Although a native of New Jersey, Dr. Burger is a product of the Midwest. He grew up in the Chicago
area and attended Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio and Northwestern University Medical School in the
city. He began his education in Pathology on-the-job as a summer clinical laboratory technician
during college and medical school. Undecided about career plans at a time when rotating internships
were still common, he engaged for a one-year term at Los Angeles County General Hospital, an affiliate
of the University of Southern California. Because of the demands of the Vietnam War, active military
duty was then almost mandatory; his two-year stint was spent in Wichita Falls, Texas at Sheppard Air
Force Base as a general medical officer. A frequent lunchtime visitor to the pathology department he
volunteered as a “cutter” in surgical pathology.
Formal postgraduate training was resumed in Durham, North Carolina in the Department of Pathology of
Duke University Medical Center. A rotation on neuropathology as a first-year resident, prompted a
course correction from AP/CP to AP/NP. Although initially attracted to the study of Alzheimer’s
disease, he succumbed to the lure of surgical neuropathology. As a fellow, he and his mentor, F.
Stephen Vogel, produced a new text, “Surgical Pathology of the Nervous System and Its Coverings” that
was organized in large part about the anatomic site of lesions in an attempt to demystify the subject.
This approach resonated with anatomic pathologists through four editions, the latter two co-authored
with Dr. Bernd Scheithauer. He and Dr. Scheithauer also authored the Third and Fourth Series
editions of the AFIP Tumor Atlas - “Tumors of the Central Nervous System”. Dr. Burger contributed to
the evolution of the World Health Organization “Blue Books” on CNS Tumors. In all, he has published
seven textbooks and over 350 papers.
Following a twenty-year faculty career at Duke, Dr. Burger and his wife Paula left their academic
positions at Duke in 1993, and moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Burger
is a professor of Pathology, Neurosurgery, and Oncology in the School of Medicine and services the
surgical neuropathology service at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, while maintaining an active consult
practice. He especially enjoys intra-operative analyses and frequent visits to the operating room.
The ability to interact with house staff at the multi-headed scope is an additional daily pleasure.
He has been active as the central reviewer for clinical cooperative trials, most notably as the sole
reviewer for CNS tumors in the Pediatric Oncology Group for 20 years. He is now the reviewer for
multiple protocols in the Children’s Oncology Group. He has reviewed for other cooperative groups
such as the Brain Tumor Cooperative Group, Brain Tumor Study Group, and Southwest Oncology Group. He
has been a consultant to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In aggregate, from these activities,
in house material, and outside consultations, he has reviewed tens of thousands of cases.
Exposure to this material has permitted the description of multiple “new entities” refinements in
tumor grading, and recently, molecular features of CNS tumors, in particular oligodendrogliomas and
mixed gliomas. Dr. Burger was instrumental in solidifying the concept that there is prognostic
significance to the grading of medulloblastomas.
Awards and honors include the Sheard Sanford Award for Meritorious Student Research from the American
Society of Clinical Pathologists, the Farber Award for Neuro-Oncology, the Pioneer award in
Neuropathology from the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation, and Alpha Omega Alpha in 2006. He has given
over 250 invited lectures, including nine named lectureships.
As satisfying as it is to solve difficult cases, describe new entities, and publish papers, the real
joy to Dr. Burger is to influence careers of trainees, whether medical student, resident, or fellow.
He particularly enjoys the success of his multiple neuropathology fellows in practice now both here
and abroad. While it is certainly not for everyone, Dr. Burger recommends the academic life, with
its inestimable advantage of an environment refreshed by new ideas and, annually, a fresh group of
bright, eager, good-spirited young people with high standards and expectations. Given this, Dr.
Burger finds the present USCAP Distinguished Pathologist recognition a special honor, coming as it
does from such a prestigious, thriving society so justifiably renowned for its record in medical
Dr. Stephen Vogel, former Secretary/Treasurer of the USCAP: “Just shortly after Dr. Burger entered
his residency in neuropathology, my secretary remarked, “He’s a nice little fellow.” His extraordinary
career thereafter makes it clear that small acorns can yield huge oaks whose roots draw from many
areas of science and whose branches extend internationally.”