Dr. Sheryl Berman Shares Insights from Her Career Journey
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we recently interviewed Dr. Sheryl Berman, SCU Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs. Dr. Berman has been in Healthcare education and research for nearly 33 years. Her research areas include HIV and immune suppression, the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract and its role in breast cancer and the role of probiotics in immune health. In this interview, Dr. Berman discusses the challenges she’s faced along her career path, her greatest achievements, and offers advice to women pursuing their careers.
How do you define women’s empowerment?
Women’s empowerment can be defined as having three major components. One is to be safe in the workplace, at home, in the community and throughout the world. A woman will only feel empowered when she is free from the fear of being attacked and harassed simply because of her gender.
The second is to know that the essential work that women do, in the workplace, at home, in the community and in the world is valued. To know that work will be compensated equally with men doing the same job. To also know that a woman will not be held back because of her gender and will be promoted based on her skill and knowledge.
The third is choice. To let every girl and woman know that they have a choice about what to do with their life and how to live their life. To ensure that every child (female and male) has the opportunity to pursue their education and their dreams.
What is an average day like for you at SCU?
It is never boring! I have the opportunity to interact with students, faculty and staff on a daily basis. I enjoy solving problems, creating innovative solutions and planning for the future of this outstanding University. I am lucky to work for a visionary President, a very dedicated and creative Cabinet and wonderful faculty who believe in the vision and mission of SCU.
Tell us what led you to your career path?
I had an amazing Biology teacher and an amazing Chemistry teacher (both women) in high school who deeply inspired me to pursue a career in science. I started as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist and then went back to get my Masters in Medical Microbiology and Doctorate in Immunology when my first two children were 2 and 4. I was fortunate to be in graduate school studying Virology and Immunology during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and was able to contribute to the body of knowledge of this devastating disease. I found out accidentally that I not only loved research but had a talent for teaching and working with people and followed the academic path to Dept Chair, Dean and VP. I have had the opportunity to work at all levels of higher education including community college, undergraduate, graduate and medical education. I became an expert in alternative lab testing, probiotics and immunization and have lectured throughout the country. I also had the opportunity to publish a few articles, write chapters in three books and present at various conferences on a variety of topics.
What challenges have you faced as you pursued your career? How did you handle them?
At 30 years old I went back to graduate school. I was the only woman in my graduate department studying virology. I was the only one with children. I was told I would never make it because I was a woman and a mom. (Only 1 in 10 people in the US who start a Ph.D program in science make it). I just smiled and said “watch me”..and when I am done, you will be asking me to stay”. I finished a Masters and Doctorate in 6 years (average Ph.D alone was 6.5 years) and was asked to stay for a post doc. (I politely declined). I face my challenges by quietly becoming more determined to reach my goal. I speak out for injustice and help and encourage people along the way, especially those who have many challenges.
What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Raising 5 children (in a blended family) to be responsible, kind and thoughtful adults who contribute positively to society.
What advice do you have for young women as they move along their career paths?
Be your own best friend; like yourself. Find a great role model and if you cannot, become your own role model. Believe in yourself and form strong friendships with other women from many backgrounds. Be humble and always be willing to learn new things. It is never too late to begin again.
Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share with us?
I always try my best to treat everyone with kindness and respect and follow the advice from my favorite poet…Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said and what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What does integrative mean to you?
I was asked this question at my interview by faculty. To consider all phases of a person’s health (genetic, community, physical, psychological, spiritual, environmental) in evaluation of someone’s health. To know that integrative medicine is best practiced as a patient centered partnership between clinician and patient. To use all modalities, evidence based whenever possible, to help someone achieve wellness.
What makes SCU unique?
We are the only healthcare university to actually be moving toward a fully inter-professional training of healthcare practitioners and a fully integrative healthcare practice.
What makes SCU’s culture unique?
I would say the core values of GRIT, Transparency and HUMOR!
In celebration of Women’s History Month 2018, we are honoring some of the phenomenal women faculty members at SCU.