William Ferniany, Ph.D., will become chief executive officer of the UAB Health System, effective September 2008. Carol Z. Garrison, UAB President and Health System Board Chair, made the announcement Friday, Aug. 1.

Ferniany has been a senior leader in health care since 1975 and in academic medicine since 1988. He is currently associate vice chancellor and chief executive officer of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, having previously held key leadership positions at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and at UAB.

"Will Ferniany brings both a new vision for our system and an appreciation for its history and growth," Garrison said. "His experiences at Penn and Mississippi have prepared him well to lead a strong UAB Health System into the future.

"I want to thank Robert Rich, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the School of Medicine, and all the members of the search committee for their work. The quality of candidates for this position was exemplary.

"We also owe a deep debt of gratitude for the exceptional leadership provided by Ray Watts, M.D., as interim CEO. UAB is so fortunate to have someone with Ray's abilities, willing to step in and shoulder this responsibility and do an outstanding job."

Garrison added that Watts had overseen "significant progress in our Health System during this brief interim period," such as continued construction of the Women and Infants Center and Radiation Oncology Facility; major investments in cancer, diabetes, arthritis/orthopedics/rehabilitation and transplantation; and "the recruitment of outstanding new department chairs, division directors, faculty and staff who will help lead us into the future as we bring our strategic plan to fruition.

"As he returns to his role as president of the Health Services Foundation and chair of neurology, we have a stellar leadership team in place with Ray Watts, Bob Rich, and Will Ferniany."

At UMMC, Ferniany has been responsible for the overall operation of three hospitals and the adult and pediatric clinics in Mississippi. UMMC is the only academic health science center in the state.  It consists of the 597-bed University Hospital, the 130- bed Batson Children's and 50-bed Holmes County Hospital. The system also includes University Physicians (the 430 member faculty practice plan), and the Jackson Medical Mall, serving the underinsured in Hinds County.

He spent 14 years (1992-2006) at Penn, rising to the post of senior vice president and chief administrative officer. Previous positions included senior executive for physician practices, including over 1,188 physicians in the faculty practice plan and over 250 physicians in owned community practices, as well as associate executive vice president, marketing and strategic support, responsible for all marketing, strategic planning and product line management for Penn's Health System.

While there, he was on the faculty of the Wharton Business School, and regularly taught classes, as he has at Mississippi and UAB.

He spent four years at UAB (1988-92), where his last position was associate administrator for strategic planning and market development. Ferniany also worked for Healthcare Services of America, Southwest Alabama Health Systems Agency and Bryce State Psychiatric Hospital in Tuscaloosa.

Ferniany earned his bachelor's degree in manpower and industrial relations from the University of Alabama, and his master's degree in hospital and health administration and doctorate in administration - health services from UAB. A Mobile native, he is 57.

"I am delighted to be coming back home to UAB," Ferniany said. "Our goal will be to work together to provide excellent clinical care and support UAB's academic missions of educating health professionals and health science research so that the UAB Health System can continue to provide the people of Alabama and beyond with the best, most advanced health care available. UAB's strength has always been a far-reaching vision coupled with a can-do attitude and a willingness to collaborate. That has not changed, and with discipline and teamwork we will take UAB's already stellar reputation to even greater heights."

The UAB Health System includes all of UAB's patient care activities, including the 908-bed UAB Hospital, The Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital, UAB Highlands, The Kirklin Clinic, UAB Health Centers providing community outpatient care, VIVA Health insurance company, and affiliates Medical West and Baptist Health Montgomery.