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CSHS DIRECTOR: NATHAN A. BERGER, M.D.


Nathan A. Berger, M.D. is the Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine and Director of the Center for Science, Health and Society. He is Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Oncology at Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine.

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he received his A.B. from Temple University in 1962 and his M.D. from Hahnemann Medical College in 1966. He served his internship in Medicine at Michael Reese Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois and his residency in Medicine at Barnes Hospital, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. From 1968 to 1971 he served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Public Health Service and was a Research Associate at the NIH, NICHD Gerontology Research Center, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Baltimore, Maryland. He subsequently completed a fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. In 1974 he was appointed Assistant Professor in the Hematology/Oncology Division, Department of Medicine, and Washington University School of Medicine and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1979.

Dr. Berger came to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine as Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and Director of the Hematology/Oncology Division in 1983. He built an outstanding hematology/oncology division with research focused on cellular, biochemical, and molecular responses to DNA damage, how these processes differ between normal and transformed cells, how their aberrations result in cell death and malignant transformation and how they can be modulated to enhance therapeutic strategies. With an expanded faculty these programs have lead to the development of important translational initiatives in carcinogenesis and developmental therapeutics. In 1985, Dr. Berger became the founding Director of the Case Western Reserve University/Ireland Cancer Center which was awarded NCI Cancer Center status in 1987 and subsequently was designated an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Dr. Berger is Principal Investigator on two major grants funded by the National Cancer Institute; 1) CASE Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer, and 2) Aging-Cancer Research Program Development. He also is co-director of the Aging and Cancer Research Program at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In 1995 Dr. Berger was appointed Acting Dean and in 1996 he was selected to become Dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs. In this position he lead the faculty in a major curriculum revision initiative which resulted in strengthening the CWRU organ systems approach to medical education by further integrating basic and clinical sciences and introducing important thematic components of genetic and preventative medicine. He also stimulated the development and introduction of an innovative computer based electronic curriculum at all levels of medical education and evaluation. In 2002, he led the school through a highly successful reaccreditation review by the Liaison Committee of Medical Education, the national board that accredits medical schools.

During his seven year term as Dean of the CWRU School of Medicine, Dr. Berger stimulated expansion of basic and translational research programs at the School of Medicine with particular emphasis on genetic and structural biologic approaches to basic, clinical and translational research. During his tenure as Dean, the School of Medicine consistently increased funding from the National Institutes of Health by 9% per year and provided a major impetus for the development of the biotechnology industry in Northeast Ohio. With a commitment to expanding dual degree programs at the School of Medicine, he fostered expansion of the NIH funded MD/PhD training program at CWRU, initiated the first MD/PhD program in health services research, and stimulated the development of an innovative Physician-Engineering Training Program in which students earn both the M.D. degree and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Dr. Berger initiated a highly successful campaign for capital improvements and significantly expanded the number of endowed professorships, and garnered support for design and construction of the Harland Wood Research Tower and the new Structural Biology Building.  

Dr. Berger is an active researcher whose laboratory focuses on poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, DNA repair, stress proteins, and developmental therapeutics. He is the author of over 150 papers, reviews and book chapters in the field of DNA damage and repair and developmental therapeutics. He was on the Editorial Boards of Blood, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Seminars in Oncology, Oncology Reports, Cancer Research and the Publications Committee of the American Association for Cancer Research. He wrote the chapter on Alykylating Agents in DeVita’s Practice of Oncology and the chapter on Medical Therapy of Hematologic Malignancies in Handin, Lux and Stossel’s textbook on Principals and Practice of Hematology and coauthored the chapter on Geriatric Hematology in Young, Gerson and High’s Clinical Hematology.

Dr. Berger is a member of many professional societies including the American Society of Hematology, American Society of Biological Chemists, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the American Association of Physicians. Dr. Berger serves on and chairs many national peer review panels and committees for the National Cancer Institute. He chaired the NCI Scientific Review Group Subcommittee D for Clinical Research Program Project Grant Applications and the NCI/National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Special Emphasis Review Panel. He was on the Board of Directors of the Association of America Cancer Institutes and served as the President of the National Blood Club. He is active in the American Cancer Society and serves on the Board of Trustees of The Edison Biotechnology Center. He was Chairman of Biomedical Research Cleveland, an organization dedicated to improving the infrastructure for support of biomedical research and industrial development in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. He was appointed by Governor Taft to membership on the State of Ohio Biomedical Research and Technology Transfer Commission. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Montefiore, Care Alliance, the Health Museum of Cleveland, and is a member of the Northeast Ohio Regional Public Health Directors Council, United Way Service Community Vision Council- Strong Families=Successful Children, the Health Leadership Council of the Cleveland Municipal School District, the Helen Moss Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Northeast Ohio Breast Cancer Coalition.

Dr. Berger was named a Leukemia Society of America Scholar and elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare, Who’s Who in the World as well as in Best Doctors in America. He has been honored as a “Million Dollar Professor” by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine every year since 1996, in recognition of the grants awarded to him by the National Institutes of Health. He was inducted into the Cleveland Medical Hall of Fame and received the American Cancer Society, Cancer Hall of Fame, Research Award.

In 2002, Dr. Berger was appointed the Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine and the first director of the Center for Science, Health and Society, a new collaboration between CWRU and the City of Cleveland that aims to improve the health of city residents through community outreach, health education and health policy programs.  Working with the city and county Health Departments, Dr. Berger has organized a series of major conferences to educate community leaders and help them prepare for public health threats including Bioterrorism, West Nile Virus, Hepatitis C, Smallpox Vaccination, Pandemic Influenza and Obesity.  He organized and directs the Case Western Reserve University Mini Med School, an adult learning series held every spring and fall featuring lectures by nationally recognized faculty from the Case School of Medicine who present the latest findings on a variety of important health issues.  The series is designed to help the lay public become more informed health care consumers and better advocates for health care reform in their own best interest.

In 2003, Dr. Berger initiated the Scientific Enrichment and Opportunity Program designed to bring underprivileged students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District into contact with faculty at the School of Medicine to engage in longitudinal research projects under faculty tutelage during the summers after the student’s 10th and 11th grade years.  This research experience is designed to enhance the students’ interest in the biomedical and healthcare sciences, provide them with unparalleled professional experience in the sciences and bring them into contact with the SOM faculty for both academic and career mentoring.  Now entering its fifth year, the SEO program has trained over 40 students, many of whom have gone on to successful college careers.