He adds, “I just assumed that no one ever came to work saying, ‘Let's see how I can screw things up today.' … I made it clear to everybody that I would never hang anybody out to dry. Now, let's do some great things.”
Klein recalls that during Berman's tenure, the organization grew from nine counties to “virtually all of upstate New York,” from $300 million to $3 billion annually in revenue, and from 500,000 to 600,000 “lives covered” to 1.7 million.
“Those were the business accomplishments—but not the main accomplishments,” says Klein, who first knew Berman as a student in health administration at the University of Chicago, where the latter taught as an adjunct.
“This is a man who—there is not a cell in his body that doesn't care for the community. He's truly a selfless individual. He believes, with respect to healthcare, that the best vehicle for caring for a community is not-for-profit,” a belief that led Berman to launch the advocacy group Alliance for Advancing Not-for-Profit Healthcare.
Klein also remembers the pride Berman felt in building the pediatric palliative-care program, services for Rochester's large deaf and hearing-impaired population, as well as care for early sufferers of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, when stigma reigned supreme. “He was a risk-taker,” Klein says simply. “He did lots of innovative things.”
At the American Hospital Association, where he served as a group vice president from 1977 to 1985, Berman beefed up the organization's public policy function considerably, although at the time, he and his colleagues just considered it improving management.