Timothy Berg's Lifetime Prep for Career as a Surgeon

By the UK College of Medicine
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When he’s in the operating room, learning alongside University of Kentucky College of Medicine attending surgeons, fourth-year medical student Timothy Berg feels most in his element. He thrives in the fast-paced environment and has the work ethic to push through the long hours.

It’s likely that this drive came from his childhood.

Through elementary school, middle school, and high school, Timothy was a competitive figure skater. He remembers as a fifth grader waking up at 3:30 a.m. to be at the ice rink by 4:30 a.m. for warm-ups and practice that lasted until 8:30 a.m. Then, he would attend school and be right back on the rink once the end-of-day bell rang.

And it wasn’t just the long hours in skating that equipped him for his future career in medicine. It was the value of consistent practice, the importance of precision, the culmination of perfecting simple maneuvers to eventually build up to the triple rotation, or in a surgeon’s case, a complex operation. Those qualities became ingrained in Timothy from an early age, and he believes those learned skills helped him transition more simply into the medical field.

“With both skating and with surgery, you work on the basics first, and then you learn the basic skills well enough to do something complex,” he said. “And then by the end of it, you have something beautiful.” In skating, that could mean a perfect routine. For surgery, it’s a life saved or improved.

Timothy said his parents would have been supportive of any path he followed, as long as he did so with passion. He was intrigued by his family’s work serving others in the medical field, his father a pediatric oncologist, his mother a pediatric nurse, and his brother currently in his final year of a general surgery residency. Timothy also considers himself an extrovert. He loves meeting new people and helping make their voices heard, qualities that eventually helped propel him to become an advocate for his classmates as president of the College of Medicine’s Class of 2020.

He knew his two desires, to serve others and to be around people working as a team, would come together by becoming a surgeon. And he’s thankful to have earned this education through UK. Though his family moved around quite a bit through his childhood (his father was in the Air Force) – from Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, California, Utah, and even out of the country in Portugal – they all fell in love with Kentucky. His parents actually decided to settle down and retire in the Commonwealth.

Now that Timothy’s fourth year of medical school is complete, he looks back fondly at his time at UK as he heads to his residency at The Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Just like with figure skating, graduating will mark the culmination of hard work he put in, step by step, to perfect his skills for one of the biggest stages in his medical career.

“We’ve always had people to check us, and next year we’re going to have the power to diagnose, to treat. And that’s a big responsibility,” Timothy said. “One of the things I love about medicine is the level of trust we get in this profession. This is the only profession that people come to you and expect you to cure them and have that knowledge and do it right.

“This is the day we say, hey, that trust starts now. It’s kind of a big deal.”