Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., Gives $1.5 Million to University of Rochester

May. 14, 2014
Berk Gift Helps Establish a Distinguished Professorship

Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center and UR Medicine CEO and senior vice president for health services, and his family are giving $1.5 million to the University of Rochester.  In combination with a $500,000 gift from URMC’s Department of Medicine, the Berk contribution establishes a distinguished professorship in support of the University’s cardiovascular care, research, and educational efforts.

“This is an extraordinary gift, reflecting Brad’s loyalty and commitment to the University where his career reached its pinnacle,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman.  “Brad, who has already devoted so much of his talent to the University, is now making a gift that will support cutting-edge cardiovascular research for decades to come.”

The gift establishes the Bradford C. Berk, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professorship in cardiovascular research, and will be used to recruit high caliber scientists to the School of Medicine and Dentistry or retain exemplary faculty already working within the Cardiology division.  Arthur J. Moss, M.D., will be the first to hold the endowed professorship.

“It is very important that the first person set the standard, and Dr. Moss is establishing a very high bar,” said Berk, who is also senior vice president of Health Services. “He is the kind of individual I would always like to have in this position.”

Moss, who has been with URMC for more than 50 years, is a world-renowned expert on electrical disturbances of the heart.  He has made some of the most important and long-lasting discoveries in the treatment and prevention of cardiac arrhythmias, particularly a heart rhythm disorder known as Long QT syndrome, and sudden cardiac death.  Recently, Moss’s research team discovered a simple programming change that makes defibrillators – devices designed to detect and correct dangerous heart rhythms – safer and more effective.  Within a week, physicians across the country were resetting the devices, which are implanted in about 200,000 U.S. patients every year.

“Dr. Moss has made a difference in the lives of so many people,” said Berk.  “I admire him enormously, and I am so glad his significant contributions are being recognized.”

“We are humbled by Dr. Berk’s very personal commitment to the Medical Center and the Greater Rochester community,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., vice president for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry.  “He understands the importance of philanthropy in attracting and retaining exceptional talent, and is passionate about understanding the fundamental mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and their translation into new therapies.”

Berk received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1981, and went on to serve on the faculties of Harvard Medical School, Emory University, and the University of Washington.  In 1998, he was recruited back to his alma mater, where he became chief of Cardiology and chair of Medicine.  In addition, he has served as director of URMC’s Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI).  First appointed CEO in 2006, Berk continues to run his own CVRI lab, focusing on how blood vessels respond to biomechanical forces such as blood flow and hormones, and how these mechanisms contribute to atherosclerosis, hypertension, and stroke.  He is a member of the Association of Academic Physicians, serves on the Empire State Stem Cell Board Funding Committee, and is a fellow of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.  He has published 300 articles, chapters, and books, and has served as a mentor to more than 80 young scientists from five continents.

“It has been a pleasure watching Dr. Berk’s outstanding career unfold. I’m honored to be the first to hold this professorship,” said Moss.  “His gift ensures the University will continue groundbreaking research in its cardiovascular labs, offer the most advanced treatments for patients, and help develop future generations of leading heart specialists.”

“Dr. Berk and Dr. Moss are among the many remarkable researchers here, all of whom have the passion and drive to solve some of the mysteries of heart disease and transform our world,” says Richard Aab, University board of trustees, Medical Center board of trustees, and chair of the Medical Center campaign.  Aab’s father-in-law was one of Dr. Moss’s first patients, and both Aab and his father received cardiac care at Strong Memorial Hospital.  A gift from Aab established the Aab CVRI, which opened in 2007. “I have a special place in my heart for cardiology and cardiovascular research.  The Board is grateful to my longtime friend, Dr. Berk, who has given so much to the Medical Center – as physician, scientist, department chair, CEO, and now philanthropist.”

Nearly 200 scientists, students, and technicians at the University are devoted to basic or clinical cardiovascular research at CVRI, as well as the Heart Research Follow-up Program.