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Martin A. Samuels, MD, DSc (hon), FAAN, MACP 

Teaching and Education

samuelsDr. Samuels is one of the most well-known and respected teachers of medicine.  Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he is a 1963 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School. He received his bachelor-of-arts degree from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts where he acquired his love for liberal education and learned the vital role of the great charismatic teacher.  During medical school at the University of Cincinnati, he came under the influence of a number of luminaries who became his role models.  These included Benjamin Felson, Richard Vilter, Gustave Eckstein and Charles Aring, the latter of whom drew him into the field of neurology.  After training,  first in internal medicine and then in neurology, he joined the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and rose to the rank of full professor, one of the first to be promoted to that rank at Harvard by teacher clinician criteria.   This model has now spread to virtually every medical school.  Dr. Samuels is used as the prototype in the development of these pathways for academic promotion, having reached the level of professor and chair as a clinician-teacher in perhaps the most research-intensive university in the world.

His teaching skills in every venue are legendary.  At the bedside, in the small conference room, from the podium and in various media including audio and videotapes, he is known virtually everywhere as the consummate educator, fusing humor and scientific rigor into a compelling mixture that is unmatched.  He has served as visiting professor in literally hundreds of medical schools and hospitals around the world. 

The objective record of his teaching accomplishments and skill is truly extraordinary.  At the national meetings of the American Academy of Neurology, Dr. Samuels created the only one-person full day course ever presented at the society, in his area of neurological medicine.  The course has repeatedly been ranked the best of hundreds of courses presented at this, the largest neurological society meeting in the world.  His record in numerous other venues is equally stellar.  He frequently delivers the update in neurology at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians, a presentation that has repeatedly been ranked the best presentation at this major meeting of internists after which it is generally published in the society journal, The Annals of Internal Medicine.  He also delivers an annual full day one man course in Neurology for the Internist, repeatedly one of the most popular and critically acclaimed courses at the ACP.  His impact at other specialty society meetings is equally impressive.  He has been a major neurological contributor to the national meetings of the emergency physicians (The American College of Emergency Physicians) and the family physicians (The American Academy of Family Physicians).  He has also appeared with equal success at the American College of Rheumatology and is a regular contributor to the continuing education offerings in anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology and neurosurgery.  He has participated in virtually all of the Primed Conferences around the country and abroad, in which he has delivered memorable lectures on an array of topics including the neurological examination, movement disorders, dizziness, stroke, peripheral neuropathy, epilepsy and headache.  He delivered the Keynote Address at the first Primed conference in Houston, Texas cosponsored by Harvard and Baylor Medical Schools.  He delivered a major plenary session lecture at the World Federation of Neurological Surgery in 2009 on Neurocardiology.

He has been honored four times by his alma mater, The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, by being asked to deliver the Charles D. Aring lecture, the Distinguished Alumni Lecture, to receive the Daniel Drake Medal in 2005, the highest award given by The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and to receive an honorary Doctor of Science and deliver the university’s winter graduation address in 2006.  He delivered the Guy Williams Lecture at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 2005 and was named the 2006 recipient of the A.B. Baker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Neurological Education by the American Academy of Neurology. He delivered the J. Normal Allen Lectureship at the Ohio State University Department of Neurology in 2008.  These are only a few recent examples of what has been a career marked by invited visiting professorships and honorary lectureships throughout the world of medicine and neurology.

Dr. Samuels’s educational impact goes well beyond his personal appearances.  He has created dozens of audiotapes and a unique Video Textbook of Neurology for the Practicing Physician wherein he presents ten 90-minute video presentations spanning the field of clinical neurology.  More recently he recorded an updated Board Review Course in Neurology for Neurologists and neurology residents and a second one for non-neurologists.  His voice and image have made neurological medicine comprehensible and accessible to innumerable physicians, nurses and other health professionals around the world.  His several books, The Manual of Neurological Therapeutics(eight editions), Office Practice of Neurology (two editions), Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology, Shared Care in Neurology and Hospitalist Neurology are standard reading for students, residents, and postgraduate physicians.  He is also the founder and ongoing director of two renowned Harvard Medical School postgraduate courses entitled Neurology for the Non-Neurologist and Intensive Review of Neurology, each of which has been presented annually for over thirty years.  In addition to his own courses, Dr. Samuels is the most widely seen neurologist in a plethora of other postgraduate courses sponsored by Harvard and many other medical schools in which he speaks compellingly on literally any topic in neurology.  Based on evaluations from the course participants, Dr. Samuels is by far the most highly ranked teacher in the history of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Medical Education.  The same can be said for evaluations of his teaching from the American Academy of Neurology’s postgraduate program, the American College of Physicians, The American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

