Brad Berk's Comments

Mark Taubman, M.D.Thank you.  It’s wonderful to be here and to see so many of you for the first time since my accident.  I want to tell you how much Mary and I appreciate the outpouring of kindness and support we’ve felt over these months. 

Joel, Mary and I deeply appreciate how you’ve supported us every step of the way – from the night of my accident.  You have always made it clear that the door was open for me to come back as CEO, and that has motivated me during the most trying periods in my recovery.   I appreciate your confidence. 

I also want to thank Mark Taubman who has done superb work as Acting CEO.  It was a comfort to me to know that Mark was at the helm with the leadership team.  I appreciated the numerous phone calls, e-mails, and visits in which he kept me apprised of what was happening here.  When he stepped in as Acting CEO, Mark said that he did not intend to be a caretaker; he intended to hand back to me an even stronger institution.  Mark, you have done that and I thank you. 

Lissa, I’d like to add my sincere thanks to you for stepping in as Interim Dean.  When, before my accident, I asked you to serve, I had no idea just how challenging that assignment would be. But you have performed with the thoughtful, enthusiastic, hard-working style that is your signature.  

I’m thrilled to see progress on every front.  I am humbled but not surprised by how everyone here has pulled together to maintain URMC’s momentum – from the URMC Board to the Executive Team to the Chairs and Center Directors to the faculty and staff themselves.  I cannot thank you enough.  I am energized to rejoin you on March 1. 

Today is particularly gratifying for me because my longtime colleague and friend, Mark Taubman, will become the 10th dean of the Medical School that I graduated from.  Mark is the perfect choice for Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is an accomplished physician-scientist who loves discovery and teaching, but remains immersed in the daily practice of medicine.  He will be a champion for the School but will also have a broad, institutional perspective. He understands that the true power of the Medical Center derives from the interdependency of its missions.  He’s a careful listener, a pragmatic problem-solver, and a creative force.  He will be a dean in the tradition of George Whipple himself. 

To say that this experience has changed my life is an understatement.  But, it has also given me a perspective that I may not have acquired on my own.  I now see things through the eyes of the doctor and the patient.  I understand how much small kindnesses matter.  What a difference it makes when patients and their caregivers truly communicate, truly connect on a human level.  How families must become part of the healing process. 

First-rate quality, safety, and caring are the paramount clinical goal for this Medical Center.  Mary and I are eager to use what we’ve experienced and learned to further strengthen URMC’s own quality, safety, and care.  If we can become more attuned to the things that really matter to patients, we can not only improve patient satisfaction, we can rediscover the reasons we chose to pursue careers in medicine.  In short, we chose to become caregivers because we care about people.  It’s deeper than simply serving patients’ needs; it’s about allowing yourself to truly care about them as fellow human beings.  Therefore, we will begin referring within the Strong Commitment program, not to our service efforts but to our care.  In addition, we must learn to take care of ourselves.  Caring for each other must be practiced throughout URMC in ambulatory settings, by administrators, by staff, by scientists, by students, and, most importantly, by our doctors and nurses.  How we care for and treat each other critically affects the experience that our patients have. 

There is another component of providing excellent care - and it is courage. Courage is a quality we usually attribute to our patients – not ourselves. But over the last six months Mary and I have come to believe that providers’ willingness to address the emotional needs of our patients and their families is essential for excellent care.  And that takes courage.

We are already working closely with the faculty and staff who’ve been leading this charge. Just last week, I began meeting with medical students and residents – and I plan to involve faculty and staff from throughout the institution when I get back. It’s not only the right thing to do, I believe that attentiveness, compassion, and courage can become the distinguishing features of care at URMC.  I look forward to working with all of you to make this happen.

Given the challenges that Mark has already outlined, it will be difficult to sustain our pace in the face of the most sweeping health care reform since the creation of Medicare in 1964.  But, I agree that we face those challenges from a position of strength and with a team that’s unparalleled in its determination. We have been tested, and we are up to the challenge. 

I am excited about reuniting the leadership team of Seligman and Berk.  And, I’m also excited over the potential of a Berk-Taubman duo.  I look forward to working with them and every single one of you as, together, we practice “Medicine of the Highest Order” in the years ahead. 

Thank you all for coming.  For our guests in the news media, I, Joel, and Mark will all be available for comment one-on-one. Thank you and good afternoon.