On the Job with Chandler Berg

Chandler Berg, a native to Albany, is now an ophthalmologist and owner of Berg Eye Center.

Chandler Berg, a native to Albany, is now an ophthalmologist and owner of Berg Eye Center.

Chandler Berg, a native Albanian, has come a long way since his days of mowing lawns for spending money.

A self-described “tinkerer,” Berg graduated Georgia Tech with a degree in Health Systems Engineering. Advanced ophthalmology training then prepared him to join his father’s practice.

In addition to medicine and technology, Berg loves to travel exotic destinations. He enjoys a variety of reading material ranging from Christian through fiction, business and economics.

Berg likes outdoor exercise and hunting. He continues to “tinker” in his workshop in the spare time he may have.

Berg shared an interview with Herald reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. Mowing lawns in the neighborhood. I was around 14 or 15 years old and a friend and I would have our parents drive us.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Parts to modify my bicycle so I could add a motor. As a child I was a tinkerer, always taking things apart and putting them back together.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found during the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I start with great employees. Those with integrity and honesty and are happy with themselves and that creates an atmosphere where everyone shares in the success.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. That was fate and I’m glad it worked out this way. I have subspecialty training and considered academics or a subspecialty within a large group in a larger city. My wife, Karen, and I decided family was more important and came to Albany to join my father.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. I have two of them. First of all, my father, who is the epitome of honesty, respectfulness, integrity and professionalism, and after that Dr. Bob Webster in San Francisco. Dr. Webster was my mentor for the cataract and corneal transplant surgery subspecialty fellowship. He was a true gentleman in his personal life and the best of the best professionally.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. In tough economic times, people spend less on optional or elective services. A business must be very careful when (relying on) elective services.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – would you most like to see go away?

A. Automated phone systems and voicemail.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. I practice medicine in a field that is full of gadgets. By far my favorite is the camera systems that allow patients to see the details of their eye. I love being able to use the photos and images to help patients understand their medical conditions.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Driving my mother to church on Sundays.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I usually have several going at one time. I just finished a book about Charlie Munger, the attorney who served as Warren Buffet’s business partner. I am also reading a David Baldacci book for my fiction and a book about the resurrection of Jesus for Sunday school. Daily, I look over professional newsletters, journals, online general news feeds and the Drudge Report. I also subscribe to economics newsletters and publications.

Q. I’m up and going by?

A. 6:30 a.m. I prefer to start the day early and quietly. I generally arrive at work before the staff and use the quiet time to survey the news, check email, scan my journals and prepare for the day.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?

A. C.S. Lewis. I imagine a very intense yet entertaining discussion of his views on Christianity and life.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. There are a variety of areas that interest me. Almost any type of outdoor activity. I exercise regularly: run, bicycle, lift some weights. I also enjoy tinkering in my workshop and in computer science. I developed most of our office electronic medical record system.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Waiting to build an ophthalmology ambulatory surgery center. I was hesitant to build a surgery center when I started practice. Seven years ago we completed the first and only AAAHC certified ophthalmology surgery center in this area. The surgery center is one of the highlights of my professional career. We have an outstanding staff and service equipment dedicated to eye surgery. We’re able to respond quickly to changes in technology and techniques.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Working with a remarkable staff and taking care of patients.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Dealing with governmental regulations and insurance. I am also disappointed that our FDA limits devices, procedures and drugs long after they have become the standard of care in countries like Canada, Germany and England.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. There are many courses critical to the background of a physician and eye surgeon. One of my favorites was an industrial engineering course on efficiency in design and work flow.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. Before going to medical school, I worked briefly in systems engineering as related to health care. I would enjoy some aspect of computer science applied to health care delivery.

Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …

A. Traveling to visit family.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Strong core values with a goal of looking out for the best interests of the customers and employees.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I read Gary Schilling’s economic analysis monthly. He predicts 7-10 years for our country to show significant growth in GDP. I would expect our area to reflect the national picture.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. Hits from the late 60’s, early 70’s.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. Continued growth in the health industry.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. We have been fortunate to have had many great family vacations. Probably a tie between China in the early 2000’s before it became as westernized as it currently is and Israel. Why? In both it was studying the history and the culture. In the case of Israel we enjoyed seeing so many areas from the Bible.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business during the past few years?

A. Improved technology, making procedures safer with more rapid patient recovery, combined with new medications to treat blinding conditions like glaucoma and wet macular degeneration.