Birmingham native Ray L. Watts, M.D., will become senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine at UAB, effective Oct. 1.

Ray Watts
"After a thorough national search that resulted in many excellent candidates, the very best fit for UAB came from within," said UAB President Carol Garrison.

Watts, 56, holds the John N. Whitaker Endowed Chair in Neurology and chairs the Department of Neurology. An internationally renowned leader in Parkinson's disease research and care, he also is the chief of the Neurology Service for UAB Hospital and president of the UA Health Services Foundation.

"In today's environment, medical schools must prepare tomorrow's physicians for many challenges, while also supporting their faculty in sustaining excellence in patient care and research," Garrison said. "Dr. Watts consistently has demonstrated superior leadership in the academic, executive, clinical and scientific realms.

"I am confident that, working with our outstanding faculty, he will continue to raise the level of excellence for medicine at UAB, which benefits our community, the state of Alabama and extends to a national and global reach," she said.

Watts takes over the position held since 2004 by Robert R. Rich, M.D., who announced this past year he would step down once a successor was named. Garrison praised Rich, saying, "We are very grateful to Bob Rich for the many important accomplishments during his tenure."
Rich will be returning to the medical faculty.

Watts says he is "honored and very pleased" to have been chosen for this role.

"It has been my privilege during this search process to learn and listen to the concerns and aspirations of our students, research faculty, clinicians and supporters in the community," he said. "I know that if we work together we can achieve great things."

Watts received his degree in biomedical and electrical engineering from UAB in 1976, and he earned his medical degree from the Washington University School of Medicine in 1980. He was valedictorian of both his undergraduate and medical school classes. He completed a residency in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (he was chief resident in 1984) and clinical fellowships at Harvard Medical School. Between 1984 and 1986 he was a fellow of motor control and movement disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health.

In 1986 Watts was named to the neurology faculty at Emory University, where he became professor and vice chair of the department in 1998. In July 2003 he was named professor and chair of UAB's Department of Neurology, and in December 2003 was appointed to the endowed chair position. Between January and September 2008, Watts served as interim chief executive officer of the UAB Health System.

Watts has published widely about experimental therapeutics for Parkinson's disease. Since 1997 he has co-edited the textbook Movement Disorders: Neurologic Principles and Practice; the third edition will be published in 2011.

Medicine enriched
During his tenure as dean of the School of Medicine at UAB, Robert R. Rich, M.D., oversaw the development in 2006 of a research strategic plan that led to a $25 million annual increase in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

He also engineered a program to fund the recruitment and retention of top medical faculty and led a complete overhaul of the school's curriculum.