Transcript: Need to Know Rochester for January 19, 2010

(Julie) Coming up on Need to Know, Gwen Ifill'srecent visit to Rochester

 

(Gwen) I'm one of those strange people who likes politicians in addition to liking politics because I think that the bulk of the politicians I've covered have the best interests at heart.

 

(Julie) We talk about politics, journalism and her book, the breakthrough. Also, as Doctor Brad Burke get's ready to return as full time CEO of the University of Rochester medical center how will his experience as a patient change what he does.

 

(Brad) When I was in the ICU I had been there about 10 days and this nurse came up to me who was on a break and she said to me, Dr Burke, you look like you need your hair washed.

 

(Gwen) We should make sure we're consistent and that is something that you accumulate over time. I've worked in journalism for now for 30 years. If you added up all the experience of Jim Lehrer and Ray Suarez and Jeff Brown and Margret Warren, Judy Woodrif and me, we don't want to do that. It's a lot, but we then can share that with people when we are sitting there planning a story for the day the 4 or 5 producers and reporters in my office are likely to be a web producer, a reporter who has a rolodex full of experts, a senior producer who's trying to figure out how to make it work in the entire program and when you put all of that together it's pretty dynamic.

 

(Julie) This reminds me a little bit about the struggle you refer to in your book a lot, the book, The Breakthrough, about the old guard of blacks who were intimately involved in the civil rights movement and the new guard who benefited so much from those older folks, but now want to take the reigns and put their own ideas into effect. What is it about this kind of friction that appeals to you?

 

(Gwen) The friction in a political sense is for power. It's a new guard that comes over and says I want to run things. It's not that kind of friction in our news room because no one wants to run it really, everyone just wants to get the work done. But it's still the change between the way it's always been done and the way it's going to be done now. In the case of political power, the case, and this is true among African Americans and everyone seeking political power, the people who are trying to rise up and take the reigns often meet resistance from people who don't want to give it up. At the news hour, Jim was the one who led the revolution. In politics these are guys who are saying I just got here. I just marched for this opportunity. I knocked on the doors and you should respect me and step aside. These are often their children who say you raised me to say I could do anything and now it's my turn. It's what happens with politics. It's what happened in Boston when the Brahmans had to give way to the Irish that had to give way to the next minorities who rose up and wanted power. It happens in the African American community too.

 

(Julie) You are a political journalist. This is obviously something that you like to watch happen and write about.

 

 

(Gwen) I'm a junkie actually. I'll just admit it. I love it and I think it matters. I think there's a real connection between what happens in politics and some of the unsavory things that happen often behind closed doors or just out of view and what happens in our lives. When I went to college in Boston in the middle of the school busing crisis, I saw with my own eyes that the decision about whether a child could get educated or not had to do with what happened behind closed doors of the Boston School Committee. That had more to do with politics than with education. But you had to understand one to gauge the result. That's the way I always think about politics. Even if it's about health care. If the health care bill dies in Washington, it might have as much to do with whether a member of the house feels they can be re-elected and hold on to their political power as it does about whether we think people should have health coverage. So, it's possible to say that I think we should all be covered by health care but I also think not this health care because it might get me booted out of office. It's our job as the observers, hopefully as the non-passive observers to figure out when those two things actually connect and why one effects the other.

 

(Julie) And you have spent a lot of time in your work connecting the dots between politics and everyday people's lives. What's happening on main street. Do you think that, in your experience, you've covered politicians now for decades, do they understand the connection? Do they connect the dots between their actions and the dinner table?

 

(Gwen) Most of them do. I'm one of those strange people who likes politicians in addition to liking politics because I think that the vast majority of the politicians I've met, talked to, covered have the best interests at heart. They got elected for idealistic reasons at all. Sometimes they get corrupted once they are there. The fun ones are obviously the rouges. The ones that are doing crazy things that make you go I don't believe that. And we pay a lot of attention to the rogues. The truth is, there are 535 members of the house and senate and we probably cover 40 of them when you get right down to it. There are still 500 folks out there who are doing constituent service and trying to represent the best interests of the people at home. It's not that we need to cover them. It's news. We don't cover people who do their jobs, we cover people don't do their jobs. We irregularity, not the regularity. I believe that most of them are people doing it for the right reasons.

 

(Julie) Candidate Obama was very effective at getting people to think that he understood the connection between what he would do in office and their lives. Is president Obama as successful at that?

