MEDIA

Caregiver Profile

Caregiver Profile

Meet Dr. Phillip Pearl

MEDICAL SERVICES

EDUCATION

Medical School

  • University of Maryland School of Medicine , 1984 , Baltimore , MD

Residency

Pediatrics
  • Baylor College of Medicine , 1986 , Houston , TX

Residency

Neurology and Child Neurology
  • Baylor College of Medicine , 1989 , Houston , TX

Fellowship

Clinical Neurophysiology
  • Boston Children's Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School , 1990 , Boston , MA

Philosophy of Care

When I was 11 years old, I devoured a book called "Stories of Great Physicians." I was an avid reader as a boy and was captivated by tales of Hippocrates, Pasteur, Salk and others. I remember thinking that being a doctor had to be the best thing to be; early experiences stick. My own pediatrician was a role model and I always loved working with kids, having been a camp counselor for seven summers.

Born and raised in Baltimore, I attended Johns Hopkins University and enrolled in a medical ethics course. I was assigned to work with the head of pediatric child neurology, the late John M. Freeman, and was inspired by the intellectual challenge coupled with the emotional valence of the work. This led to my first published paper, on quality of life for patients growing up with spina bifida, and a lasting interest in developmental neurobiology and pediatric neurology.

The son of a professional musician, I also attended Peabody Conservatory of Music, both as a preparatory student and then as an undergraduate in a combined Hopkins-Peabody curriculum. I am a jazz musician and play the piano, vibes, and drums, and my first CD, "Live at Jazzmatazz," debuted at the Blues Alley Jazz Club in Washington, D.C. and supported medical care for indigent children at the Children's Hospital there. I have enjoyed combining my interests in music and medicine, and have had the opportunity to lecture on the neurological problems of famous musicians in venues throughout the world.

My career in child neurology became focused on epilepsy based on experiences I had as a resident at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and then fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Challenging patients and a longstanding interest in biochemistry led me to a subspecialty interest in metabolic epilepsy, which has involved combining aspects of inborn errors of metabolism with childhood seizure disorders.  It is not so different than combining passions for children and neurology into pediatric neurology, or music and medicine into studying the neurological problems of musical legends.

PROFESSIONAL HISTORY

Dr. Pearl serves as an expert for the Department of Neurology for Boston Children's Hospital Precision Medicine Service. For more information about the Precision Medicine Service please visit bostonchildrens.org/precisionmed.

My clinical expertise is in metabolic causes of childhood epilepsies, a group of rare diseases in great need of understanding and therapies.

My work in metabolic epilepsies began with a combined interest in childhood epilepsy and neurochemistry and a series of patients with undiagnosed disorders in whom we began to establish diagnoses, some of which were treatable.  My initial foray in this group of disorders was in the neurotransmitter diseases.

As I attended meetings of the metabolic societies, giving presentations on these diseases, I noticed there was very little discussion of the actual clinical presentations of the patients or the challenges a clinician faces when seeing a child with unexplained seizures. At the same time, during meetings of the epilepsy societies, discussions about seizures and their treatments virtually ignored these enigmatic diseases known to a small group of metabolism experts but with potentially profound impact on children being followed for epilepsy.  This struck me as a significant void affecting our patients, and I ultimately pursued further studies and work in this combined area of metabolic epilepsy.

I was formerly the chief of the neurology division at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and professor of pediatrics, neurology and music at George Washington University. I completed medical school at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, residencies in pediatrics and pediatric neurology at Baylor College of Medicine and a fellowship in clinical neurophysiology at Boston Children's Hospital.

In 2014, I became the director of epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology at Boston Children's Hospital and the William G. Lennox Chair and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. While it was difficult to leave the people and place where my career became established, I had completed my training at Boston Children's Hospital and coming back to lead the division where I trained was an honor and in some ways a homecoming.

Since coming to Boston Children's, I have helped to build up the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, to reorganize the division into clinical and academic programs and to launch new programs such as ICU-EEG monitoring and international epilepsy. I have also devoted much of my career to neurologic education, including curricular development on a national and international basis, directing a program in telemedicine and serving as president of the Professors of Child Neurology from 2012 to 2014.

CERTIFICATIONS

  • American Board of Pediatrics, General Pediatrics
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Child and Adolescent Neurology
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology