Leadership Transitions in the School of Medicine

August 13, 2020 | By UCSF School of Medicine

As Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, announced in a message to the School of Medicine, Mitchel Berger, MD, has announced he is stepping down as Chair of the Department of Neurological Science at UCSF, after nearly 24 years. Edward Chang, MD, will serve as the new chair, effective September 1, 2020.

Dr. Mitchel Berger
Mitchel Berger, MD
Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery
Director, Neuro-Oncology Surgery Program

Dr. Mitchel Berger is a nationally recognized expert in treating brain and spinal cord tumors as well as tumor-related epilepsy in adults and children. He also is a specialist in brain mapping techniques – used to identify and preserve areas of motor, sensory and language function during surgery – and an expert in using the Gamma Knife, a precise, noninvasive tool that applies radiation beams for tumor treatment. He is co-director of the Adult Brain Tumor Surgery Program, director of the Brain Tumor Research Center and director of the Center for Neurological Injury and Repair.

Dr. Berger earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1975 and his medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in 1979. He completed an internship and a residency at UCSF, and was awarded a clinical fellowship in neuro-oncology by the American Cancer Society and a research fellowship by the Brain Tumor Research Center. He completed further fellowship training in neuro-oncology at UCSF and in pediatric neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children, an affiliate of the University of Toronto.

Dr. Berger was elected to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' board of directors, appointed to the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel (NIH/NCI), Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the Society for Neuro-Oncology. He has edited 7 books, has 665 peer-reviewed publications, and has given nearly 750 presentations locally, nationally, and internationally.

Under Dr. Berger’s leadership, the Department of Neurological Surgery’s major focus has been on team science; translational research, sub-specialized clinical practice, and promoting diversity and equity for faculty, residents, and staff. The Department has ranked number one in NIH funding for academic neurosurgery since 2000, in the top five in US News and World report for 11 consecutive years (number two for 2020), ranked by Doximity as the number one neurosurgery residency program (by reputation), and number one in research publication productivity (Dept overall; published 2014 JNS).

The Department boasts more than 25 research labs, each focused on a unique aspect of brain tumor risk, biology, diagnosis, and treatment. Areas include: cell signaling, developmental biology, drug delivery, genomics, immunotherapy, neuroepidemiology, neuroimaging, pediatric tumors.

The Department of Neurological Surgery Diversity Committee was formed by Dr. Berger in 2016. Since creating this committee, medical student “Lunchtime Talks with Neurosurgeons” have been developed and are well-attended. The Department also began a successful partnership with Oasis for Girls and LinkedIn to set up a summer internship specifically geared towards at-risk, UIM, young women residing in San Francisco. Dr. Berger is a mentor for WINS (Women in Neurological Surgery), and the Department has been able to attract more resident women candidates for externships, and thus has been able to increase the number of women residents to join the program.

Going forward, Dr. Berger will continue to be a full member of the Department of Neurological Surgery as an active surgeon and faculty member. He will continue to direct the Brain Tumor Center, serve as PI of the SPORE grant, and will get back to the laboratory with new and evolving projects including developing gene editing using CRISPR to treat brain tumors and advanced drug delivery nanoparticles for brain tumors.