Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


E. Steve Roach, MD

Profile written by Anup D. Patel, MD

E. Steve Roach, MD

The 2015 Hower Award winner is E. Steve Roach, MD, of Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Roach is Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Chief of the Section of Child Neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. To summarize the distinguished career of such an individual is a daunting task, but some of his accomplishments are presented below.

Dr. Roach attended Carson-Newman University, graduating with honors and a dual major in chemistry and biology. While an undergraduate, he worked with chemists Carl Bahner and Truett Patterson to synthesize new chemical compounds to be screened as anti-cancer agents. Dr. Roach decided to pursue a career in clinical neuroscience soon after encountering neuroanatomist Simon R. Bruesch at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. He chose to become a child neurologist as he developed a love of neuroscience and a need to help children with neurological illness. While still a medical student, Dr. Roach co-authored his first book, an atlas that was the first book on computed tomography in children.

During his residency at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, Dr. Roach met James F. Toole, who became a life long mentor and colleague. In 1967, Dr. Toole wrote the first textbook on stroke in the modern era. With the assistance of his mentor, Dr. Roach developed the keen understanding of cerebrovascular disease that he later applied to the study of children with stroke. He learned child neurology and epilepsy from Dr. William McLean and Dr. J. Kiffin Penry. From Dr. Toole and Dr. Lawrence McHenry, he developed an enduring appreciation of medical history and a love of vintage medical books. A generation earlier, Dr. McHenry wrote the classic History of Neurology, and the American Academy of Neurology later named its annual history award in his memory. Dr. Roach’s first peer reviewed paper, written as a pediatric resident, was a paper in Pediatrics that described the now well-recognized occurrence of increased intracranial pressure in babies following treatment of cystic fibrosis. Dr. Roach went on to publish 15 papers during his residency, an accomplishment few achieve.

Dr. Roach remained in North Carolina for six years after residency. During this time, he began studying tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). At the 1986 CNS meeting in Boston, he presented 25 patients with TSC who had been imaged with the then new MRI technology. This study helped to define the MRI appearance of the TSC brain lesions and suggested that patients with numerous cerebral lesions generally develop treatment resistant epilepsy and cognitive impairment. In 1988, he was funded by the NIH to study family members of children with TSC. That year also saw the publication of the first edition of the book Pediatric Cerebrovascular Disorders with colleague, Anthony Riela.

In 1989, Dr. Roach moved to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Five years later, he was awarded the Helen and Robert S. Strauss Professorship in Neurology. He had many duties during his tenure in Dallas, notably including Director of the Division of Child Neurology, Vice-Chair of the Department of Neurology, and Chair of the Institutional Review Board for Human Research. One of his most rewarding roles in Dallas was serving as Director of the Child Neurology Residency Program. He mentored several current child neurologists who acknowledge his importance to their own professional development and career. He was recognized twice by the Dallas residents with teaching awards. To this day, he remains in regular contact with many of his former residents, illustrating both his impact and his commitment to the careers of those he mentors.

After a brief stint back in North Carolina where we won another teaching award, Dr. Roach moved to Columbus, Ohio in 2006 to become the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Soon after arriving, he was appointed Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs of the University’s Department of Pediatrics. In 2013, Roach was awarded the Robert F. and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation Chair in Pediatric Neurology. During his time as Chief, the Division’s faculty has grown to 29 physicians with the group beginning a number of unique clinical programs. His faculty members often credit him for his excellent advice and his tireless efforts to facilitate their professional development.

