COLLEGE STATION – You may call him “doctor,” but the man in the clinic wearing a white lab coat and asking you questions can’t write you a prescription.
He can, however, diagnose what’s wrong with healthcare in America, and his prescription for change could save millions of lives—and dollars.
For the last 12 years, improving healthcare has been Dr. Leonard Berry’s driving passion. He holds dual appointments as distinguished professor of marketing and the M.B. Zale chair in retailing and marketing leadership at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, and as a professor of humanities in medicine at the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine.
Funds from Berry’s faculty chair, established with a $1 million endowment in 1997 by the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation, have played a vital role in his research.
“We are very proud of the association with A&M and Dr. Berry,” says Leonard Krasnow, president of the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation.
“His work is extraordinary,” adds Donald Zale, former chairman and CEO of Zale Corporation and former chairman of the foundation. “We wish we could take credit for it. We are pleased to have been a part of bringing him to campus.”
Krasnow says the Zales also support a teaching hospital in Dallas, and that they are interested in furthering the conversation about improving healthcare and retail.
To Berry, these subjects are intrinsically linked. “Retail is the marketing of goods or services to individual consumers, so when you go to your primary care doctor, that’s a retail experience,” he says.
As one of the pioneers of service quality research, healthcare was a natural fit for Berry’s expertise.
His interest in the subject began with research at Mayo Clinic, learning what healthcare delivery should look like. The experience inspired his best-selling book, “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic,” and scores of articles in top-tier journals. His research is now providing practical ideas for transforming the inefficiencies of healthcare in the U.S. into healthier patients and businesses.
More recently, he spent four months examining healthcare systems in Wisconsin that are renowned for their patient success. “That’s the kind of research I do,” says Berry. “I go in the field. I go to the source of what I want to study. I don’t stay in my office, I follow the data.”
Berry is able to focus on his field research thanks to the support of a dedicated administrative assistant — financed primarily by the faculty chair funds. “It’s a great investment for me,” says Berry. “I wouldn’t be nearly as productive if I didn’t have that kind of support. In that way, all of the field research that I do is supported by my endowment…it’s tremendously helpful.”
Berry, an educator for more than 40 years, says that he’s not close to hanging up his lab coat, but he is training his successors. He describes his graduate students interested in healthcare as “a growing army.”
“A number of my MBA students who never considered healthcare before get excited about this work when they hear about it in my class,” he says. “Many have determined they want to pursue careers in healthcare, and that’s very exciting for me.”