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President Watts

Ray L. Watts, M.D., a Birmingham native and graduate of UAB School of Engineering, was named UAB’s seventh president in 2013 and is now the university’s longest-serving president. Dr. Watts has led, with campus- and community-wide collaboration, development of UAB's most comprehensive-ever strategic plans—Forging the Future (2018-2023) and the current Forging Ahead (2024-2028)—as well as the current Research Strategic Initiative, Growth with Purpose, that will exponentially increase impact on lives locally and globally as UAB works to reach $1 Billion in research expenditures.  

During Dr. Watts’s decade-plus tenure, UAB has made unprecedented strides in all pillars of its mission, including record enrollment and greater access to higher education for first-generation students; the most successful era of research funding in the university’s history; accelerated commercialization and economic development efforts; advancements in patient care and precision medicine; construction of key new facilities as part of UAB Campus Master Plan that is creating on the most vibrant, state-of-the-art, and sustainable urban campuses in the nation; and strong community partnerships to improve education, health, and quality of life throughout Birmingham, the state of Alabama, and beyond.

Dr. Watts was honored with the Birmingham Business Journal CEO of the Year Award for 2021. He serves on a number of boards, including UAB Health System (chair), Southern Research (chair), Prosper Birmingham, Innovation Depot, Birmingham Business Alliance (serving two consecutive terms as chair, 2016-2017), and the UAB Arts/Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts (chair, corporate board).

Dr. Watts earned his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine and completed a neurology residency, medical internship, and clinical fellowships at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by a two-year medical staff research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. Thereafter he joined the faculty at Emory University, where he was part of a team that created an internationally renowned research and clinical center for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. He returned to UAB in 2003 as the John N. Whitaker Professor and Chair of Neurology, and was named Senior Vice President and Dean of Medicine in 2010. He served as President of the Health Services Foundation (UAB School of Medicine Faculty Practice Plan) for five years before being named dean.

Dr. Watts and his wife Nancy, a retired nurse, have five grown children and ten grandchildren.