Nathan Berger has produced decades of biomedical research into cancer development and its associated risk factors. He is a nationally renowned authority on hematology and oncology and founding member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, a consortium between Case Western Reserve, University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic, representing cancer research and cancer care in Northeast Ohio. 

For his contributions to the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine for 40 years, Berger, the Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine and director of the Center for Science Health and Society at the School of Medicine, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Dean’s Reunion Soiree Oct. 7. 

“I am very honored and humbled by this Lifetime Achievement Award,” Berger said. “The award is recognition of my career combining medical research, education and cancer-patient care. It’s validation—affirmation—that research provides the critical basis for the best patient care,” said Nathan Berger, Distinguished University Professor and professor of medicine, oncology, biochemistry, genetics and genome sciences.

Stanton Gerson, dean and senior vice president for medical affairs at the School of Medicine and a former Berger mentee, presented Berger with the honor. 

“Nate Berger has been an inspirational leader for the School of Medicine since his arrival in 1983,” Gerson said. “He recruited top talent, developed an exceptional comprehensive cancer center and has influenced the lives of hundreds of Cleveland-area high school students in their pursuit of scientific careers through summer programs strongly supported by the School of Medicine.”  

In introducing Berger for the award recently, George Dubyak, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the School of Medicine, compared him to Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and Stanford University Professor Roger Kornberg, who colleagues have described as “an institutionalist, for really contributing to Stanford University’s institutional profile in many ways. And as I saw that word, this is Nate Berger—an institutionalist.”

Berger joined the university in 1983 with the goal of building an oncology program as the inaugural director of what is now the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated consortium cancer center that brings together CWRU, University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and their networks. 

It includes more than 400 cancer investigators and over 6,000 cancer healthcare professionals supporting patients of 15,000 new cancer cases each year. 

After serving as dean of the School of Medicine from 1995-2002, Berger became the inaugural director of the Case Center for Science, Health and Society and started a program to get high school students—especially from the inner city—interested in science, hoping they would pursue careers in biomedical research or clinical care. 

In 2017, Berger created the high school program, Case CCC Youth Enjoy Science (YES) with grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to further encourage youth to pursue careers in biomedical research or medicine. 

“He’s devoted his life to this,” Dubyak said.            

Berger completed his medical education at Drexel University College Of Medicine/Hahnemann University in 1966, his internal medicine residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in 1968, research fellowship at National Institutes Of Health in 1971 and hematology fellowship at Washington University School Of Medicine In St. Louis in 1973. 

He has published more than 250 research papers throughout his career.