This article is part of a series honoring recipients of the 2021 Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumni Award. This award is given in recognition of exceptional contributions of Mayo Clinic Alumni to medicine, including, research, education, practice and administration. The individuals receiving the award have often been recognized nationally or internationally in their fields. These articles were originally published in Mayo Clinic Alumni Magazine and on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
Richard Hurt, M.D., is an emeritus professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. He is an international leader in tobacco-related illness and treatment who helped reduce the tobacco addiction epidemic and its effects on patient lives. Dr. Hurt joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1976 after completing residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester.
Dr. Hurt was the first expert witness for the state of Minnesota in the historic 1998 Minnesota tobacco trial that resulted in a $6.1 billion settlement. He testified that Big Tobacco knew the harms and addictive potential of smoking and had strategies to expand marketing to children.
The trial resulted in the release of more than 70 million pages of previously secret internal tobacco company documents — a profound victory for tobacco control and public health. The settlement established the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, now ClearWay Minnesota, whose mission is to reduce the toll of tobacco on Minnesotans.
Dr. Hurt was the inaugural chair of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco board. He also founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and developed one of the first inpatient treatment programs for severe tobacco dependence. He contributed seminal works to the literature, including the first clinical trial of bupropion to help smokers quit. He was the principal investigator of 15 NIH grants and 34 industry or foundation grants.