Following long months of rehabilitation after a severe bicycling accident last May, CEO of UR Medical Center Brad Berk returned to his position on Monday, March 1, while still undergoing a few hours of physical and occupational therapy every day.

‘My first day back felt amazing. It was very exciting, anxiety-provoking and tiring,” Berk said. ‘It was a great day.”

On May 30, 2009, Berk was involved in a bicycle accident in which he suffered a cervical fracture and an incomplete spinal lesion While Berk was hospitalized and recovering, his position was temporarily filled by then-Chair of the Department of Medicine Mark Taubman. In January, Taubman was announced as the tenth dean of the Medical Center.

According to Chief Medical Officer and URMC Vice President Ray Mayewski, Berk’s return to the post went as well as could be expected.

‘We are delighted … The transition occurred smoothly. We made this change without any great upheaval. Basically speaking, we didn’t miss a step,” Mayewski said.

An important factor that motivated Berk to return was the support he received from the Rochester community following the accident.

‘The support was phenomenal, and played a huge part in my desire to get back because I really wanted to acknowledge all of that support and show them that it made a difference,” Berk said.

A UR Web site was created after his accident, through which Berk received more than 4,000 supportive notes. In addition, his daughter was very involved with the ‘Wishing Well” that was put up in a caf on Elmwood Avenue, where Berk received hundreds more notes.

‘People also e-mailed me on a regular basis, and it is obvious that the community followed the story very closely, because wherever I go, people recognize me and ask me how I’m doing,” he said.

Seeing URMC through the eyes of a patient, Berk has observed firsthand both the positive and negative aspects of the facility, which he says will help guide him in his future plans.

‘In the first 12 days following the accident, while I was in the ICU, I was very fortunate not to get any pneumonia or any infections, so I think that is a testament to our quality and safety program,” Berk said. ‘We’ve remarkably decreased the number of pneumonia cases for people on ventilators, and I didn’t get pneumonia despite the fact that I was at great risk.”

Berk highly recommended Strong’s menu items citing the Pasta Primavera and the cinnamon buns as his favorites. Berk highlighted the nursing staff as another strong point of URMC.

‘Strong has an hourly rounding in nursing which is really great for patients,” Berk said.

‘One area we are always working on is communication among teams. Since there are several teams taking care of you, it is difficult to keep track of all of them. Nurses and physicians put their names on whiteboards everyday, so I think the communication has been getting better.”

Additionally, Berk said he would like to see more artwork, because he claimed the environment at the Medical Center is sterile.

Berk added, ‘The Medical Center needs to change from service to care, because the kind of service we provide is care,” he said.

Berk claimed this included both care for patients and care for the employees, so that everyone feels respected and valued for their work.

In addition, courage is an important aspect of patient care, both courage on the part of the patients and on the part of physicians and nurses, because it is vital that they know how to deal with difficult, emotional situations.

The final major concept that Berk believes is crucial in patient care is ‘the power of the healing touch,” meaning that it is important for the caregiver inspire confidence and comfort, rather than to just do what they are supposed to do. To Berk, this is one of the strongest ways to promote a stronger patient-caregiver relationship.

As part of his future plans for the UR Medical Center, Berk hopes to foster more compassionate relationships between caregivers and patients.

‘Being compassionate has an enormous impact in how people are healed,” Berk said.

Mayewski embodied the excitement surrounding Berk’s return at the Medical Center.
‘We look forward to his continued leadership and we are optimistic [about the future].”

Barbosu is a member of the class of 2010.

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