Rachel P. Berger, MD, MPH

  • Division Director, Child Advocacy and Professor of Pediatrics and Clinical and Translational Science
  • Director, Child Abuse Research, Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Chief, Division of Child Advocacy, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Adjunct Faculty, Duquesne University School of Nursing

Rachel Berger, MD, MPH is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh and chief of the division of Child Advocacy at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She attended medical school at Columbia University, completed her pediatric internship and residency and a fellowship in general academic pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and received a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

In addition to evaluating children with concerns for abuse and neglect, she has spent over 20 years as a clinical researcher. Her research has focused on decreasing fatalities and near-fatalities in young children by improving identification of suspected physical abuse using serum biomarkers, clinical decision rules and the electronic health record. Over the past four years, she has been focused on decreasing unsafe sleep injuries and death through a multi-disciplinary collaborative in Allegheny County. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Beckwith Institute and the Hillman Foundation.  Berger has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters and recently became the first child abuse pediatrician to be elected to ASCI, the American Society for Clinical Investigation. She was also the first woman to serve as the Professional Staff President for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a role which she held from 2017-2019. 

Berger has also been involved child abuse-related policy and served on the Pennsylvania Task Force for Child Protection and as the research lead for the Federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF). She is a currently in her second year as a senior policy fellow for Casey Family Programs where she is focusing on decreasing fatalities and near-fatalities from child physical abuse by improving collaboration between medical professionals and Child Protective Services. 

Professional and Scientific Society Memberships

  • Alpha Omega Alpha, 1996-Present
  • Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1996-Present
  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Member of Section on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1996-Present
  • International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), 2002-2008 and 2011-Present
  • Helfer Society (Honorary Society for experts and leaders in the field of child abuse and neglect), 2004-Present
  • Society for Pediatric Research (SPR), 2005-Present
  • Pediatric Trauma Society, 2011-Present
  • Helfer Society Research Committee, 2012-Present          
  • American Pediatric Society (APS), 2014-Present
  • Pennsylvania Medical Society, 2017-Present
  • The American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), 2018-Present

Education & Training

  • BA, Biochemistry, cum laude, Harvard University, 1992
  • MD, Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons, 1996
  • Internship/Residency in Pediatrics, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 1996-1999
  • Fellowship in General Academic Pediatrics, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 1999-2001
  • MPH, University of Pittsburgh, 2001

Selected Publications

Krawiec C, Gerard S, Iriana S, Berger R, Levi B.  What we can learn from failure: an EHR-based child protection alert system.  Child Maltreatment. 2020 Feb 25 (1):61-69.  Epub 2019 May 28. PMID: 31137955.

Henry M, Feudtner C, Fortin K, Lindberg D, Anderst J, Berger RP, Wood J. Occult head injuries in infants evaluated for physical abuse.  Child Abuse & Neglect. 2020 Mar 3;103:104431 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 32143091.

Vaithianathan R, Putnam-Hornstein E, Chouldechova A, Prado D, Berger R. Hospital validation of a predictive risk model for screening child maltreatment referrals: evidence from the Allegheny Family Screening Tool.  JAMA Pediatrics.  In press.

Even KM, Subramanian S, Berger RP, Kochanek PM, Zuccoli G, Gaines BA, Fink EL. The origin and impact of anemia in children with abusive head trauma. J Peds. In press.

Tiyyagura G, Bloemen E, Berger R, Rosen T, Harris T, Lindberg D.  Seeing the forest in family violence research – moving to a family-centered approach. Academic Pediatrics.  In press.

Wolford JE, Berger RP, Eichman AE, Lindberg DM, ExSTRA Investigators. Injuries suggestive of physical abuse in young children with subconjunctival hemorrhages. Pediatr Emerg Care. In press.

McNamara C, Panigrahy A, Sheetz M, Berger R.  The likelihood of an occult fracture in skeletal surveys obtained in children over 2 years old with concerns of physical abuse.  Pediatr Emerg Care. In press.

Noorbakhsh K, Berger R, Smith K.  Identification of abusive head trauma in high-risk infants: a cost-effectiveness analysis. JPediatr. In press.

Fink EL, Wisnowski J, Clark RSB, Berger RP, Fabio A, Furtado A, Narayan S, Angus DC, Watson RS, Wang C, Callaway CW, Bell MJ, Kochanek PM, Bluml S, Panigrahy A.  Brain MR imaging and spectroscopy for outcome prognostication after pediatric cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. In submission.

Fink EL, Clark RSB, Panigrahy A, Berger RP, Wisnowski J, Bluml S, Maloney D, Rubin P, Haller T, Bayir H, Beers S, Kochanek PM, Fabio A.  Personalizing outcomes after child cardiac arrest (POCCA): design and recruitment of a multicenter, observational study.  Contemporary Clinical Trials.  In submission.

Karakachian A, Colbert A, Hupp D, Berger RP. Caring for victims of child maltreatment: pediatric nurses’ moral distress and burnout. Journal of Pediatric Nursing.  In submission.

Full Publication List via NIH PubMed »

Academic and Research Interests

  • Child physical abuse
  • Abusive head trauma
  • Clinical decision support 

Research Grants

NIH R01NS096714, Validation of Serum Biomarkers to Classify Outcome after Pediatric Cardiac Arrest (Co-I, PI: Fink), 2016-2021, $2,647.

The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center (PI), 2018-2020, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, $19,390.

Development and Dissemination of an Electronic Health Record based Child Abuse Clinical Decision Support System Toolkit (Co-PI), 2018-2020, Beckwith Institute, $186,992.

DI-2017C1-6215, Disseminating Child Abuse Clinical Decision Support to Improve Detection, Evaluation and Reporting (PI), 2018-2020, Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), $657,995.

Evaluating Interventions for Safe Sleep Practices (PI), 2018-2020, Hillman Foundation, $199,781.

Collaborating to Provide Medical Expertise to Victims of Suspected Child Abuse in Erie County (PI), 2018-2020, Hamot Foundation, $97,452.

The UPMC Child Abuse Initiative (Medical Director), 2020, UPMC for You, $127,278.

Qualitative Infant Unsafe Sleep Study (Co-PI), 2020, Cribs for Kids, $59,135.

200244, Casey Family Programs Support for the Translating Policy into Practice: Protecting Young Children from Fatal and Near-fatal Maltreatment Project (PI), 2020, Casey Family Programs, $35,375.

NIH 1R24HD098415-01A1, CAPNET – Building Research Capacity in Child Abuse Pediatrics (Site PI), 2020-2025, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, $311,855.