his family.

Thanks to Joel Streed from our Center for Social Media staff for producing the DVDs, and to DeDe and her husband, Mark, who took these pictures of the Feb. 19 celebration and our surprise gift. See the slideshow of the photos:

Please join us in wishing Marlow and Frances Cowan many more years of perfectly ripened bananas! Share your comments and greetings below, and we’ll pass them along.

Jul 4, 2011 · Cowans living "Healthfully Ever After"

Just over two years ago, Marlow Cowan and his wife Frances became Internet sensations when a video of their piano duet at Mayo Clinic went “viral” after being posted here on Sharing Mayo Clinic. In less than two months, their video racked up more than two million views, and now stands at over 7.6 million views on YouTube.

Late last month, the Cowans were featured in an Iowa Public Television program, Need to Know, in a segment called “Healthfully Ever After” on the health benefits of a good marriage. Those who have enjoyed the Cowans’ video on YouTube will likely find this program heartwarming too:

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Mar 1, 2011 · Scott Hennen on Ulcerative Colitis and Mayo Clinic

Scott Hennen, a radio talk show host from Fargo, ND, had surgery at Mayo Clinic yesterday to remove his colon, which had developed several sites with precancerous cells related to his ulcerative colitis, which was first diagnosed in 1997.

Scott had previously described his reasons for being public about his medical condition in this post. In the video below, he offers more background on his medical history and why he came to Mayo Clinic for his operation:

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Feb 27, 2011 · Sharing with His Radio Family

Scott Hennen is on the air three hours every weekday on his syndicated radio program based in Fargo, North Dakota. He has had ulcerative colitis since 1997, and on Monday morning is scheduled to have his colon removed at Mayo Clinic.

Scott came to Rochester late last week for pre-surgery appointments, and broadcast his show live from the Mayo Clinic campus. Just before his Friday show, he reflected on why he has chosen to be so public about his medical condition and treatment:

Scott’s family will be providing updates on his progress Monday via his Facebook profile and on his Twitter account.

We plan to follow up in the coming days, posting additional video from our Friday interview with Scott and video updates during his recovery.

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Feb 2, 2011 · Get on the Target Field Jumbotron with your health tip!

Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Twins are teaming up again this season to help improve the health of Twins fans. And this time, we want to know how you and your families stay healthy. Enter our video contest for a chance to win four tickets to a Twins game at Target Field to see your video on the Jumbotron. Here’s how the contest works:

  1. Make a cool video! Create a 20 second video clip about your favorite way to stay healthy, then upload it to the Video Contest tab on the Mayo Clinic Facebook page by March 1. More than 50 videos have been entered so far.
  2. Tell your friends! Ask everyone you know to go online and vote for your video. Twenty-five finalists will be selected by March 7 — if you’re one of those finalists, tell your friends to vote for your video again.
  3. Win! The thirteen entries with the most votes on Facebook by March 31 will get four tickets to a Twins game at Target Field to see their winning entry on the Jumbotron.

View the official contest rules on the “video contest” tab on Facebook.

The contest is open to anyone, but users must be 18 or older to upload a video to Facebook. We are providing the game tickets for the winners, but the families are responsible for getting to Target Field in Minneapolis and any lodging expenses.

Go vote for your favorites or upload your own health tip video today!

Jan 31, 2011 · A Healthy Match at Mall of America

If you’ve been shopping at Mall of America the past few months, you may have seen the “Healthy Match” game from Mayo Clinic — interactive health information spanning the façade of a storefront on the first level next to Bloomingdale’s. The signage invites passersby to participate in a touch-screen memory game featuring photos and tips on how to stay healthy. It also allows Mall visitors to enter their e-mail addresses to receive additional Mayo Clinic health information.

More than 11,000 people have played the game since it went up in late November, and one lucky winner will receive a $200 mall gift card. Check out the game this week for a final chance to play and win!

The “Health Match” game is just one of the ways Mayo Clinic is promoting healthy living at Mall of America. For more information about Mayo Clinic activities at Mall of America, visit

Jan 28, 2011 · Guided Video Tours of Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic’s new Center for Social Media has produced a Patient Video Guide series to help new patients and their families better know what to expect when they arrive and to make the most of their visit.

Each year more than 500,000 patients travel to Mayo Clinic for care from every U.S. state and about 150 countries. The new tour series provides these patients with orientation videos from all three sites: Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

Vivien Williams, producer of our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge television series, hosts the guided tours. Here’s her introduction to the Minnesota tour:

These videos are being offered on our Mayo Clinic YouTube Channel, here on Sharing Mayo Clinic (see the right column) and on the new mobile-friendly blog entitled: Mayo Clinic Patient Video Guides.

If you have suggestions for elements you would like to see included in future segments, please add them in the comments below.

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