Joseph R. Berger, MD
Professor of Neurology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Recipient of the 2015 Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award
By Avindra Nath
Dr. Joseph R. Berger has made impressive contributions to the field of neuroinfectious diseases over a period of nearly 35 years as a distinguished researcher and teacher.
Dr. Berger’s research interests include the neurological complications of HIV/AIDS, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), and the interface of multiple sclerosis (MS) and infections. He was one of the first to describe the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and aspects of treatment for PML in patients with HIV infection. He is well known internationally and is a recognized expert in the field of infectious diseases of the nervous system. His research has been picked up by the popular press on many occasions. When cases of PML occurred in patients with MS or other autoimmune diseases being treated with immunomodulatory therapies, he was sought out by the NIH, drug companies, and the lay media as an expert to discuss these cases and provide guidelines for patient safety for those already exposed to these drugs. Dr. Berger led a group of investigators that helped establish guidelines for the diagnosis of PML that were published in 2013. He collaborates extensively, and built superb neuro-AIDS research groups first at the University of Miami, at the University of Kentucky, and now at the University of Pennsylvania. As a member of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, he helped guide clinical research in neuro-AIDS in the country for many years. His ability to bring people together and challenge them to think about important and unique research problems and how to address these issues is unsurpassed by his peers. Dr. Berger has authored over 200 manuscripts and another 200 chapters and reviews. He is also an editor of three books.
Dr. Joseph R. Berger is a graduate of the Five Year Accelerated Medical Program, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1972 and his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1974. He trained in internal medicine at Georgetown University Hospital and in neurology at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel, and Jackson Memorial Hospital of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Florida. Dr. Berger is board certified in Internal Medicine and Neurology and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Neurological Association. From 1981 through 1995, Dr. Berger was on the faculty of the Departments of Neurology and Internal Medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine where he held the Thomas E. Whigham/Joseph R. Berger Endowed Chair for the study of the neurological complications of HIV/AIDS. From 1995 through 2013, Dr. Berger was the Chairman of Neurology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine where he established and directed the Multiple Sclerosis Program and was the Ruth L. Works Professor. In July 2014, Dr. Berger relocated from the University of Kentucky to the Department of Neurology of the Perelman School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, where he is Professor and chief of the Multiple Sclerosis Division.
He is one of the founding editors of the Journal of NeuroVirology. He is the founder and organizer of the “International Conference on the Neuroscience of HIV Infection,” which was widely acclaimed as the best conference on the subject. This conference was eventually merged with the International Society of NeuroVirology (ISNV) meetings. He serves on the Board of Directors of the ISNV.
Without a doubt, Dr. Berger is a teacher of rare distinction who displays a natural talent for teaching. In 2014, he received the American Neurological Association Raymond D. Adams Lectureship Award. In 1985, he was awarded the George Pfaff Award for Outstanding Teaching at the University of Miami School of Medicine. At the University of Kentucky, he received the Outstanding Educator Award every year from 1996 through 1998. He was also the recipient of the distinguished Master Teacher Award (1998) for both his teaching abilities and leadership in designing and implementing new curricula. In 1999, he was awarded the Distinguishing Teaching Award at Minority Institutions by the African American Neurological Association.
He has extensively lectured on neurological infections worldwide. In recognition of his contributions to neurological education and research in Ethiopia, he received the Life Time Recognition Award for Extraordinary Talents and Service from a humanitarian organization called People-to-People. He is an honorary Professor in the Department of Neurology in Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. He is also an honorary member of the Columbian Neurological Association.