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In Conversation With Dr. Stanley M. Berry Author of A Fight For Full Disclosure.
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Dr. Stanley M. Berry author of A Fight For  FullDisclosure. 

Dr. Berry is aMaternal-Fetal Medicine physician who has provided care to womenwith  high risk pregnancies for 37 years.  

Dr. Berry was born andraised in Minnesota, and from age eight, lived in a working class north Minneapolis neighborhood.

His professional musician and musicteacher father,  along with his social worker and universityfaculty member mother, passed to him a love  of music, reading,and a respect for hard work. He received a full scholarship to a Vermont boy’s boarding school where he finished grades 10 through12.  

A major in Englishliterature was his goal as an undergraduate freshman, but after floundering and dropping in and out of mainly Macalester College overa four year  period, he read Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell ToArms, and like the novel’s  protagonist, the author joined anambulance service in Minneapolis and was trained as  anemergency paramedic.  

He found his calling andwas eventually admitted to Mayo Medical School where he graduated in 1984.

He completed an Obstetrics and GynecologyResidency at St. Louis  University followed by a Maternal-FetalMedicine Fellowship at Wayne State  University. Although herefers to himself as a, “failed English major,” Dr. Berry never lost his passion for creative writing or his goal of communicatinghis ideas about the  world of medicine and medical researchthrough the medium of fiction. 

He has authored orco-authored a large number of medical publications. 

Good dayDr. Berry and thanks for taking part in our interview. 

Norm: What do you feel isthe most overrated virtue and why?


Dr. Berry: Before Ianswer, thank you so much Norm for allowing me this chance to answer questions about my novel.

Now, to answer your question, Ithink being smart is  the most overrated virtue. Having greatintellectual capacity is a plus and can carry one  a long way,but great intellect without discipline and hard work is an overratedand  wasted virtue.

When high intellectual capacity is matchedagainst discipline and hard  work, I believe the latter prevails95% of the time. As my dad put it, “Race horses never  beatmules”.  

Norm: What is the onething other people always seem to get wrong about you? Dr. Berry:That I have no sense of humor. I am an intimidating presence formany people.

I’m AfricanAmerican, I’m 6 ft 5 inches tall, and I have hair on my face. I hada  decision tree to work through when I was much younger.

Thatis, it’s not my problem  that people are intimated by me andtherefore it’s their problem.

For a time when I was  young andangry, I left it to those who were intimidated to work through ornot. But, as  a non-angry young adult, I recognized the pricethis attitude was costing me, and I  decided it was in my bestinterest to un-intimidate people I never meant to intimidate, and,humor became a very effective tool for doing this. 

Norm: What has been yourgreatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today? 

Dr. Berry: A lack ofdiscipline and consistency. I wanted to be a “writer” since myhigh  school days, but I didn’t have the discipline. Ifloundered in college because I lacked the  discipline to focus.I was willing to work hard, but not in the disciplined way that success demands. Once I found my “raison d’etre” so to speak,and that was medicine,  it forced me to become disciplined forthe first time in my life and overcoming the lack  of this traitwas probably my greatest triumph! 

Norm: How has thepublishing of your debut novel A Fight for Full Disclosure changed your perception of the process? 

Dr. Berry: I believe thatmy perception of the process has been distorted.

Although It  tookme 12 years to complete my novel, it was accepted by the secondpublisher I sent it  to. I envisioned a much longer process.

But, I want readers to understand that I'm still  pinchingmyself over my good fortune. I consider myself extremely lucky tohave found  someone willing to publish my work as quickly as Idid.

I intend to write another novel,  and I don't expect thatmy luck will necessarily hold. In the end, I thank my publisher, Gene Robinson, for making my experience in this regard sodifferent than what I  expected it to be. 

Norm: What purpose do youbelieve your novel serves and what matters to you about  thestory? As a follow up, whom do you believe will benefit from yourbook and why?  

Dr. Berry: If my novelserves a purpose, I hope it is to shed light on a process that very few people are privy to.

That is, the inner workings of medicalinstitutions and some of  the thought processes that go on inthe minds of healthcare workers when it comes to  investigatingmishaps and telling the truth about those incidents.

Although theconcept  of full disclosure certainly is not mine, it is notaccepted or practiced by most hospitals  or their insurers, andperhaps my novel can inspire members of those organizations to  tryopenness and honesty in these situations.

What matters to me aboutthe story are  some really old fashion concepts like - truth cantriumph in adverse circumstances, but it often takes uncommoncourage to make that happen, and there is often a significant  priceto be paid for standing up and speaking out to right a wrong. 

Norm: What served as theprimary inspiration for the book and how did you decide you were ready to write the book?  

Dr. Berry: My primaryinspiration for writing the book was the work that I did in my career to enhance patient safety in the hospital setting.

Asdescribed in the book, to  create a culture of patient safetyrequires openness and honesty.

These concepts, and  making fulldisclosures to patients when things go wrong, is part of creatingthat shift in  culture. Full disclosure is a way ofacknowledging mistakes, and pressuring one’s self to  ensurethat the causes of these mistakes are eliminated as thoroughly aspossible so that  the mistakes aren't repeated.

Trying to ensurethat mistakes are not repeated is probably  the most meaningfulact toward the patient and or the patient's family that healthcare providers and institutions can do.

In the course of being in ahospital leadership  position, there were several times when Ihad to meet with families and discuss  untoward outcomes withthem. In several cases patients died, but in other instances patients were injured but survived.

I met and discussed withthese patients, and in some  cases their families, exactly whathappened and what was being done to prevent it from  happeningagain. So, my inspiration for this story was a composite of many ofmy  professional experiences including the necessity fordisciplining physicians as well as  witnessing cases in whichphysicians should have been disciplined but we're not.

