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Gretchen L. Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H.


Clinical Interests


Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Appointment: (585) 276-3000

URMFGA member of the University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group

groupAn Accountable Health Partner

assignmentNot Accepting New Patients

Faculty Appointments


Professor Birbeck completed her clinical training in neurology and epilepsy at Johns Hopkins Hospitals. She holds board certification with the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has additional expertise in Tropical Medicine, Epidemiology, Health Services Research and Clinical Trials. Due to her active international research program and associated travel, she provides outpatient clinical care through the URMC Epilepsy Fellows Firm.

Professional Background

Professor Birbeck was graduate Phi Beta Kappa and with honors from Indiana University in Chemistry and Psychology with a Neuroscience focus before she attended medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She received her MD from Pritzker, graduating Alpha Omega Alpha and with Honors while also receiving the University of Chicago Excellence Award in Neurology. After completing her Internal Medicine internship and Neurology residency training at the Johns Hopkins Hospitals, Professor Birbeck was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar in Health Services Research at UCLA during which time she obtained a Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology). Her additional post graduate training includes an Epilepsy/EEG Fellowship with Dr. Peter Kaplan at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hopsital. In 2006, she attended the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene obtaining her Diploma in Tropical Medicine (DTMH) with honors. From 2000-2013, she served on the faculty for Michigan State University where she founded the International Neurologic & Psychiatric Epidemiology Program. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurologic Association and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. She has received several awards including Michigan State University's Humanism Award, The Kellogg Foundation's Outreach Scholars Award, the Women Leaders in Medicine Award from the American Medical Student's Association, and the C Peter Magrath Community Engagement Award. She is a US Paul Rogers Society Ambassador for Global Health Research and in 2013, the International League against Epilepsy recognized her as an Ambassador for Epilepsy. In 2013, she joined the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester with adjunct appointments in the School of Public Health and the Center for Experimental Therapeutics. She also holds adjunct faculty positions with the University of Zambia and the co-director of the Pediatric Neurodiagnostics Laboratory at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.


Dr. Birbeck's research focuses upon neurologic disorders in resource-limited tropical settings. Since 1994, she has provided clinical care and conducted research in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily Zambia, where she serves as the Director for Chikankata's Epilepsy Care Team in the Zambia's rural Southern Province. Her work has included epidemiologic, health services and clinical research aimed at elucidating risk factors for neurologic morbidity and mortality and developing interventions aimed at ameliorating this burden. She spends 5-6 months annually in Africa. Her active research programs include NIH and foundation-funded projects to

Assess interventions aimed at decreasing the medical and social morbidity of epilepsy and epilepsy-associated stigma in Zambia

A cohort study of HIV-associated seizures and epilepsy in Zambia

A clinical trial evaluating enteral levetiracetam for seizure control in pediatric cerebral malaria (Malawi)

She also collaborates in cerebral malaria research in Uganda and Neuro-HIV clinical trials in Uganda and mentors post-graduate fellows and junior faculty conducting research in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and South Africa.

A complete listing of Dr. Birbeck's research publications is available at:



  • Neurology - American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology


BA | Indiana University

MD | University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences, The Pritzker School of Medicine

Master of Public Health | University of California, Los Angeles

Diploma in Tropical Medicine | University of Liverpool, School of Tropical Medicine

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

09/01/2006 - 12/15/2006
Fellowship in at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

09/01/2004 - 04/30/2005
Fellowship in Epilepsy at Johns Hopkins Hospital - GME Office

07/01/1995 - 06/30/1998
Residency in Neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital - GME Office

07/01/1994 - 06/30/1995
Internship in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview (Formerly Baltimore City and Francis Scott Key Med Ctr.)

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International League against Epilepsy, Ambassador for Epilepsy Award

American Medical Student's Association, Women Leaders in Medicine Award

MSU Women's Resource Center, "Award Worthy Woman"

C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award, National Finalist

W K. Kellogg Outreach Scholar for the North Central Region (US)

MSU Outreach Scholarship Community Partnership Award

MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, Humanism Award

Elected as a Fellow to the American Neurologic Association

Elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Neurology

US Paul Rogers Society, Global Health Research Ambassador

MSU Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies

MSU Institute of International Health, Faculty Achievement Award

MSU January "Researcher of the month"

MSU OVPRGS "Best written proposal" Grant Writing Competition

American Clinical Neurophysiology Society Travel Fellowship

National Epifellow Scholar

Maryland Neurologic Society, Best Presentation

AMA Education & Research Foundation, International Medical Student Scholar

University of Chicago, Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society

University of Chicago, Excellence in Neurology Award

University of Chicago, Pritzker Medicine/Neurology Scholar

University of Chicago, Pritzker Summer Research Grant

Indiana University, Honors Division Research Grant

Indiana University, Phi Beta Kappa

1986 - 1990
Indiana University, Honors Scholar

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Journal Articles

Potchen MJ, Kampondeni SD, Seydel KB, Haacke EM, Sinyangwe SS, Mwenechanya M, Glover SJ, Milner DA, Zeli E, Hammond CA, Utriainen D, Lishimpi K, Taylor TE, Birbeck GL. "1.5 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Investigate Potential Etiologies of Brain Swelling in Pediatric Cerebral Malaria." The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene.. 2018 Feb 0; 98(2):497-504. Epub 2018 Jan 04.

Zhuang Y, Potchen MJ, Kampondeni SD, Tivarus M, Birbeck GL, Zhong J. "Validation of diffusion measurements obtained on a 0.35T MR in Malawi: Important insights for radiologists in low income settings with low field MRI." Magnetic resonance imaging.. 2018 Jan 0; 45:120-128. Epub 2017 Oct 12.

Elafros MA, Birbeck GL, Gardiner JC, Siddiqi OK, Sikazwe I, Paneth N, Bositis CM, Okulicz JF. "Patient-Reported Adverse Effects Associated with Combination Antiretroviral Therapy and Coadministered Enzyme-Inducing Antiepileptic Drugs." The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene.. 2017 Jun 0; 96(6):1505-1511.

Books & Chapters

Book Title: Epilepsy: Global issues for the practicing neurologist
Author List: Eds. J Engel, GL Birbeck, AG Diop, S Jain & A Palimini.
Published By: Demos2005 in New York

Book Title: Where There is No Neurologist
Author List: GL Birbeck.
Published By: World Federation of Neurology2002