He has written and edited several books that have had a major educational impact.  He is the neurological editor for Stein’s Internal Medicine, one of the leading textbooks of internal medicine.  He is co-author, with his colleague, Allan H. Ropper, of Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology ,9th edition, the most widely read textbook of neurology in the world.  He is the co-editor, with his colleague, Steven K. Feske, of Office Practice of Neurology, co-author with Bernard Shevlin and Karl Misulis of Shared Care for Neurology, the editor of Hospitalist Neurology, the medical neurology section editor of Neurological Therapeutics, the medical section editor of Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience, and the editor of Samuels’s Manual of Neurologic Therapeutics.  He is the founding editor of Journal Watch Neurology, a monthly newsletter of important advance in neurology published by the Massachusetts Medical Society, the publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine and a member of the editorial boards of The Neurologist and European Neurology.  He is also a regular peer reviewer for Neurology, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, Circulation, and World Neurology.  All of these publications amplify his educational impact far beyond his local environment.

Dr. Samuels was the longstanding director of the Harvard Longwood Neurology Residency and is the co-founder of the Harvard Partners Neurology Residency, widely regarded to be the most sought program of its kind.  He has been awarded numerous prizes by the residents in both the Harvard Longwood Neurology Residency and the Harvard Partners Neurology Residency. 

His impact in medical student education is no less impressive.  Dr. Samuels was the first recipient of the Harvard Medical School Faculty Prize for Excellence in Teaching and over the years has won virtually every teaching accolade offered at Harvard Medical School.  Among these are four class day teaching awards.  He has been asked by the Harvard Medical School Class to be its faculty speaker at class day during graduation ceremonies a record three times. He was awarded the Partners Neurology Teacher of the Year Award in 2004.  He has served as an AWA visiting professor at other medical schools on several occasions and has been intimately involved in the fashioning of the Harvard Medical School innovative curriculum, known at the New Pathway, created in the 1980s.  More recently he was involved in another restructuring of the medical school curriculum that is aimed at addressing problems in medical education created by the new world of medical care in the country’s hospitals and medical schools.

Clinical Skill

Dr. Samuels has repeatedly been cited as one of the leading neurologists in the United States, having been fully trained and board certified in both Internal Medicine and Neurology.  He is the only neurologist cited in all editions of the prestigious Castle & Connolly Best Doctors in America. His unique training includes a full residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital.  He served as Chief Resident in Medicine at Boston City Hospital after his first year of neurology training at the Massachusetts General Hospital followed by a year of neuropathology fellowship and a senior residency in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital.  His broad knowledge of general internal medicine as well as neurology has made him a legendary consultant for difficult or complex problems, particularly in the interface between internal medicine and neurology.  He has been the discusser in a record ten New England Journal Clinical-Pathologic Conferences, owing to his extraordinary clinical skill combined with his synthetic and pedagogical abilities.

Despite his heavy administrative load, he maintains an active ambulatory neurological consultative practice where he sees patients referred from all over the world for expert advice on complex problems. Dr. Samuels personally conducts morning report each day with the neurology residents and students in which he is presented the most complex problems faced in the prior 24 hours.  He also functions regularly as the attending neurologist on the busy inpatient and consultation services of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  During his numerous visiting professorships he always makes it a practice to see patients with difficult or complex problems with the local neurologists, residents and students in addition to delivering formal lectures in contexts such as grand rounds.

Based on his clinical skills and impact on the fields, Dr. Samuels has been honored with Membership in the American Neurological Association, Fellowship in the American Academy of Neurology and Mastership in the American College of Physicians.

Original Contributions

Dr. Samuels is the foremost expert in the world in the interface between neurology and the rest of medicine.  He has articulated numerous innovative concepts in the areas of neurocardiology, neurohematology, neurohepatology, neuronephrology, neurorheumatology, and the neurological aspects of organ transplantation and acid-base and electrolyte disturbances. 

His most well-known intellectual contribution involves the mechanisms and prevention of neurogenic cardiac disease.  He has articulated a unifying hypothesis that explains the mechanisms whereby the nervous system can produce cardiac arrhythmias and myocardial necrosis in a number of clinical contexts including subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, cerebral infarction, brain tumor, epilepsy, and psychological stress.  These creative ideas, which were culled from case material gleaned from his broad experience in both internal medicine and neurology, are summarized in his well-known lecture entitled “Voodoo Death Revisited: The Modern Lessons of Neurocardiology.” The material has been published in a series of papers in various medical journals over the quarter century during which he evolved his theories regarding neurovisceral damage. The basic unifying concept involves catecholamine toxicity that induces receptor operated calcium channel activation followed by free-radical mediated cellular damage.  The concept, best articulated in neurocardiac damage, is an important contribution in that it applies broadly to the field of psychophysiologic medicine and probably explains many of the instances of visceral damage of neurological origin such as neurogenic pulmonary edema and neurogenic gastrointestinal bleeding.

