A faculty member since 1992, Mathern is the Davies/Crandall Endowed Chair for Epilepsy Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the pediatric epilepsy surgery program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.
Mathern is one of the few U.S. neurosurgeons who specializes in treating hemimegalencephaly, a rare but devastating condition in which an infant is born with half of its brain lopsidedly larger than the other half. The condition provokes complex seizures that do not respond to medication, and the cause is unknown.
He pioneered the lateral hemispherectomy, a radical technique in which surgeons remove the dysfunctional half of the patient’s brain causing the seizures. Now used internationally, the procedure helps halt seizures in infants and children with rare seizure disorders.
His TEDx talk, “What Can You Do with Half a Brain?” spotlights hemispherectomy patients who became seizure-free after the surgery and grew up to ride bikes, drive and graduate from high school.
“My ultimate goal is to put myself out of business,” Mathern said. “We must find new ways to stop seizures without removing large parts of the brain. My dream is to never have to operate on another child again.”
Internationally recognized for his advances in epilepsy research, Mathern has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters exploring pediatric epilepsy surgery. He serves as one of the editors-in-chief of Epilepsia and Epilepsia Open published bt the International League Against Epilepsy.
His previous awards include a Milken Family Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1991, the James A. Shannon Director’s Award from the National Institutes of Health in 1998, and a Clinical Investigator Development Award (K08) in 1993. He holds appointments with the American Epilepsy Society, National Institutes for Health and the Epilepsy Foundation.
Mathern graduated from Morehead State University in Kentucky summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and chemistry, and earned his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University. Mathern completed his neurosurgery residency at UCLA, followed by a clinical neurophysiology/epilepsy fellowship under his mentor, Dr. Jerome Engel, Jr., a pioneer in the field of seizure disorders.
Mathern plays an active role in several research nonprofits dedicated to raising awareness and support for rare neurological disorders.