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  • A. James Barkovich, MD

  • (This biography authored by George S. Bisset, III, MD, originally appeared in Radiology) 

    Inspired by a lifelong fascination with the central nervous system, world-renowned neuroradiologist A. James Barkovich, MD,has changed the landscape of pediatric neuroradiology through his visionary research in neonatology, metabolic disease, medical genetics and epilepsy.

    Dr Barkovich is a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, neurology, pediatrics and neurosurgery and Chief of Pediatric Neuroradiology at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where he helped pioneer the use of MR imaging to search for evidence of injury or abnormal development in the brains of newborns. His research significantly contributed to the decreased frequency of neonatal brain injury and the improved outcomes of injured neonates over the past 20 years.

    “I feel very fortunate to have spent my professional life practicing radiology and studying the development of the brain; I can’t imagine a more interesting and rewarding career,” Dr Barkovich said. “This recognition from RSNA is really a tribute to all of my students and colleagues who have been absolutely essential to the success of our research efforts.”

    Dr Barkovich launched his medical career by way of the U.S. military. After earning a master’s degree in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, he joined the U.S. Army in 1976 and earned his medical degree at George Washington University in 1980. He completed his radiology residency at the Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco in 1984, followed by a neuroradiology fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in 1986. After serving as a neuroradiologist at Letterman Army Medical Center for three years, Dr Barkovich joined UCSF in 1989, where he has spent the duration of his career.

    His lifelong devotion to pediatric neuroradiology began during his Walter Reed fellowship when he worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the Children’s Hospital Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He quickly recognized the potential of MR imaging as a groundbreaking tool for studying normal and abnormal brain development and began to focus on optimizing techniques for evaluating the brains of infants and children.

    In his research, Dr Barkovich conceptualized and aided in designing and building MR imaging- compatible incubators and high-resolution imaging coils and adapting imaging sequences to maximize information obtained from these studies.

    Combining embryology, genetics and molecular biology with basic physical and biological sciences, Dr Barkovich collaborated with fellow researchers to better understand and classify steps in normal and abnormal brain development, which led to a series of grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr Barkovich has enjoyed lengthy partnership with NIH which has funded much of his work since 1993.

    Along with chairing several NIH workshops on development and brain disorders, Dr Barkovich served as co-organizer and co-chair of the NIH Diagnostics & Therapeutics Workgroup of National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) Vision, created to identify the most promising scientific opportunities of the next decade across the breadth of the institute’s mission.

    This work earned Dr Barkovich recognition in neonatology, metabolic disease, medical genetics and epilepsy and led to an extensive roster of published, peer-reviewed research. In 1992, Dr Barkovich authored the classic paper, “MR and CT Evaluation of Profound Neonatal and Infantile Asphyxia,” published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology (AJNR). In 2000, AJNR named the research one of the 10 best neuroradiology papers of the century.

    Dr Barkovich has authored, co-authored or co-edited numerous books including Pediatric Neuroimaging, the definitive textbook of pediatric neuroradiology, currently in its 5th Edition. He has contributed frequently to Radiology over the years and served as a manuscript editor for RadioGraphics.

    As part of the world-renowned neuroimaging team at UCSF, Dr Barkovich is currently studying the mechanisms of normal development and maldevelopment of the brain, correlation of cerebellar abnormalities with neurodevelopmental outcome in prematurely born neonates, early detection of brain injury and repair after encephalopathy and high-resolution anatomic and functional imaging of brain malformation.

    During his distinguished career, Dr Barkovich has held numerous prestigious positions, serving as president of the American Society of Pediatric Neuroradiology (ASPNR) in 1993, president of the American Society of Neuroradiology (ASNR) in 1998, chairman of the Foundation of the ASNR from 2001-2007 and secretary-general of the World Federation of Neuroradiological Societies from 2002-2006.

    Among his many honors, Dr Barkovich received the Peter Emil Becker Award for Outstanding Contributions to Child Neurology and Pediatric Neuroradiology from the German-Austrian-Swiss Society of Child Neurology, the Outstanding Contributions to Research Award from the ASNR and honorary membership in the European Society of Neuroradiology. Dr Barkovich was awarded the initial Gold Medal of the ASPNR and the Gold Medal of the ASNR.  He has been named one of the Best Doctors in America since 1995.

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