Mentoring Profile: Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, Rush Medical College

October 31, 2017

The Rush Women Mentoring Program fosters professional development and a sense of community and collaboration among women faculty at Rush University. In this series, we highlight program mentors and mentees and learn more about how mentoring has impacted them.

Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Neurosurgery and Neurological Sciences, Rush Medical College, joined Rush in 1992

Tell us about your background.

I am a professor of Pediatrics, Neursurgery and Neurological Sciences at Rush University. I have a BS in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame and an MD and PhD in biochemistry from the University of Chicago. After completing a pediatrics residency and a pediatric neurology fellowship at the University of Chicago, I moved to Rush in 1992. In 1991, I established the comprehensive Fragile X Clinic and Research Program, through which I provide care to more than 600 patients with fragile X syndrome. My research has included studies of medical issues, epilepsy and psychopharmacology in FXS, the characterization of neurological problems in FXTAS, and, in particular, translational work in FXS including outcome measures and biomarkers, and the design and implementation of clinical trials of new targeted treatments in FXS. My laboratory studies the cellular role of fragile X mental retardation protein, the relationship between FMRP and clinical function, and methods for optimizing genetic testing in fragile X-associated disorders. More recently, I have expanded my translational work to other developmental and degenerative disorders, including Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, Phelan McDermid syndrome, Angelman syndrome and Niemann-Pick type C.

I am on the advisory boards of the FRAXA Research Foundation and the National Fragile X Foundation, and I am the chair of the clinical committee of the Fragile X Clinical and Research Consortium. I have received numerous awards and honors, including the Jarrett Cole Award for clinical work in FXS in 2002, the FRAXA Champion Award in 2011, the NFXF William and Enid Rosen Research Award in 2014, the March of Dimes Jonas Salk Research Award in 2015, the American Academy of Neurology Sidney Carter Award in Child Neurology in 2016, and the John Merck Fund Sparkplug Award in 2016.

What inspired you to get into your field?

I wanted to understand everything about how neurons and the brain function, make thoughts, and learn.

What excited you about your work at Rush?

The opportunity to work on diagnosing, understanding and developing new treatments for rare, genetic, neurological diseases in children is what excited me about my work at Rush.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship?

Mentorship is an important way to work intensively with a mentee and to teach by example. It allows for the transfer of research and clinical expertise to the mentee though direct exposure and is very important for the preparation of students. It helps them with the development of independent projects and shows the mentee how to build projects and areas of specialty.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Develop an interest in a particular disease or condition and pursue it avidly, building your program as you go. Listen to your mentors and patients and learn from them. Try new things and don’t give up easily.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy running, basketball, tennis, travelling, bridge, board and card games, and spending time with my family and friends.