Dr. Roach has served the Child Neurology Society (CNS) with distinction. Among other accomplishments during his eventful recent CNS presidency, the Society hired a new executive director, selected a new investment management firm, created a new website, revised their newsletter format, streamlined the CNS office organization, and realigned the CNS and the Child Neurology Foundation. Earlier he served on the CNS Executive Board and on several CNS committees. From 2003 to 2005, Dr. Roach served as Chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s (MN) Section of Child Neurology, remaining on the Executive Committee of the Committee on MN Sections until 2011. Starting in a 2004 Child Neurology Section newsletter column, he advocated for revision of the child neurology training requirements, including most of the changes in child neurologists’ training in adult neurology that were recently implemented. Dr. Roach was also elected to the Executive Counsel of the American Neurological Association, served on the Board of Directors of the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, and since 1999 has served on the Media Spokesperson Panel of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Roach has authored five textbooks and edited four others. The first edition of Pediatric Cerebrovascular Disorders in 1988 was the first textbook on cerebral vascular disease in children, and it is sometimes credited with defining pediatric stroke as an important field of study. Personally meaningful to Dr. Roach is the 2010 publication the sixth edition of Toole’s Cerebrovascular Disorders. It was the second edition of this book that had first sparked his interest in stroke, and he and two other Toole protégées completely wrote the sixth edition as homage to their mentor, lames Toole. Roach also relishes the two books he edited with his close friend, John Bodensteiner, the 2013 Hower Award winner.

Dr. Roach’s contributions also include over 250 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, editorials, commentaries, and other papers. Among these are several influential articles.He was the lead author of the 2008 American Heart Association consensus guidelines on the diagnosis and management of childhood stroke as well as the 1998 consensus diagnostic criteria and surveillance testing recommendations for tuberous sclerosis complex. A 1987 Archives of Neurology paper showed that children with tuberous sclerosis who have numerous large brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging are likely to exhibit more severe neurological disease. A later paper first described the MRI migration lines that characterize tuberous sclerosis. With Robert Adams and colleagues, he published a series of key studies on the prevention of stroke in children with sickle cell disease. An early paper first suggested that aspirin therapy might benefit children with Sturge-Weber syndrome. A 1 992 Nature Genetics paper with Raymond Kandt established the linkage of TSC2 to chromosome 16. His work with a single extensive Texas family with paroxysmal kinesigenic dyskinesia led to two Neurology papers linking this condition to chromosome 16, one of which was selected by Neurology for a commemorative collection of their ten most important epilepsy papers in the journal’s first 50 years.

In 2013 Dr. Roach assumed the editorship of Pediatric Neurology from founding editor, Kenneth Swaiman. He has worked to create a vibrant site for research and clinical information for child neurologists and others who care for children with neurological disorders. For 1 5 years prior to becoming Editor-in-Chief of Pediatric Neurology, Roach was an associate editor of JAMA Neurology (then Archives of Neurology) , where he edited the long-running Controversies in Neurology series and analyzed most of the manuscripts pertaining to child neurology. His first journal editorial experience came in 1 988 when his dear friend, Roger Brumback, asked him to become an associate editor of the newly established Journal of Child Neurology. He has since served on the editorial boards of six other medical journals and been a peer reviewer for three dozen other journals.

In addition to this year’s Hower Award from the CNS, Roach was awarded the 2002 Manual Gomez Award from the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance in Bethesda, Maryland. The Gomez Award recognizes creative or pioneering efforts that appreciably improved the understanding of the disease or the clinical care of individuals with tuberous sclerosis. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and a Fellow of the American Neurological Association, the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Heart Association. He has received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from both Carson-Newman University and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

Importantly, Dr. Roach credits much of his success lo his beloved wife Lisa, a now­ retired children’s hospital attorney. They are a great team, and Mrs. Roach often provides encouragement, steady advice, and keen insights on important issues. Like her husband, she elevates those she encounters and gives freely of her time to help them. Mrs. Roach is also a legendary hostess and an invitation to their home is coveted.

It is difficult to describe the entirety of a man who has dedicated his life to child neurology with this level of success, because his accomplishments tell only part of the story. To fully know Dr. Roach, you need to understand that passion for excellence and love of improving the lives of children with neurological illness is what drives him. His legacy will not only reflect his own work and amazing intelligence, but also that he makes the people around him better. He works tirelessly to promote and mentor colleagues and takes immense pride in their success. Simply, he defines the word mentor. His leadership skills cannot be taught, nor accurately represented on a CV. He motivates people to be and do more than they could individually do or imagine for themselves. For those fortunate to have worked with him, it is obvious from the moment you meet him that you will be a better person. Few people possess such ability, and the field of child neurology and all he has encountered are better for it.