Berk shares health care vision at Watson Lecture

University of Rochester Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Dr. Bradford Berk, right, delivered the annual Watson Lecture. Dr. Sharon Reimold, left, accepted the 2012 Watson Award for Excellence in Clinical Medicine.

By Lin Lofley

Presenting the annual Patricia and William L. Watson Jr., M.D., Lecture, Dr. Bradford Berk, Chief Executive Officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), laid out for UT Southwestern Medical Center clinicians, students, and employees his vision of how health care can be best delivered.

Dr. Berk, who sustained a severe spinal cord injury in a 2009 bicycle accident, spoke of the healing power of touch and of the emphasis at URMC on what it calls “patient- and family-centered care.”

“We partner with patients and their families,” said Dr. Berk, who also serves as Senior Vice President of Health Sciences at URMC and is a Professor of Medicine, Cardiology, and Pharmacology. “The four corners of ‘Patient- and Family-Centered Care’ are safety, quality, caring, and courage.”

Dr. Berk related experiences of his own hospitalization after his accident to highlight the ways in which URMC has progressed to serve patients better. One particularly vivid recollection for him involved a simple gesture of patient care.

“At one point, I had been in the hospital 18 days, and I looked like it,” Dr. Berk said. “A nurse offered to wash my hair, and it was a heavenly experience. That touch was a great thing to feel.”

He told of how hospitalized patients become more aware of what’s going on around them than anyone can imagine, and of why they should have the ear of those who are treating them. 

“I quickly learned to identify the medications that I would be swallowing,” he said. “I knew how many there were, and I identified some by taste, others by texture on the tongue.”

The Watson Lecture is held in conjunction with the annual presentation of the Patricia and William L. Watson Jr., M.D., Award for Excellence in Clinical Medicine, given this year to Dr. Sharon Reimold, Professor of Internal Medicine.

In heartfelt thanks for the award, Dr. Reimold recognized her husband, Dr. Andreas Reimold, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, for helping her to become one of the top cardiologists at UT Southwestern. She also thanked Dr. John Rutherford, Vice President for Clinical Operations, for being her mentor for 23 years.

Applauding the high percentage of women in the Division of Cardiology, Dr. Reimold praised all her colleagues. She also challenged those in attendance to do their best: “We strive to be the best here, and for that to be true, we all have to be the best every day, all the time.”

In 2009, a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Watson established the Watson Award to recognize annually a UT Southwestern clinician whose work exemplifies a commitment to outstanding patient care and advancement of clinical innovations.

Dr. Watson, who maintained a private practice in Waco until his retirement in 1992, died in January 2012.

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Dr. Reimold holds the Gail Griffiths Hill Chair in Cardiology.

Dr. Rutherford holds the Jonsson-Rogers Chair in Cardiology.

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