ED RUTKOWSKI is editor in chief of The Synergist. He can be reached at (703) 846-0734 or email@example.com.
Editor’s note: The individuals featured in this series were selected from responses to a survey that AIHA conducted in 2014. For background, see “The IH Hero Gap” in the January 2015 issue.
One day in December 1979, Pat Paulus walked across a stage at the University of Iowa to receive her doctorate in industrial hygiene. Waiting for her at the other end was her longtime friend and mentor, Clyde Berry, the man who had started the industrial hygiene program at Iowa. He had something for her: not her degree, but a bottle of Diet Pepsi, her favorite drink at the time. It was labeled “Do not open.”
No sooner had Paulus accepted the bottle when Berry gave her a second gift: he called her “Dr. Paulus.” And then he said, “That’s the one time I will call you Dr. Paulus. From here on out, you’re Pat.”
He kept his word. For Berry, titles were mere pomp. No matter your background or achievements, he called you by your first name, and he insisted you call him Clyde, despite his stature as a pioneer in industrial hygiene. “LET’S CALL CLYDE” In the late 1930s, Berry had himself been a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, along with Paulus’ father, Harold, and Lewis and Lester Cralley. They graduated into a world at war, and, like many other IHs of their generation, they found work within the war industries in the U.S.
The Cralleys and Berry would go on to play significant roles in AIHA. They are possibly the association’s most decorated trio of classmates: all three became AIHA president, and all three received AIHA’s Donald E. Cummings Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of industrial hygiene. Later, in recognition of their distinguished careers, Berry and Lester Cralley were named honorary members of AIHA, while Lewis received the Henry F. Smyth, Jr. Award for major contributions to the profession.
Following the war, Berry became chief industrial hygienist at Esso Standard Oil Co. In the mid-1950s he returned to Iowa to run the university’s Institute of Agricultural Medicine. By this time Harold Paulus had entered the Public Health Service. He and Berry remained close friends, even when Paulus moved on to help start the industrial hygiene program at the University of Minnesota.
Harold Paulus’ daughter followed in his footsteps. While an undergraduate at Minnesota, Pat Paulus developed skin cancer that spread to a lymph node. She had surgery in 1972. A year later she graduated, and the following year she earned her master’s, but corporations were reluctant to hire her due to her health history. When she discussed the problem with her father, his response was, “Let’s call Clyde.”
THE ART OF THE SCIENCE
That phone call marked the beginning of Berry’s mentorship of Pat Paulus, a role he would play for the rest of his life. “He was eager to help me, and for that, I’m grateful,” Paulus recalls. She started doctoral classes at Iowa in January 1976. Soon she became familiar with Berry’s habit of holding impromptu meetings in his off-campus office at the Iowa Agricultural Medicine Research Facility. She often found him there on Sunday mornings.
“I’d just drop by, and he would tell me stories about his experiences” as an industrial hygiene professional, Paulus says. “He was preparing me for corporate life.” Many of the stories revolved around the political aspects of protecting worker health.
When it came to politics, Berry seems to have been the kind of teacher who shows you how to swim by throwing you in the pond. Stories can only tell you so much; the real test is experience. Paulus had her test during a summer internship—she won’t say where, and she won’t reveal the names of the people involved.
“Clyde gave instructions to put me through my paces to the management there,” Paulus says. “He wanted me to have the best experience but also the most realistic experience that I could have at that place.” Her assignment for the summer required her to work with two factions on staff, including two individuals who were competing for a promotion. In that environment even the simplest actions had a political subtext, and Paulus had to play the game just to get things done. As a gesture, Paulus says, on the last day of her internship, “I stayed until 7:30 p.m. calibrating pumps so that the individual who was trying to cut my throat most of the summer could go out and do their survey.”
It was an important lesson about the soft skills an IH needed. But she didn’t tell Berry everything she went through until much later, in the early 2000s. “He rocked back, and he sort of chuckled,” Paulus recalls. “And he said, ‘But you learned something, didn’t you?’
“Clyde was very much the first teacher [I had] who got into the fact that even pure science, there’s an art to it. And part of that art is the politics that goes along with the practice. We need to be very cognizant as industrial hygienists that we are dealing with people. We are dealing with circumstances that can go one of many ways. And so in order to help, you have to make sure that the people you’re dealing with understand why it is important to do what you recommended.” THE PRICE OF HEALTH Though she refers to him as her teacher, Paulus never took a class with Berry. His contribution to her education came from those Sunday morning meetings in his office and countless other informal talks that introduced her to things she couldn’t learn in a classroom.
“He was really the first guy I heard talk about the price of health—you know, what it would take to eliminate or minimize an employee’s exposure in the workplace,” Paulus says. “And that was something that was not written in the books at that time.”
Berry was as generous with money as he was with his time. He would give students cash to use however they saw fit. Paulus remembers once receiving $500. “There were no stipulations other than ‘pay it forward,’” Paulus says. This directive was much on her mind years later, when Paulus helped create the Clyde M. Berry Scholarship through the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation. “It was a joy to work on that and make sure it was fully funded,” Paulus says. “A couple of folks asked me why I didn’t do one for my dad, and I said, ‘Well, Dad thinks that Clyde deserves it more.’” The scholarship was first awarded for the 1998–99 school year.
In July 2007, Clyde Berry passed away at the age of 94. He left behind a legacy of exceptional mentorship, a successful industrial hygiene program at Iowa, and scores of appreciative former students. They all have their memories, but Paulus also has a memento: that bottle of Diet Pepsi, still labeled and unopened, thirty-five years later.
What kind of man hands you your favorite drink, then challenges you not to drink it? The kind who knows you’ll need willpower to succeed, who spends his Sunday mornings preparing you for the difficult tests that lie ahead.
“He considered his education of us as students—he called it a ‘training ground for generals,’” Paulus says. “You know, for field duty. And I still remember him rocking back in his chair and, with absolute delight, thinking that he was going to turn me loose on the world.”
RESOURCES AIHA: The American Industrial Hygiene Association: Its History and Personalities, 1939–1990. University of Iowa College of Public Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health: Alumni Newsletter (Fall 2007).
The Consummate IH
A Former Student Recalls Clyde Berry
BY ED RUTKOWSKI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE SYNERGIST
What Kind of Near-miss Was Ebola? As I write this in mid-October 2014, Americans are still getting used to the new and scary risk of Ebola. Ebola fears led to a number of airline passengers being yanked off planes because they exhibited flu-like symptoms and had some connection, however remote, to Africa. So far they’ve all tested negative for Ebola. If that remains true, the number of such disruptions will soon decline precipitously.
Are these events warnings that we should continue to take seriously, “casting a wide net” to reduce the odds of missing an actual Ebola case onboard? Or are they false alarms that we should learn to stop worrying about? Most experts, officials, and journalists say they’re false alarms. But that answer will change in hindsight if a traveler from West Africa ever infects some fellow passengers with Ebola.
Ebola also offers an object lesson in learned overconfidence. The discovery that two nurses were infected with the virus while treating an Ebola sufferer at a Dallas hospital raised many questions. Did the nurses breach PPE protocols? Were the protocols insufficiently protective in the first place? Is it realistic to expect healthcare workers to be 100 percent meticulous in following such protocols?
One relevant fact: every nurse has considerable experience with breaches of infection control protocols that didn’t end in infection. And all too often the lesson learned isn’t that “We need to be more meticulous.” It is that “Infection control is pretty forgiving. Even when we mess up, it doesn’t usually do any harm.” Then along comes a much less forgiving pathogen, Ebola, and learned overconfidence becomes life-threatening.