Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


John Bodensteiner, MD

Profile written by Robert S. Rust MD

John Bodensteiner, MD

John Bodensteiner is a proud son of Iowa. Born and raised in Decorah, he remained rooted there four more years, earning a BA in biology at Luther College, along with honors as a National Science Foundation undergraduate Research Fellow. His accomplishments in the lab were matched, measure for measure, on stage, where he garnered national honors as a talented thespian. But the bright lights and distractions of Broadway never stood a chance of luring him away from the lab bench and the disciplined study of biology, a path upon which he achieved early success with publication of his virological research, appointment as an Instructor in Biology and a distinguished run through medical school at the University of Iowa, including two years as Research Fellow in genetics and hereditary metabolic diseases under Hans Zellweger that resulted in five original peer-reviewed papers.

After receiving his medical degree In 1971, Dr. Bodensteiner left Iowa City for LA, completing a Pediatrics residency at Los Angeles Children’s hospital in 1973. he returned to the University of Iowa to pursue a Pediatric Neurology residency under William Bell, completing it in 1976, followed by year of training as a Special Clinical Fellow in Neuromuscular Disease under Andrew Engel at the Mayo Clinic. Three years of Assistant Professorship in Neurology and Pediatrics followed at the University of Texas, followed by an appointment as Associate Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics, and Neuropathology at the University of Oklahoma in 1980, where he subsequently earned tenure in 1984 and promotion to full Professor in 1987. In that year he moved to the university of West Virginia, remaining there for 12 years. From 1999-2001 Dr. Bodensteiner served as Professor and then Chair of Pediatric Neurology at Indiana University, before being recruited in 2001 to become the William Pilcher Distinguished Chair of Pediatric Neurology at the Barrow Institute and St. Joseph’s Children’s health Center in Phoenix, as well as the university of Arizona. During his ten years in Arizona Dr. Bodensteiner’s remarkable organizational, clinical, scientific, and personal characteristics enabled him to dramatically enlarge the size and distinction of his Child Neurology Division. In 2011 he assumed his current position as Senior Associate Consultant at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

Dr. Bodensteiner has devoted remarkable, unceasing energy to advancing research in the neurological diseases of children. Professor Bodensteiner has received eighteen research grants and has published 150 original peer- reviewed papers covering a wide range of topics with acute intelligence, distinguishing himself as primary author of 56 and senior author of at least 25. It is quite characteristic of Dr. Bodensteiner’s sense of value that relatively few are “yet another” case report. Instead, fully 57 of these papers are designed to inform and resolve diagnostic issues, usually on the basis of a fairly large case series, typically yielding an intelligent and cost-effective approach to the interpretation and further evaluation of clinical – especially imaging – findings that previously went unnoticed and were likely to end up being dismissed, worked up expensively, or misinterpreted. It is not surprising, given Dr. Bodensteiner’s training, that 23 papers consider genetic syndromes. Fifteen are highly informative studies of neuromuscular or peripheral neuropathic conditions, and nine describe infectious diseases of the nervous system, with valuable concentration on early signs indicative of the likely pathogen. Of the 20 additional categories into which these papers might be placed, the most common topics are neonatal neurology (21), epilepsy (20), neurotoxicology (13), and stroke, or vasculopathy (13). Nine papers – chiefly addressing questions of the nature and significance of diagnosis – have been cited more than 35-100 times. An epilepsy paper cited more than 100 times provides valuable information on the prevalence of childhood epilepsy by type, while another highly cited paper proved to be an early, important contribution to the question of the effects of anticonvulsants on bone density. his most highly cited paper (319) was a masterful study of of the calcium accumulation in Duchenne and other myopathic conditions based upon the analysis of 567,000 muscle fibers from 114 biopsies. Citation is not the only index of the value of a paper, of course: witness Dr. Bodensteiner’s uncited but immeasurably valuable study of the prevalence of chronic sorrow in families as the consequence of chronic neurological impairments of children. Finally, it should be noted that Dr. Bodensteiner has published no less than 67 chapters on a broad range of subjects.

Dr. Bodensteiner’s involvement in academic societies has been unusually devoted. he has served on numerous committees of the Child Neurology Society (CNS), American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the American Neurological Association (ANA), Professors of Child Neurology (PCN) and the Southern Pediatric Neurology Society (SPNS). His exceptional leadership abilities have been recognized by his peers with election to the Presidency of the Southern Child Neurology Society (twice), the Professors of Child Neurology, and the Child Neurology Society. He has participated actively in 19 Professional Societies, including honorary Membership in the Sociedad
Argentina de Neurologica Infantil. his alma mater Luther College granted him a Distinguished Service Award in 1996.

Dr. Bodensteiner has presented 91 papers at international meetings, and co-authored 73 more. He has published 91 invited journal review articles or commentaries. He has been honored with invitations to serve as a visiting professor at 28 universities, has won seven teaching awards, and has delivered six prestigious honorary and Keynote Lectures in three countries. He has served on the Medical Advisory Boards of seven foundations devoted to the welfare of individuals with chronic neurological diseases and as a consultant to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, to the National Indian Public health Service among other important agencies. he has served with distinction as ad hoc reviewer for for 16 journals and has sat on an equal number of editorial boards. he was the Founding Editor of Seminars in Neurology, a position he has held with great distinction for two decades. Dr. Bodensteinr had a long tenure as board examiner (62 administrations), becoming one of the most senior examiners for the the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

How does one best summarize the manner in which Dr. Bodensteiner has with unfailing reliability, devotion, and depth of character always done right by his patients, students, colleagues, his profession, and his family (his wife, Donna – who deserves considerable credit herself – his son Peter, and daughter, Beth) for nearly half a century? It must certainly be said that he has found a way at all times to place his remarkable gifts for observation of what is important and his clear-eyed vision of what must be done in the service of countless patients, colleagues, and students at all levels of their careers, from their early years of training to their arrival at senior positions of responsibility and devotion to the neurological welfare of children. Where he has encountered an area of uncertainty in the diagnosis, management, or elucidation of pathogenesis in patient encounters, he has invariably responded by exhaustively reviewing a considerable number of unpublished prior cases with similar findings and patiently and critically reading all, or almost all, of what has previously been published. The end result, in most cases, is an acutely rendered analysis that more often than not results in a new baseline understanding permitting the rest of us to be less mystified.

Finally, it must be said of Dr. Bodensteiner that he has not shied away from addressing important areas of medicine that remain filled with uncertainty, such as the continued sadness of families that have lost a child. Although providing an “answer” to such sadness is beyond the power of any of us he has done the next best thing: he has exemplified for those he trains and for the rest of us an example of how a fine physician quietly provides evidence of genuinely caring.