| Steven Lee Berk|
(Physician and Dean and Vice President for Medical Affairs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock; wrote an autobiography focusing on his four-hour kidnapping ordeal)
|Born|| March 12, 1949 |
New York City, New York
|Spouse|| Shirley H. Berk|
Anatomy of a Kidnapping
In 2011, he wrote a book Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story about his experiences six years earlier on March 6, 2005, as the victim of kidnapping. He was taken from the garage of his then residence off Interstate 27 in the Randall County portion of Amarillo, Texas. His younger son, Justin, was at home when the kidnapping occurred, but his wife, Shirley (born 1950), was at church. Older son Jeremy was away at college. The captor, Jack Lindsey Jordan (born 1963 in Seminole, Texas) gained entry from an open garage door, which normally would have been locked. Jordan demanded money and jewelry to pay for transportation and methamphetamines. He drove the doctor along Interstate 40 toward New Mexico and held him for four hours on a cool windy Sunday. He was released unharmed near a gasoline station in Bushland in Potter County, Texas. At the time of the kidnapping, Berk was the regional dean of the Texas Tech medical branch in Amarillo, but on August 1, 2006, he was moved to the high position at the Lubbock campus. There are two other branch campuses in Odessa and El Paso. Before his arrival in Amarillo, Dr. Berk was a medical professor at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, where he worked in the fields of infectious diseases, geriatrics, and internal medicine.
The kidnapping propelled Dr. Berk to write about his ordeal. He interlaces the narrative with much of his life story, from his birth in New York City, his childhood in New Jersey, his medical education at Boston University School of Medicine, his work at East Tennessee State University, and his relocation to Amarillo, his adopted city which he had grown to love. Since the events of 2005, Dr. Berk was transferred to the main medical campus in Lubbock. The kidnapping changed his life perspective. He had taken precaution to shield his son who was unaware of the intruder in their midst, and he kept his wife in the dark for her own protection after she had returned home and began preparing lunch. The kidnapping and robbery spurred Dr. Berk to gain a greater appreciation for his family and his work as a physician. The crime changed Berk's mind about gun control laws, which he had first supported as a 19-year-old upon the assassination in June 1968 of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. At the time, Berk did not know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle, an anomaly for most men in West Texas, but he soon purchased a gun for his family's protection and learned how to use it.
Out of self-preservation, Berk studied the psyche of his kidnapper, but he never fell prey to the Stockholm syndrome by which a captive becomes sympathetic toward his captor. He reveals case histories and stresses that a physician must listen carefully to his patients' personal experiences. Such information may be more critical in making accurate diagnoses than sophisticated medical tests. With the goal of survival, Berk delved into Jordan's background and made the criminal think that he was sympathetic to "the mistakes" that Jordan had made in his life. Berk believes that the state prison system failed Jordan, who had been released from custody without rehabilitation, and then the drug addiction propelled Jordan to a further crime spree. In 2007, Jordan was convicted of the aggravated robbery and kidnapping of Dr. Berk, with both offenses netting life sentences.
In retrospect, Dr. Berk said that the greatest lesson he learned from his four hours in captivity was the desirability "to live each day to the fullest, to celebrate the joys of family, work, and good health, and to appreciate our every moment as precious." Three weeks after the kidnapping, Berk penned an opinion column in The Amarillo Globe-News. Here is a portion of his remarks:
I have been spared to see another day, a victim of crime who gives thanks for life itself. My story is unique, but I feel like a brother or sister to many others -- those who have walked away from a demolished car, those whose heart stopped and started again, people who lost a breast or colon or were born weighing a pound but came off a ventilator and lived. We do not understand how we as a group differ from the non-survivors: those who were killed by their kidnapper, died at the hands of a drunken driver, or succumbed to a heart attack or breast cancer, or the premature infant who never came home. For now, we are alive and they are not. We are no smarter, no more religious, no more favored. To believe otherwise is to dishonor the memory of those who have died tragically, violently or prematurely.In July 2012, Berk presented his story on the I Survived documentary television series on the Biography Channel. Victoria Sutton, the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor at the Texas Tech University School of Law, said in her review of Anatomy of a Kidnapping:
Not only is Dr. Berk a master of writing an interesting case history, his ability to tell a story is strikingly rich, deep, and engaging. I laughed, I cried, and came away thinking this is a story that has to be told. I started reading it and I could not put it down — or I probably would not have been able to fall asleep that night without knowing how it ended for Dr. Berk but also for [the perpetrator]."
In addition to his book on his kidnapping, he is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and four textbooks. In 2012, he was named "Distinguished Alumnus" by his alma mater, the Boston University School of Medicine. There is an endowed University Medical Center chair named in his honor. In 2019, he received the Department of Medical Education teaching award for his course on infectious diseases. While at East Tennessee State University, he received the "Teacher of the Year" award for ten consecutive years.
Most recently, Dr. Berk has served as a director of the Nominating Committee of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The AAMC has circulated nationally his editorials on wearing a facemask in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Steven Berk. Mylife.com. Retrieved on August 15, 2020.
- Billy Hathorn, Review of Anatomy of a Kidnapping, West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 pp. 184-186.
- Dr. Steven Berk to appear on Biography Channel's I Survived (July 21, 2012).