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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 initiated and has led development of UAB's most comprehensive-ever strategic plan, Forging the Future (2018-2028), with campus- and community-wide collaboration.

During his decade-long tenure, UAB has made substantial strides in all pillars of its mission, including record enrollment and increased diversity of the student body; record research funding; accelerated commercialization and economic development initiatives; 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 in underserved areas throughout Birmingham and Alabama.

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.