Dr. Samuels is the world authority on this area, having essentially created it himself.  He has repeatedly presented a critically acclaimed one person full day course at the American Academy of Neurology entitled “The Borderlands of Neurology and Internal Medicine” and was asked to convene a similar course at the World Congress of Neurology in 2005 in Sydney, Australia.  For his groundbreaking and creative work in this area, Dr. Samuels was named the 2007 recipient of the prestigious H. Houston Merritt Award, granted every two years by the American Academy of Neurology for clinically relevant research.

Dr. Samuels is also one of the first neurologists to become interested in neurologic therapeutics and was the originator of the Manual of Neurologic Therapeutics, now in its 7th.  This manual is the most widely used reference on neurological treatment in the world.  The eighth edition, which will be named Samuels’s Manual of Neurologic Therapeutics will be published iin 2010 and co-edited with his colleague, Allan H. Ropper.

He was also the first proponent of the hospitalist system on neurological services and edited the textbook Hospitalist Neurology in this area, which has now become wide-spread in medical centers around the world. 

Dr. Samuels has also made several lecture tours in England helping to bring neurological expertise to the general practitioners.  Out of this came his book, Shared Care in Neurology, which he co-developed with Dr. Bernard Shevlin, a general practitioner in England, and another American Neurologist, Dr. Karl Misulis.  The concept of shared care for common neurological problems, such as dizziness, headache, and epilepsy is one that can be considered a major intellectual contribution given the relative frequency of neurological complaints and the relative paucity of trained neurologists.  This concept is particularly important in developing countries where specialists, including neurologists, are too few to service such patients appropriately.

Administrative Duties

Dr. Samuels has founded two neurology departments in his career.  The first was at the West Roxbury Veterans Administration Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliated hospital.  Dr. Samuels created a new neurology service and led a merger of two VA Hospitals to create the Brockton-West Roxbury VA Medical Center, a model that has spread throughout the VA system.

In 1988, Dr. Samuels was recruited to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital to create a Department of Neurology from a small division in the department of medicine.  In 1995 this goal was realized.  The year 2009 marks the fourteenth anniversary of the creation of an independent Department of Neurology with Dr. Samuels as its founding chair.  In that period, this relatively new department has grown to become one of the largest and most distinguished academic departments of neurology.  Dr. Samuels now appoints over 250 people at Harvard Medical School in its Department of Neurology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  The Department has ten clinical divisions, representing all of the areas of modern neurology (stroke and cerebrovascular diseases, cancer neurology, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis and neuroimmunology, neurophthalmology, epilepsy and sleep, headache and pain, cognitive and behavioral neurology, general neurology, emergency and critical care neurology).  The faculty of the department contains many of the most eminent academic neurologists.  Division, Laboratory and Program Heads include:  Allan H. Ropper, executive vice chair and director in the program of coma research; Steven K. Feske, Chief of the Division of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases; Kirk Daffner, Chief of the Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology; Galen V. Henderson, Chief of the Division of Emergency and Critical Care Neurology; Howard Weiner, Chief of the Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology; Don Bienfang, Chief of the Division of Neuroophthalmology; Barbara A. Dworetzky, Chief of the Division of Epilepsy and Sleep; Elizabeth Loder, Chief of the Division of Headache and Scientific Director of the John R. Graham Headache Center; Patrick Y. Wen, Chief of the Division of Cancer Neurology and Director of Neurooncology at the Dana Farber Cancer Center; Dennis J. Selkoe, Chief of the Division of  Basic Neuroscience Research; Thomas M. Walshe, Chief of the Division of General Neurology; Anthony A. Amato, Chief of the Division of Neuromuscular Diseases;  Autumn Klein, Director of the Program in Women’s Neurology; David Hafler, the Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroimmunology; Vijay Kuchroo, Director of the Laboratory of Basic Mechanisms of Neuroautoimmunity; Peter Lansbury, the Laboratory for Basic Protein Chemistry of Parkinson Disease; Samia Khoury, Director of the Laboratory of Neuroinflammation, Autoimmunity and Multiple Sclerosis; Cynthia Lemere, Director of the Laboratory of Immunotherapy of Multiple Sclerosis; Steven A. Greenberg, Laboratory for the Study of Inflammatory Myopathies; Jie Shen, Director of the Laboratory for Models of Neurodegeneration; Michael Wolfe, Director of the Laboratory for the study of the Protease Chemistry of Alzheimer Disease; Anna Krichevsky, Director of the Laboratory of the Pathobiology of Micro-RNAs in Neurologic Diseases; Matthew LaVoie, Director of the Laboratory of the Pathobiology of Parkinson Disease; Philip De Jager, Director of the Laboratoy of Neurogenetics and Computational Neurology;  Weiming Xia, Director of the Laboratory for Animal Models of Neurodegeration; Dana Gabuzda, Director of the Laboratory of the Molecular Mechanisms of HIV Neurology; Kai Wucherpfennig, Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Mechanisms of Multiple Sclerosis; Michael Charness, Director of the Laboratory for Alcohol Neurotoxicity; Reisa Sperling, the Director of the Clinical and Translational Research Center in Alzheimer Disease;  Rohit Bakshi, Director of the Laboratory for Multiple Sclerosis Imaging. 