 

(Gwen) He's clearly not. He's having a really hard time. Especially lately where he is running up against an anger in the nation which is rooted in things he feels he cannot control which is the Economy. He's been there a year now. You can no longer say, which he has been saying, that it's really hard. Yeah, but you're the president. You wanted to be the president. You spent a lot of money to be elected president. So, we're not going to have a pity party about that. And he does pull himself up short before he gets to that. but the frustrations are that, and I think they are basic political frustrations, everyone doesn't agree with his approach. and everyone doesn't think that it's the right way to do it. Everyone has different drivers at home that make their decision on whether to support him or not.  Now that he is dealing with two wars, he's dealing with international crisis like Haiti which was never on anyone's radar.  He's trying to figure out how to get us out of an economic collapse and then take on a healthcare bill and climate change and who knows if illegal immigration is part of it too. It's a lot, and he made a judgement early on that he was going to take it all on. There was nothing he couldn't afford to address. Maybe there's a few things like gay marriage. He decided not to address that. But as a result, it's all a lot of juggling and sometimes balls crash to the floor.

 

(Julie) I want to ask you before we go, one of the conclusions you reached in your book was that President Obama's election released this pressure valve that allowed America to talk about race. A year later, is that still the case? Has that been a lasting effect of of his campaign?

 

(Gwen) We're still talking about it. Not always in a healthy fashion as we saw when Harry Reed made some slip up and everybody got outraged and upset about it in a way that I didn't quite get. I didn't know what he said that was that outrageous expect that he dared to characterize someone by their race which for some reason, some people think is taboo. They think that we are post racial now and we should never mention race which is never what President Obama said and it's never what any of these breakthrough candidates that i wrote about have ever said. They key, and I've had this in countless conversations around the country since the book came out, it's been so interesting. The key is, how do we talk about race in a way that's not always negative, accusatory, finger pointing? When you have that kind of conversation about race there's always going to be friction. But if you have a conversation about difference in which you say here's how we can value difference, and then move on, I think that's going to be a healthy one. I've discovered a lot of people want to find a way to that conversation. We are fraught with so much baggage in this country about the way we've always talked about race for decades and centuries that we're not there yet. But i keep hearing people who want to find a way and have that conversation. We take a few steps forward a few steps back, but we're moving in the right direction.

 

(Julie) Ok. Another book on the way?

 

(Gwen) Oh Julie, please. It was enough to get this one done.

 

(Julie) Thank you so much for your time today.

 

(Gwen) Thank you Julie.

 

(JUlie) GWEN IFILL, WHO RECENTLY TRAVELLED TO ROCHESTER AND W-X-X-I.  ANOTHER RECENT NEED TO KNOW INTERVIEW WITH DR. BRAD BERK DREW A LOT ATTENTION.  WE RECEIVED NUMEROUS E-MAILS, PHONE CALLS, FACEBOOK MESSAGES AND MORE NOTING HOW INSPIRATIONAL DR. BERK’S STORY IS.  AFTER A TRAGIC BICYCLE ACCIDENT LAST MAY LEFT HIM WITHOUT FULL USE OF HIS ARMS OR LEGS, DR. BERK IS NOW PLANNING TO RETURN TO WORK AS C-E-O OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER.  HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM THAT INTERVIEW.

 

 

(Dr.Berk) I knew It was Bad.  I was worried that I was going to die right there.  That my diaphragm wouldn't work and Just die there.

 

So I knew it was really bad,  after a little while a policeman came and literally ten minutes later the ambulance came.  So by then I was feeling much better I was going to make it.   The only distressing thing was that the mercy flight that was coming couldn't land where I was I was hoping they could but they couldn't so I had to get in the ambulance they took me a half a mile of road where there is a big field that's where the helicopter landed and they put me in the helicopter,  so I was feeling that I was going to get to the hospital and they were going to do what they were going to do.  And I told my wife, i Said " I am so sorry because I knew what was coming and I knew that she would have to drive back. 

 

(Julie) I read something where your daughter on the day of the accident told you "everything is going to be okay"  and you said "No its not going to be okay" And she said it's been a lot of hard work since that day", What did she mean, what did it do to you and your family?

