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Gabrielle deVeber, MD

Profile written by Robert S. Rust, MD

Gabrielle deVeber, MD

Gabrielle deVeber was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Interestingly, she is a direct descendant of the famous 19th Century Irish physician, Sir Richard Quain, MD, who earned nearly every honor of the of the Royal College of Physicians for his contributions to the understanding of cardiovascular physiology and comparative anatomy. Gabrielle deVeber chose initially to prepare herself for a career in physical and occupational therapy, taking her degree in 1981 at the University of British Columbia. She chose this career because she was interested in fixing the disabilities of human bodies. Her goals exceeded what such training could provide and she immediately moved on to three years of medical school to acquire pathophysiological understanding of disease, greatly refining a portion of that understanding for all the rest of us. An important stepping stone involved development of a detailed understanding of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics. Her decision to become a pediatrician was based on her love of children; appropriately, her residency was completed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in 1986. As might be expected from her ancestry, the pursuit of a deeper neuroanatomical understanding of clinical deficits attracted her to neurology. During the course of her training she would become particularly attracted to neurovascular disease since it permitted neurological anatomy to be learned “stroke by stroke.”

The mentor whose role was particularly pivotal in her decision to become a stroke neurologist was the hematologist, Dr. Maureen Andrew. Toronto provided two additional mentors of exceptional importance: Dr. Henry J. M. Barnett, who had played a critical early role in transforming management of adult strokes from unexamined custom to clinical scientific sophistication, and Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, who played a role internationally in enhancing the appreciation of the sense not only of sophistication but also of urgency in diagnosis and treatment of stroke that he termed a “brain attack.” Dr. deVeber completed training in adult neurology at the University of Western Ontario in 1987, and in child neurology, with a clinical fellowship in pediatric neurorehabilitation and EMG at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1990 and 1991, respectively. Additional important mentors entered her life: Ray Adams, C. Miller Fisher, and Verne Caviness. Signally important in Dr. deVeber’s career development has been her collaboration with Donna Ferriero.

Four years as a child neurologist at McMaster University led Dr. deVeber to concentrate for the ensuing three years at McMaster on the acquisition of the meticulous methodological sophistication and experience appropriate to advancing all aspects of the understanding of all aspects of childhood stroke. She rapidly progressed not only in rank but also in opportunity as clinician and scientist.

Dr. deVeber initiated her exceptionally distinguished career as a stroke neuroscientist with an original report relating the use of MRI imaging to evaluate a child with a stroke that she saw with Verne Caviness. Two-hundred and thirteen original reports and invited reviews have followed. The papers constitute an extraordinary record of investigation, not only by Dr. deVeber’s group, but by the amazing network of collaborative study groups in which she has played a critical organizational role. Presentation at varying age and with various etiological circumstance – including arteriopathic, traumatic, inflammatory, neoplastic, infectious, nephrotic and other metabolic, and other conditions as well as strokes of uncertain pathogenesis – are represented. So too are aspects of progression of deficit and recurrence risk. Imaging results provided in these studies progressively refine what may be learned acutely, including the demonstration of the inadequacy of ultrasonographic investigation to exclude neonatal stroke. Risk factors are increasingly well defined, including the as yet inadequately understood elevated risk of males for certain forms of ischemic stroke. This is representative of the manner in which well-designed studies refine and identify what is not known in order to properly investigate such variations. Of particular importance have been the numerous evidence-based studies of efficacy of therapeutic interventions.

Of 213 papers published since 1987, Dr. deVeber has been the principle or co-principal investigator in half; 143 have concerned stroke. The total number of citations for all papers is 8971; 5705 since 2009. Eighty papers have been cited more than 50 times, 21 more than 100 times, seven more than 300 times. The most highly cited paper, concerning childhood cerebral sinovenous thrombosis, has been cited 709 times since being published in 2001. Five of the papers cited more than 200 times are of particular clinical importance since they are well-designed investigations of efficacy of stroke treatments. Several of these most highly cited papers concern the outcomes experienced by children with arterial ischemic stroke and sinovenous thrombosis. To perform these studies, Dr. deVeber has completed 29 grants and awards. The grants currently devoted to addition studies by Dr. deVeber and her collaborators represent an investment of approximately $21 million in studies designed to improve the health of infants and children.

Dr. deVeber has guided the academic development of 12 clinical stroke fellows, four of whom have achieved independent funding as stroke researchers. Of the 18 graduate students who came under Dr. deVeber’s guidance, half have completed graduate theses. Dr. deVeber’s advocacy for stroke awareness has achieved a high degree of international significance. She has delivered 74 invited lectures to international audiences. To the extent that this remarkably modest individual can account for her own professional success, she ascribes it to those who have trained and nurtured her during her career development. The qualities that these individuals have invested in Dr. deVeber include enthusiasm, focus, and caring deeply about her work; they are, without doubt, the same qualities and attitudes Dr. deVeber has invested in those who have come to her for training. She advocates the importance of “thinking outside of the box – maybe…”, and persistence deriving from maintaining the attitude that “we can do this!” The things that she tries to instill in those she trains clinically and scientifically are humility, collaborative spirit, and hard work.

Since 2009 Dr. deVeber has been Senior Scientist of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Programs of the University of Toronto, at the rank of Professor. She has been exceptionally active in a variety of capacities for the CNS. Her many honors have included the Geoffrey C. Robinson Award of the Canadian Pediatric Society (2007), and the Sidney Carter Award of the AAN (2010).

Dr. deVeber is devoted to the “love of her life and best friend,” her husband, David Mikulus, a neuroradiologist also devoted to stroke studies, and her two children: Maddy (22, training in Public Relations), and Nicole (19, engaged in neuroscience studies, art and athletics). Interests outside of medicine include huntseat riding of her horse, Romeo, reading mystery novels, traveling, and enjoying the out-of doors. She manifests the characteristics of a person who enjoys other people, working hard to improve the lot of others, especially children. It is a fine example of the personality of the child neurologist.