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

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

Contact Information

University of Rochester/CHET
265 Crittenden Blvd
CU 420694
Rochester, NY 14642-0694

Professional Bio

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.

Research Bio

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:

Awards & Honors (National)

C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award, National Finalist 2011
Elected as a Fellow to the American Neurologic Association 2008
Elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Neurology 2007
National Epifellow Scholar 1996

Awards & Honors (Local)

International League against Epilepsy, Ambassador for Epilepsy Award 2013
American Medical Student's Association, Women Leaders in Medicine Award 2012
MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, Humanism Award 2011
MSU Women's Resource Center, "Award Worthy Woman" 2011
W K. Kellogg Outreach Scholar for the North Central Region (US) 2011
MSU Outreach Scholarship Community Partnership Award 2011
US Paul Rogers Society, Global Health Research Ambassador 2007
MSU Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies 2007
MSU Institute of International Health, Faculty Achievement Award 2003
MSU January "Researcher of the month" 2003
MSU OVPRGS "Best written proposal" Grant Writing Competition 2002
American Clinical Neurophysiology Society Travel Fellowship 1997
Maryland Neurologic Society, Best Presentation 1996
AMA Education & Research Foundation, International Medical Student Scholar 1994
University of Chicago, Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society 1994
University of Chicago, Excellence in Neurology Award 1994
University of Chicago, Pritzker Medicine/Neurology Scholar 1994
University of Chicago, Pritzker Summer Research Grant 1991
Indiana University, Honors Division Research Grant 1989
Indiana University, Phi Beta Kappa 1989
Indiana University, Honors Scholar 1986 - 1990

Recent Journal Articles

Showing the 5 most recent journal articles. 127 available »

2016 Nov
Wychowski T, Hussain A, Tivarus ME, Birbeck GL, Berg MJ, Potchen M. "Qualitative analysis of double inversion recovery MRI in drug-resistant epilepsy." Epilepsy research. 2016 Nov; 127:195-199. Epub 2016 Sep 03.
2016 Sep 23
Macken M, Birbeck GL. "MELAS syndrome presenting with seizure and deafness in a Malawian boy." Tropical doctor. 2016 Sep 23; Epub 2016 Sep 23.
2016 Sep 20
Birbeck GL, Sposato LA. "Hypertension prevention: In need of a grain of salt knowledge." Neurology. 2016 Sep 20; 87(12):1192-3. Epub 2016 Aug 24.
2016 Apr 5
Birbeck GL. "Zika virus: What the neurologist wants to know." Neurology. 2016 Apr 5; 86(14):1272-4. Epub 2016 Feb 19.
2016 Feb
Sikazwe I, Elafros MA, Bositis CM, Siddiqi OK, Koralnik IJ, Kalungwana L, Theodore WH, Okulicz JF, Potchen MJ, Birbeck GL. "HIV and new onset seizures: slipping through the cracks in HIV care and treatment." HIV medicine. 2016 Feb; 17(2):118-23. Epub 2015 Jul 22.

Current Appointments

Edward A. and Alma Vollertsen Rykenboer Professorship in Neurology - Department of Neurology, Epilepsy (SMD)
Professor - Department of Neurology, Epilepsy (SMD) - Primary
Professor - Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics
Professor - Department of Public Health Sciences (SMD)


Neurology - American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology


Diploma in Tropical Medicine | University of Liverpool, School of Tropical Medicine2006
Master of Public Health | Epidemiology | University of California, Los Angeles2000
MD | Medicine | University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences, The Pritzker School of Medicine1994
BA | Chemistry/Psychology | Indiana University1990

Post-Doctoral Training & Residency

Fellowship at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene09/01/2006 - 12/15/2006
Fellowship in Epilepsy at Johns Hopkins Hospital - GME Office09/01/2004 - 04/30/2005
Residency in Neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital - GME Office07/01/1995 - 06/30/1998
Internship in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview (Formerly Baltimore City and Francis Scott Key Med Ctr.)07/01/1994 - 06/30/1995