There is a busy consultation service including a full time emergency neurology service.  The Department of Neurology has one of the largest programs in basic, translational and clinical research, with fifteen basic research laboratories funded with over $30,000,000 utilizing about 45,000 square feet of wet laboratory space. There is also a vigorous program in translational and clinical research that addresses potential new treatment for nearly every category of neurological disease, such as epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis and headache. The Department has fifteen Harvard full professors of Neurology including five Harvard Medical School endowed chairs, four of which have been established under Dr. Samuels’s stewardship of this new department.  Among these professors are H. Richard Tyler, Dr. Samuels’s predecessor as Chief of Neurology at the Brigham, David Silbersweig, the Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychaitry and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Joseph B. Martin, the former Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine.  

Dr. Samuels and his colleagues from neurosurgery and psychiatry have created the Brigham and Women’s Institute for the Neurosciences (BWINS) that functions as a truly interdisciplinary entity aimed at caring for patients with diseases of the nervous system, training the next generation of leaders in the fields of clinical neuroscience and pushing back the frontiers of knowledge with innovative research aimed at curing neurological diseases.  Led by David Silbersweig, who is both a neurologist and psychiatrist and acts as the Chair of the Brigham’s Department of Psychiatry, the institute has initiated a number of truly cross-cutting projects aimed at solving some of the major problems in nervous system diseases.

Dr. Samuels served as President of the Association of University Professors of Neurology (AUPN) from October 2004 to May, 2007, the organization of department chairs of neurology for North America and led a dramatic expansion of the horizons of the AUPN to include the program directors, clerkship directors and research directors of the academic programs across North America.   With his excellence, innovation and leadership in clinical care, teaching, research and administration, Dr. Samuels is a member of academic medicine’s most exclusive club: the quadruple threat.

Personal Life

Dr. Samuels was born in Cleveland, Ohio and is a 1963 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School.  He graduated from Williams College in 1967 and the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine in 1971.  Always considered one of the great orators of his generation, he was elected class speaker for all three of his academic graduations and was asked to address the graduating class of Harvard Medical School for a record three class days.  His mother, Miriam Joseph, died of lymphoma in 1969, when Dr. Samuels was in medical school.   His father, Sydney G. Samuels, long-time a respected salesman of men’s clothing, died of pneumonia after a hip fracture in 2008.  Dr. Samuels’s, sister Carole J. Bilger and her husband, Bruce Bilger, have four sons, Dr. Samuels’s nephews, Bruce, Jr., Michael, David and Richard Bilger.  Dr. Samuels lives in downtown Boston with his wife, Susan F. Pioli, a longstanding distinguished medical publisher, and their Norfolk Terrier Freddy.  He has two children.  Charles L. Samuels, a 2002 graduate of Williams College, received his Ph.D. degree in Mathematics (Number Theory) from the University of Texas, Austin. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Advanced Mathematics in Bonn, Germany and is currently a post-doctoral fellow in mathematics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  His daughter, Marilyn L. Sommers, a 1997 graduate of Williams College, who earned a masters degree from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, now works in human resources for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  Her husband, Samuel Sommers, a Tufts social psychologist, who received his bachelor’s degree from Williams College and his PhD from the University of Michigan, is now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Tufts University, specializing in the nature and causes of racially based bias.  They live in a Boston suburb with their two daughters, Dr. Samuels’s granddaughters, Abigail and Sophia.  Dr. Samuels is an accomplished musician and creator of rare cocktails, such as the beerjito.



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