James Cereghino

1937 - 2022

James J. Cereghino, MD, 85, died on 1 December 2022, in Portland, Oregon, USA, of cardiac failure. He was born in Portland on 27 October 1937. He is a distinguished alumnus of Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, and, at the time of his death, was Professor Emeritus of the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

Dr. Cereghino obtained a bachelor’s degree from Portland State College in 1959, an MD from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1964, and a master’s degree in neurophysiology from Linfield University, McMinnville, Oregon in 1971.

He completed both his medical internship (1964-65) and his residency in neurology (1965-68) at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. During this time, he had special rotations at the University of Washington in Seattle (neuropathology) and the University of California San Francisco (child neurology).

In 1970, Dr. Cereghino joined the Epilepsy Branch of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; this program had been founded in the late 1960s by James Kiffin Penry, MD. Dr. Cereghino honed his skills as an expert epileptologist under the direction of Dr. Penry, and in 1985 Dr. Cereghino would himself become Chief of the Epilepsy Branch, directing a multimillion-dollar extramural research program in basic and clinical epilepsy for eight years. 

He was an active member of a number professional and lay organizations, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, the Epilepsy Foundation of America, Epilepsy International, International Bureau for Epilepsy, the International League Against Epilepsy, and the Oregon Medical Association. He was past president of the American Epilepsy Society.

One of the most consequential contributions by Dr. Cereghino was his service as Editor-in-chief of Epilepsia, from 1986 to 1994. Epilepsia is the most widely respected monthly journal on basic and clinical science in the field of epilepsy; he performed most admirably in this difficult role.

Dr. James J. Cereghino is third from the left. This photograph, from approximately 1976, was taken at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.    Also present, left to right, are J. Kiffin Penry, MD (Chief of the Epilepsy Branch), Roger J. Porter, MD, (Dr. Cereghino), and Joseph Lacy, MD.
From left to right: J. Kiffin Penry, MD (Chief of the Epilepsy Branch); Roger J. Porter, MD; James J. Cereghino, MD; and Joseph Lacy, MD. This photograph, from approximately 1976, was taken at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. 

He received a number of awards during his career, including the United States Public Health Service Commendation Medal in 1977 and again in 1990, the Epilepsy Foundation of America Distinguished Service Award in 1975, the Ambassador for Epilepsy Award International in 1985, the NINDS Director’s Letter of Commendation in 1986, the American Epilepsy Society Plaque in 1993, and the Epilepsy Foundation of Oregon Award of Honor in 1999.

Dr. Cereghino retired from the US Public Health Service in 1993 and returned to Oregon to take a position as Professor in the Department of Neurology at OHSU. He became very active Epilepsy Foundation Northwest, serving as secretary, vice president and president.

After Dr. Cereghino left the NINDS, he was eligible to apply for research grants. From 1994 to 2017 he was actively involved in approximately 20 research grants and contracts, exclusively on clinical trials in epilepsy.

He was a prolific publisher of his research work. Early in his career he led a number of surveys of existing services for persons with epilepsy in certain US states, including Oregon, Montana, Virginia, New Mexico, and Mississippi; the monographs ranged from 86 to 172 pages each. Overall, his journal articles number more than 50, and his book chapters in excess of 30.

Dr. Cereghino was a sought-after speaker on the topic of epilepsy. His curriculum vitae notes speeches in Washington DC, Arizona, Minnesota, Salt Lake City, Denver, Connecticut, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, California, Virginia, Washington (state), Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Italy, Portugal, and Japan.

In Oregon, he helped create the local Brain Research and Information Network (BRAINet), a community outreach team from the OHSU Brain Institute. This group established a cohort of community volunteers to bring OHSU neuroscience research to the public via luncheons, lectures, and school outreach.

Dr. Cereghino will be missed by his national and international colleagues, his friends, and his patients.

Written by Roger J. Porter, MD with the assistance of Martin Salinsky, MD and David Spencer, MD.