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Tenets of Treatment

Tenets of Treatment

Subject: Dr. Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor of Marketing; Regents Professor; M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership; Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence; Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Education: B.A. Social Sciences, University of Denver (1964); MBA, University of Denver (1965); Ph.D. Marketing, Arizona State University (1968).
Research Interests: Improving service in health care for patients and families, particularly in cancer care.

What prompted your research in health care?

"I’ve devoted my career to the study of services: service marketing, service management and service quality. I realized that I knew very little about one of the most important services: health care. After recognizing that gap in my background, I decided to study health care service at one of the world’s most recognized brands in the field: the Mayo Clinic."

Tell us about your experience there.

Dr. Berry (left) studying as a visiting scientist at the Mayo Clinic.

"It wasn’t easy to get access. It took three separate trips and dozens of interviews before I was accepted as a visiting scientist in 2001. For three months, I literally lived at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in a one-bedroom apartment. I then moved to the Phoenix campus for another 2.5 months. During my studies, I observed patient-physician interactions hundreds of times. I had full access to facilities, witnessed surgeries and even flew with the clinic’s helicopter medical emergency team. My in-depth research study of health care service became the basis of my book, “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic,” published in 2008."

You’re most passionate about the patient experience in cancer care.

"Yes. In 2017, 1.7 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer. I’ve lost colleagues to cancer, and one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago. Fortunately, he has survived. We’ve made tremendous progress clinically with cancer care, but much less progress in improving the service experience of patients and their families. When you are diagnosed with cancer, it turns your whole life upside down. Physicians must understand how to manage the emotional aspects of treatment in addition to the medical aspects of treatment or they do their patients a disservice. Cancer patients and families need a lot of support."

You’ve written extensively on something called HBS.

"Correct, hostage bargaining syndrome (HBS). It’s a phenomenon that many patients experience, particularly those with a serious disease or in a state of great vulnerability. When my colleagues and I read about hostages from kidnappings or prisoners of war, we saw a similar pattern of behavior with patients. They show reluctance to question a physician about their treatment plan or understate their concerns about their disease or treatment. Some patients ask for less than what they really want, such as pain medication, to avoid being a perceived nuisance to the physician. When I wrote about this phenomenon for the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it represented the first time the word “hostage” was used in a medical journal."

Why is awareness of HBS important?

"Creating awareness of HBS can diffuse it early on. It is crucial to stop HBS before it festers and leads to a “learned helplessness” in patients, where they believe they have no authority or say over their treatment."

Berry has written 10 books and published more than 190 articles and papers in publications such as the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Oncology Practice and the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. His book, “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic,” has been translated into eight languages and was the No. 1 selling book in the health care administration category on Amazon.com for its first two years after publishing. The Chinese edition, which alone has sold 400,000 copies, is in its 40th printing.

Berry is a strong believer in palliative care, a type of treatment option unknown to approximately nine of 10 U.S. adults. Palliative care, which can be provided along with curative treatments, focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness to improve patients’ quality of life.

Berry’s contributions extend beyond the health care discipline. In 1982, the year he came to Texas A&M, he established Mays Business School’s Center for Retailing Studies and served as its founding director until 2000. Today, the center offers coursework, internships, career fairs, an annual retailing summit and leadership activities for students interested in retail.

At a 1983 American Marketing Association Conference, Berry coined the term “relationship marketing” and wrote the first paper on this concept. The phrase revolutionized the marketing world and emphasizes the need for organizations to market to existing customers in addition to acquiring new customers.

Berry teaches Mays Business School’s MBA course in services marketing and an honors course called “Improving Health Care Service.” It is the first course in the business school to focus on health care.   

Berry’s wife, Nancy, served as mayor of College Station from 2010 to 2016 and now works as a county commissioner in Precinct 3. The couple has been married for 51 years and has two sons, Matthew and Jonathan. Matthew is a popular ESPN fantasy sports analyst and ESPN.com columnist, while Jonathan is a successful talent manager and television show producer at 3 Arts Entertainment.

Berry has received numerous awards and accolades during his career, including the Mays Business School Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. However, he’s most proud of an award he created. To thank the Mayo Clinic for hosting him, Berry created the Mae Berry Award for Service Excellence, named after his late mother. Eight exceptional Mayo Clinic employees who are nominated and selected by their peers are awarded the Mae Berry Award each year.