DR. J. TIM BURGER
AUTHOR Kathryn Vance
r. J. Tim Burger was born and raised in Louisville, Ky.,
growing up on his family’s potato farm just across the
street from Ballard High School, which he would even-
From a young age, he always had an interest in medi-
cine, which he attributes first to his family’s physician, Dr.
Ansel B. Simon, a practitioner in Middletown. Anytime
he would visit that office, he was intrigued by the complexities
of medicine. In addition, his sister Judy, who was 10 years older,
went into nursing. He would often visit her at Norton Memorial
Infirmary, then a two-year school, and knew that he wanted to be
a part of this, in one way or another.
With a lifelong interest in sports, Dr. Burger was able to combine
his interests and work as an athletic trainer both at Ballard High
School and at Centre College, where he majored in biochemistry.
He eventually decided that he wanted to take his interest in ath-
letic training one step farther. He was accepted to the University
of Louisville School of Medicine in 1978, planning to become an
Once in school though, he found he wanted something different
out of medicine. Dr. Arthur Keeney, an ophthalmologist, was Dean
of the School of Medicine and became his advisor. This mentor-
ship sparked his interest in the eye, and as a junior student he got
some hands-on experience. “In my third year, I worked at Lions
Eye Center and the chairman had a research lab. I worked with his
PhD doing research that summer and then I decided I would go
into ophthalmology,” he said.
As a medical student in 1979, he met his wife Susanna, a nurs-
ing student. Susanna was a Louisville resident, but was studying in
Indianapolis, Ind., and they met while she was visiting her home.
The two dated long-distance until they married in May 1981, with
another year of medical school and the Match to complete.
Ophthalmology has a separate Match from other residencies: in
December, not March. He decided that he wanted to leave Louisville
and train outside the comforts of home. But when he opened his
envelope, he was shocked. “I applied and I didn’t match. It was the
first time in my life that I didn’t get what I wanted,” he laughed. “I
didn’t match anywhere.”
Despite getting unfavorable news, he still needed to complete an
internship. In 1982, he and Susanna headed to Indianapolis to do
his internship at Methodist Hospital, intending to reapply for the
ophthalmology residency the next year. Susanna worked at Riley
Children’s Hospital as a neonatal intensive care nurse.
“One of my electives was neuroradiology because I thought that
would go hand in hand with ophthalmology. So, I do my first elective
and I find this whole world of imaging that I didn’t know existed,”
he said. “There were four bright, recently trained neuroradiologists
up there and one of them became my mentor. I changed gears and
went from ophthalmology to neuroradiology.”
When he was beginning his four-year diagnostic radiology
residency at Methodist Hospital, many of today’s top imaging tools
were in their infancy. With the invention of the CT in 1972 and MRI
coming on the scene just a few years later, this was a brand-new world
for everyone. In 1985, Methodist Hospital got its first MRI scanner,
which allowed him to get a glimpse of the vast capabilities that he
would be provided over the next several years as a radiologist. But
this was still a relatively new specialty and there was a lot to learn.
“Neuroradiology was just organized in 1962. There were like 16
people who started doing it, then they trained a bunch of people,
and the people they trained, trained me,” he said, noting that his
mentor Dr. Donald Hardman was especially helpful in his training.
“So, I’m a third generation neuroradiologist.” He estimates that there
are now over 5,000 neuroradiologists in the US.