After giving a remote lecture, Dr. Steven Berk, the distinguished Dean of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center for more than fifteen years, experienced a sudden onset of severe chest pain. As a medically-trained physician, Dr. Berk was aware that the symptoms he was experiencing were undoubtedly the result of a heart attack and that his life was at risk. He acted swiftly, alerting his assistant, Charity, that he’d need a wheelchair and would need to be taken immediately to the emergency room to verify his self-diagnosis with testing. Dr. Berk was so acutely aware of the fatal risks of a heart attack that he took time to email his two sons, telling them that he loved them because he “knew [his condition] was going to be trouble.” A troponin test quickly verified the worst—Dr. Berk was having a serious cardiac event and required immediate life-saving care.
Dr. Berk was rushed to the University Medical Center Cath Lab, where Dr. Shurmur, an Interventional Cardiologist, discovered that blockages obstructed all five of Dr. Berk’s heart vessels. He would require emergency surgery.
Dr. Berk was rushed to surgery under the care of Dr. Ralph Paone, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, whom Dr. Berk understood had a reputation as “one of the best cardiovascular surgeons in the country.” After completing a successful emergency surgery, Dr. Berk experienced challenging complications, keeping him in the Cardiac Care Unit for seven full days, where nurses and doctors kept him under intense observation. Dr. Berk, reminiscing, described recovery as a “very tough seven days.” As the Dean of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, Dr. Berk was personally responsible for hiring exceptional doctors like both Dr. Shurmur and Dr. Paone and said he had “total faith in them,” a powerful endorsement with his own life in the balance. As a result of UMC’s world-class care, Dr. Berk has returned to his duties as Dean full-time.
The distinct quality of Dr. Berk’s care resulted in his life being saved, making certain that his last-minute email to his two sons wasn’t the last opportunity he’d have to tell them that he loved them. Life-threatening events like his are addressed every day at UMC. Patients under the care of the outstanding medical staff can expect results similar to Dr. Berk’s, promising a second chance at a healthy, energetic, and full life.