For the majority of my teenage and adult life, I wanted to be a"writer". This story is based on  professionalexposures that eventually congealed in my head and they became so compelling that I could not not write this story.

At somepoint, the story was so driving  and overwhelming that I had nochoice but to sit down and begin. 

Norm: What was your mainfocus when you created the characters of Dr. Warren  Chambersand Dr. Harold Thompson?  

Dr. Berry: My main focusor the primary elements of character that I wanted to bring  outin Dr. Warren Chambers were first and foremost that he cared deeplyabout both his  professional life and his personal life. Iwanted to bring out his compassion, and I  wanted to bring outhis indecision or at least his inability to act quickly on different aspects of his life.

These traits come out several times in thestory. I also wanted to root  his indecision by delving into hischildhood.

Finally, I tried to focus on how his  compassionovercame his indecisiveness and the inner battle that he waged inbesting  his fears, self-doubt, and deficiencies in self-esteem.

As for Dr. Harold Thompson, I  tried to focus on how a personwith a strong sense of right and wrong survives in an  environmentwhere people are willing to quickly sacrifice those principles forwhat they  consider a greater good.

Again, I tried to show thereader how Thompson's tough  upbringing both as a child and asan adolescent shaped his character and his willingness to stand up, really,without hesitation, to take those actions that he believed were right even if it meant a heavy cost to him – at leastprofessionally – but also personally via the  emotional stresshe had to bear to do what he believed was the only path he couldtake. 

Norm: How much of you isin the story? 

Dr. Berry: A lot, a lot ofme is in the story - from the way the main character Dr. Harold Thompson feels about things to the way he acts on things.

And,while I was writing the  story, I was actually amazed at how mydifferent life experiences and views could be  expressed withinthe context of the story.

For instance, I have very strong feelingsabout  the foster care system which didn't necessarily haveanything to do with the main subject  of the novel, however,those feelings definitely came out in the backstory of one of the characters.

And, things that I've often thought to myselfbubbled up and spilled onto the  page – like when Thompson isbemoaning to himself how difficult his job is and he  thinks"... remember when you just had to have this job...". I'vehad that very thought not  infrequently through the years. So,in many ways, big and small, the story is very much  my story. 

Norm: Did you learnanything from writing your novel and what was it?  

Dr. Berry: I learned a lotabout storytelling. I learned that backstory is fine as long as it keeps the front story moving. I learned more about how todecide what criticisms to  accept and ultimately use to alter mymanuscript and which criticisms to reject.

This is a  trickylesson to learn because I believe one needs to stay open to theopinions of others,  but one also must learn that people'scritiques may be based on a vision quite different  than yourown. I learned not to be afraid to change elements of the plot as thestory  unfolds. Sometimes it is very important to maintainsuspense and dramatic effect and to  accomplish those ends meansrethinking one’s original ideas.

I learned how self-editing  iscrucial and that reading what I write out loud is extremely helpfulin creating the kind  of word flow that I wanted. Overall, forme, writing this novel was very much a "going  to school"experience. 

Norm: How can readers findout more about you and A Fight For Full Disclosure

Dr. Berry: Probably thebest way to find out about me is to go to my WEBSITE. By far, the best way to find out more about AFight For Full  Disclosure is to read it. 

Norm: What is next for Dr.Stanley M. Berry? 

Dr. Berry: I plan toretire toward the end of 2022. I recently got married for a second time, and my wife lives in my hometown of Minneapolis. I willbe moving from the 

Detroit area to join her.I intend to make good progress on a second novel that I started,  tospend time with my grandchildren and children, do some teaching,perhaps at the  medical school level. I am also interested inteaching young people about writing, and  I'll find a venue todo that. 

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you can invite three authors of fiction to your dinner table, who would they be and why? 

Dr. Berry: Seated at mydinner table would be Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and Ernest Hemingway. Toni Morrison would be my guess because I love theway she told her  stories.

She was a master at using simile tomake readers feel the mood or emotion she  was trying to getacross, and she was so on point with her use of historical context to further define her characters and the times they lived in.

Iadmit there were times when  Morrison almost lost me. Tar Babywas a great example of this. I almost abandoned the  book, but40 pages in, the story and her characters grabbed me, and I couldn'tlet  go.

She fictionalized aspects of the Black experience andmade them universal.

Ralph  Ellison would be at my dinner tablebecause Invisible Man was a sweeping depiction of  Black life inAmerica. Ellison's style in that novel ranged from expository realismto the  surreal and he used elements of jazz in his writingstyle. I also would invite him to my  dinner table becauseInvisible Man was the only novel he completed.

Now that I find myself in the position of starting a second novel, I'd like toask him if he could explain  specifically what prevented himfrom completing other novels.

Ernest Hemingway  would be at mydinner table because despite the fact that I believe his behavior was despicable in many ways, e.g. he was a racist and ananti-Semite and a man who  glorified and romanticized machobehavior, I very much admire his writing style.

When  he was athis best he was frugal with words and sometimes quite subtle in his storytelling - the best example of the latter I can think of isThe Sun Also Rises. I'd like  to question him about the basisfor his bigoted opinions and I'd also like to ask him  about thedeep-seated unhappiness that I believe drove him to drink so heavily.I believe  our dinner table discussion would be lively,passionate, and terribly interesting. I would  be doing a lotmore listening than talking.

Lastly, I thank you, Norm, for takingthe time  to do this interview because I think it has shed somelight on me and the novel. 

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your endeavors.

FOLLOW HERE TO READ NORM'S REVIEW OF A FIGHT FOR FULL DISCLOSURE

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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