Interview: Dr. Sam Berger, Hematologist-Oncologist
Tell us a little about yourself!
My name is Dr. Sam Berger and I am a Hematologist-Oncologist at Humber River Hospital.
I started working for Humber River Hospital in 1973 – 47 years ago – at the Finch Legacy Site. I have been around for a lot of changes!
Back then, I was Chair of the Education Committee for about 10-12 years. We had a great internship program. I also got in on the ground floor when computers first arrived and nobody liked them. Now we can’t live without them! I had the opportunity to chair the Physician IT Committee for more than a decade to help solve problems that doctors were having with computerization. We worked alongside the Hospital’s IT Department.
What is Hematology-Oncology?
Hematology involves the study and treatment of blood and blood diseases, while Oncology is the treatment of cancer and cancer-related problems. There is a lot of overlap between the two, including for example, blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
I began my career in Internal Medicine, and when I first did my training in Hematology, Hematologists were the ones treating cancer. There was no Oncology subspecialty yet.
What makes you proud of working at Humber River Hospital?
I’m proud of everything this Hospital has accomplished over the years. It has been very exciting to be a part of. People who come to our Hospital always tell me how impressed they are. I’m proud of our single-rooms, our usual visitor policy (outside of COVID), the science, the IT department, and the personalized care we offer our patients. Innovations like RIVA, the Automated Guided Vehicles, and the Command Centre are amazing. And, we have a great team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, staff members, administration – I can’t say enough!
What do you love most about your job?
I like working with the patients – I like talking to them and listening to them. I like the detective part of being a doctor, trying to figure out why someone isn’t feeling well and what’s causing it. Every patient is different, so the investigation, treatment, and discussions will all be different. I like to finish my appointments by asking if my patients have anything else to confess – often that’s when they’ll add something very important.
I also love telling corny jokes and making my patients smile even when we are having serious discussions.
Can you tell us a corny joke?
When my patients have the hiccups, which can be a side effect of chemotherapy, I have discovered that if I tell them their fly is open, in about 50% of the time their hiccups will stop! Even if they are wearing a gown, lying in a bed.
What is something awesome you’ve done in the last year?
My wife and I actually went out to eat at a restaurant one time this summer. That was awesome because we hadn’t been able to do very many things like that during COVID.
What inspires you?
My patients keep me going. Over the years, I have seen so much grace from my sick patients.
My family inspires me.
And, I am inspired by the change that has happened over the course of my career. In the last 10, 15 years there has been so much developed and it’s changing exponentially! Something that has made it hard to retire is that I keep wanting to know what’s going to happen next!
I really want to give credit to everyone I work with: everyone in the Hospital and chemotherapy clinic, nurses, administrative assistants, the administration, clerical workers, social workers, dietitians, and so many more, as well as my great staff in my private office.
Are you a grateful patient of Dr. Berger’s? If you need a way to express exactly how thankful you are, consider showing your appreciation with a Gift of Gratitude. Dr. Berger will be recognized with a special pin and personalized card from you, and your donation will help future patients at Humber River Hospital receive great care. Click here to get started.