Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Bruce O. Berg, M.D.


Written by: Kenneth F. Swaiman, MD and Donna Ferriero, MD

Bruce O. Berg, M.D.

Dr. Bruce O. Berg was a soft spoken, clear thinking physician with the qualities of both humanity and leadership rarely encountered in the same individual. Although he spoke quietly, his calm voice belied the brilliance and coherence of his thoughts.  He was liked and respected by his patients, fellows and colleagues; his national and international reputation affirmed his innumerable attributes. Detailing the magnitude of his accomplishments does not accurately portray the picture of Bruce as an individual, a kind man who spoke of others with approval and warmth. He was beloved by all who came in contact with him for good reason

Bruce Berg was raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota and brought up in a Swedish home with his parents and three sisters. There he was exposed to a Midwestern culture of civility, calm, courtesy, and productivity. As a physician and humanist, he was the consummate product of those values.

Bruce received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. The competition for admission to the University of Minnesota medical school class was exceptionally great as documented by the fact that only 1 of 10 candidates was accepted. The pressure was greatly intensified by the large number of returning World War II veterans who dreamed of becoming physicians. Despite the competition, he was accepted and completed his medical training at the University of Minnesota Medical School. During his medical training he was exposed to Irvine McQuarrie the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Abe B. Baker who was the Chair of Neurology. Both men had a lasting effect on the career of Bruce Berg. They did not foresee the specialty of Pediatric Neurology, but they planted the seeds that steered Bruce’s interests into his future field.

After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army and became a member of the Army’s clinical clerkship program at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver. He received his Pediatric training at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco where he spent time at the University of California Medical Center. Subsequently he was stationed in the Pediatric Department in the Army Hospital in Nurnberg, Germany where he met an American nurse Linda Trende who became his wife. In 1962 they moved to London where he received training in Neurology and Child Neurology at Queen Square and later completed Neurology and Pediatric Neurology Training at the University of California San Francisco.

In 1966 Robert Fishman was appointed the Chair of Neurology at the University of California San Francisco and in 1968 he appointed Bruce the first Director of Child Neurology who then oversaw the quality growth of Child Neurology and the training program there for many years into the 1990’s. His vision and understanding of his trainees and colleagues led to the burgeoning of the unit that continues to flourish to this day with 30 faculty, 6 residents and fellowships in 5 subspecialties. Bruce was the Vice-Chairman of the Department of Neurology from 1977 through 1993.

Bruce participated in writing many publications on various topics. In 1976 he and his colleagues published a seminal article on the syndrome of Infant botulism that resulted from release of the toxin produced in the intestinal tract by Clostridium botulinum. In 1996 a single-authored reference text of over 1700 pages, Principles of Child Neurology, was published and was widely acclaimed.

Bruce was quick to embrace the newly formed Child Neurology Society and was the founding member of the Professors of Child Neurology, with Ken Swaiman, while he was President of the CNS in 1977. He assumed the Presidency of the Professors of Child Neurology in 1981. In 1988 he was awarded the prestigious Hower Award by the Child Neurology Society.

Those affiliated with the discipline of Child Neurology, either professionally or as his patients, have greatly benefitted from his presence; those of us who knew him well were forever enriched by his friendship.

Bruce is survived by his wife Linda, daughters Kate and Sarah, and five grandchildren.