Don Berwick was marching in the Sudbury Fourth of July parade as a politician. But on Friday, the Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate was forced to rely on his medical background as he jumped to action to assist police officers in tending to a woman who had collapsed along the route.
Prior to his current run for governor, Berwick graduated from Harvard Medical School and was a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Community Health Plan.
It was that medical experience that Berwick said made it instinctual for him to assist police officers on the side of the road in Sudbury as he helped obtain information from the woman and perform tests on her until paramedics arrived.
“I saw patients for about 22 years. That puts certain instincts of response in you, and that’s what happened,” Berwick told Patch. “When I was a young doctor in training, I had to be scheduled 36 hour on and 12 hours off. When the phone rang, you answered it. That was your duty. You’re there to help and that’s job one, whatever else is going on comes second. It becomes instinctual and that’s still how you feel. I wouldn’t walk by someone who collapsed, that’s not me.”
Berwick said it was unclear at the time what caused the woman to collapse. He said she was conscious was the ambulance arrived, and believed low blood sugar could have caused the incident, though he has not heard any follow up since that day.
Though politics and medicine don’t appear to have much in common, Berwick said he actually finds more similarities in the two than one would expect.
“If you’re a good doctor, you’ve learned to listen,” said Berwick. “So the idea that you listen first and then act is very important. In modern policy and government, I think the more listening, the better. People are feeling left out like no one is hearing them. As a doctor you’re training to diagnose things. You gather information and create an understanding of what’s going on. The whole sequence is listening, diagnosing, then treating. That’s good policy, and that’s good politics as well.”
During the incident in Sudbury, Berwick said the woman’s friend was helpful in providing information that helped him assess the victim’s condition.
In addition, Berwick praised the efforts of police officers who initially rushed to help the woman in distress. He said they were helpful as he joined them and began diagnosing the woman.
“I have to commend them,” said Berwick. “They were terrific. They helped from the start, and they were very dignified and responsive. We were a team. I felt it was instantly a team, which is what happens with first responders. There’s no hero. There is a team.”