 

 

(Dr.Berk) This is definitely a family experience, My wife moved down to NJ for the three months I was there. part of the reason we went there is because my son lives in Jersey City about 20 minutes away so he would come every Wednesday and have dinner and have boys night out, He'd come on the weekends so this was a big family experience my daughter Mariah she got very involved.  She went to the Bagel Bin in Brighton and got interviewed by a number of the radio stations,  tv stations.  They had a big display there for people to put cards and well wishes in.  My youngest daughter Sarah, she ran the NYC Marathon and raised money for the Christopher Reeve foundation for final spinal cord research.  I cried when I read her bulletin which really she wanted to do something that was as challenging as the challenges I was facing

and her successfully doing the marathon was a sign to me to successfully complete this.

(Julie) And not only did she complete the marathon she was one of the top furriers for the Reeve Foundation.  You've said that the outpouring of support has been very humbling, can you describe the sort of reactions people have had?

 

(Dr. Berk) It's been truly an outpouring there have been thousands of messages posted on the internet site that we set up. At the hospital 10,000 people are wearing these BC buttons around all the time.  and people I haven't seen in 10 or 20 years sent me cards and e-mail's.   friends of mine would come to visit me some of them came multiple times and they're just fantastic.  That support, it was humbling just to know some people were caring the letters were so heartfelt, so sympathetic and in the beginning a little reluctant to accept all this sympathy.  But then I learned over time that people want to help.  They really do their just so warm hearted so good at giving to people.  I've always been a health-care provider never a recipient, so it took me a while to learn how to be a good recipient.  Now when someone comes up to me I always stop and explain the questions, I always have enough time for people who care.   because for me that's my way of giving back for the support I've had. 

 

(Julie) How do people treat differently than before the accident?

 

(Dr. Berk) A couple ways the one that you always hear about and read about is just being in a wheelchair.  Your small.  One of the nice things about this wheelchair is you can raise it up. It has an electric motor I can get up to 5'2  It makes a big difference when your in a crowd you're down there, people don't see you as much.  Raising up is a big deal.  That's kind of the most obvious one everyone talks about being in a wheelchair. I think that the two way communication that occurs from being in a chronic situation where your injured or ill you really learn to depend on people.  And you quickly establish these interactions with people where your communicating your needs and their communicating their wishes to you.  You establish a quick emotional bond, so I think the good thing has been a real interest on my part to understand how that emotional bond is created and to create it with people all the time.  Part of the reason I want to come back as CEO is I think the medical center would really benefit from attention to that area.  I've been taking to nurses and talking to the strong commitment group and alot of that is to make health care providers jobs' better by facilitating their interactions with their patients. 

 

(Julie) What did you experience as a patient that really bothered you and made you think that this needs attention?

 

(Dr.Berk) Was I noticed was not the bothering side It was the positive side.  There were a group of people that I would say had caring hands they instantly came up to you as a patient and touched you and looked you in the eye. established as in still compassion and directions.  The two words of to use our compassion and attentiveness the store that the best exemplifies that this was in the I see you I've been there about 10 days and is a nurse came up to me who is taking over of the break and she said that may Dr. Burke you really look like you need your hair washed.  Has anyone done that and I said No is that possibly and she said yes. She went she got as bag and they have for ICU patience and washed my hair. That was the most pleasurable thing i experienced in 10 days. I'm not sure she even knew the fact, but the only part of my body that could feel was my head. She had done something incredibly nice to the one part of me that could feel. That kind of compassion, that tenderness, that spontaneous, is there something I could do to make you feel better that's what I'm talking about. It's really the positives. Of course I made her feel so good cause I told her that was the greatest. You have no idea how good that felt. She felt really good that she had done that. It's that two way interaction that's so incredibly important for both the patient and the provider.

 

 

(Julie) DR. BERK RECENTLY ANNOUNCED HE WILL RESUME HIS LEADERSHIP OF THE MEDICAL CENTER IN JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS.THAT DOES IT FOR THIS EDITION OF NEED TO KNOW.  NEXT WEEK, WE BRING YOU ANOTHER REPORT IN WXXI’S OCCASIONAL SERIES ON PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES FACED BY THE ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT.  THIS TIME WE EXAMINE CHILDHOOD OBESITY AND HOW IT IMPACTS LEARNING.  AND WE HAVE AN INTERVIEW SCHEDULED WITH ROCHESTER SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD.  THANKS FOR JOINING US.  I’M JULIE PHILIPP.  HAVE A GREAT WEEK.

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