When 15-year-old Julia Berg died of massive internal bleeding at another hospital in 2005, the tragedy left her parents, Dan Berg and Welcome Jerde, and her sister, Hannah, reeling. But more bad news was yet to come: Julia’s death could have been prevented.
Suddenly Berg and Jerde found themselves not only grieving, but also coping with feelings of anger and frustration. To help make sense of it, they made a gift to establish the Julia Berg Memorial Lectureship at the University of Minnesota to educate doctors about patient safety issues.
“Young physicians are taught about safety,” says Jerde, “but there’s a flood of information that they’re trying to absorb. We thought we could offer a way, through Julia’s story, to personalize the issue of patient safety.”
In the four Julia Berg lectures to date, that is exactly what’s happened: John Andrews, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education at the University, has introduced Jerde and Berg and then, showing Julia’s picture, told her story. Her presence is a palpable reminder of the very real devastation that comes when mistakes are made.
“One speaker used Julia as a touchstone, making general remarks about safety and then saying, ‘but let’s bring Julia back into the room,’” says Berg. “What we hope is that a percentage of those doctors listening will retain her image [and] remember her story, and that it will contribute to the mitigation of error in the future.”