Pediatric Neurologist Named Physician-in-Chief of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital

By Lisa Cisneros on April 21, 2011
Donna M. Ferriero, MD

Pediatric neurologist Donna Ferriero, MD, cares for a young patient at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Donna M. Ferriero, MD, an internationally recognized pediatric neurologist, has been named chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, effective May 1.

A 23-year member of the UCSF faculty and 1979 graduate of the UCSF School of Medicine, Ferriero has served as interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics since July 2010.

"Ferriero, a professor of pediatrics and neurology, is an outstanding physician and researcher and a visionary leader," said Sam Hawgood, MBBS, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and vice chancellor of medical affairs.

Ferriero served as chief of Child Neurology at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital for 13 years, where she directed a team of doctors with expertise in epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, developmental disabilities and cancer.

Internationally recognized as an expert in the care of newborns and children with neurological disabilities, Ferriero co-founded and co-directs the UCSF Newborn Brain Research Institute with neonatologist David Rowitch, MD, where she studies the mechanisms of ischemic injury in the neonatal brain. 

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital is distinguished as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals and one of the top-ranked facilities in California, according to the 2010-2011 best children’s hospitals survey by US News & World Report. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital ranks among the top 25 nationwide in specialties including neurology.

From New Jersey to UCSF

Raised in a traditional Italian American family in New Jersey, Ferriero earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Rutgers University. Always fascinated by the brain and nervous system, Ferriero enrolled in medical school at UCSF and decided to focus on neurology.

Upon receiving her medical degree from UCSF, Ferriero was awarded the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award, which is presented annually at commencement ceremonies to a senior medical student who has been selected by classmates as being the most representative of a true physician.

Ferriero completed child neurology training and a postdoctoral research fellowship at UCSF before joining the UCSF faculty in 1987. She has served as vice dean for academic affairs since 2005 and will be relinquishing that post effective May 1.

Ferriero has received numerous honors at UCSF, including the Holly Smith Award, the Royer Award, the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Academic Senate, and the Chancellor's Award for the Advancement of Women. She has chaired the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women, the Committee on Academic Personnel and has served as a member of the Chancellor's Council on Faculty Life.

Donna M. Ferriero, MD

Donna M. Ferriero, MD

Nationally, she is the recipient of the 2000 Sydney Carter Award in Child Neurology, the Weinstein-Goldenson Award for Medical Research from the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, the Maureen Andrews Award for mentoring pediatricians, and the Thomas Willis Award for excellence in stroke research. She was the Bernard Sachs Lecturer for 2006 for the Child Neurology Annual Meeting.

Ferriero is president-elect of the American University Professors of Neurology and president of the Child Neurology Society. She is a member of the Council for NINDS, and she was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005, and to the Association of American Physicians in 2011.

"I know that Dr. Ferriero's experience and vision will ably guide the department towards its exciting future home in the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital at Mission Bay, scheduled to be completed in 2014. The new hospital will allow her and her colleagues to capitalize on the existing excellence of the department and promote innovative programs of care, research and education," Hawgood said.

Ferriero was among the faculty physicians who worked to plan the design and program for the new children's hospital at Mission Bay. The state-of-the-art facility will be part of UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, an integrated hospital complex that also will include specialty hospitals for women and cancer patients.

Photos by Susan Merrell