PHILADELPHIA — The Ecuadorean National Assembly has bestowed its highest scientific award to Donald Silberberg, MD, professor emeritus and former Chair of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, for his efforts spanning two decades to raise awareness, enhance medical education and improve patient care for neurological and psychiatric conditions globally, and in Ecuador. This is the first time the Ecuadorean National Assembly has granted the Vicente Rocafuerte condecoration to an American.

"I am honored to receive this prestigious award, and am grateful that the Ecuadorean government, public health departments, medical schools and communities have become more aware of the range of neurological disorders that can be treated when recognized as a result of our collaborations," said Dr. Silberberg. "There is now greater awareness about ways to prevent and treat neurological conditions, including epilepsy, stroke, and psychiatric conditions and improved referral programs between rural outposts and district hospitals, which will help the people of Ecuador who suffer from the burden of neurological disease."

Brain disorders cause at least 25 percent of global death and disability. Dr. Silberberg has a longstanding dedication to improving neurological care in developing countries. He led efforts resulting in the 2001 Institute of Medicine report, Neurological, Psychiatric and Developmental Disorders — Meeting the Challenge in the Developing World, with support from the Global Forum for Health Research, NIH, and the CDC. This led to new NIH programs to support research on brain disorders in low and middle income countries. He also played a key role the U.S. project to build and staff a Children's Hospital in Basrah, Iraq. Opened in 2010, the Basrah Children's Hospital represents the first hospital constructed in Iraq since the 1980s.

"Dr. Silberberg's longstanding dedication to international efforts on neurological disease has pushed the field to translate care advances into treatment for low- and middle-income countries," said H. Branch Coslett, MD, professor and interim chair of Neurology.

Dr. Silberberg joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine in 1963; he served as Chairman of the Department of Neurology from 1982-1994, and as Senior Associate Dean for International Programs from 1994-2004. Dr. Silberberg serves as Chair of the Life Sciences Cluster of the Benjamin Franklin Institute's Committee on Science and the Arts. This committee selects the recipients of the Franklin Medals, awarded each year by the Franklin Institute.

The award is named in honor of Vicente Rocafuerte, a lawyer who served as Ecuador's second President in the early 19th Century and is credited with having developed the statements and presenting the case that guaranteed independence of the then newly autonomous nation.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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