WVU Medicine and the Rockefeller family announced in September that they have appointed neuroscientist Ali Rezai, M.D., to lead the comprehensive and integrated clinical and research programs in the neurosciences at West Virginia University and WVU Medicine. He will do so at the newly formed West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.
Dr. Rezai, a board-certified neurosurgeon whose clinical areas of expertise include the neurosurgical and neuromodulation management of patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, chronic pain, brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as severe mood and anxiety disorders, will serve as executive chair and vice president of neurosciences for WVU Medicine. He will also serve as associate dean and the John D. Rockefeller IV tenured professor in neuroscience at the WVU School of Medicine.
Rezai has been a significant leader in the novel and innovative use of brain implants for treating Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. His work is recognized across the globe, and his research involving a brain-computer interface to treat paralysis was published in the journal Nature last year and also generated front-page news in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. He has also developed pioneering technologies that led to the creation of a company that produces micro-implants to treat chronic pain and headaches.
His charge is to bring the same level of success and rapid advances that have occurred in areas such as heart disease and cancer to brain health, and to develop partnerships and accelerate innovative technologies, treatments, and protocols. He will bring a new vision and strategic thrust to neuroscience research at WVU, one that includes the deployment of an array of initiatives and technologies to improve brain health. Examples include neuromodulation, robotics, brain-computer interface, and virtual reality.
Over the next year, the Institute, along with its worldwide academic, government, and corporate partners, will unveil its groundbreaking programs and initiatives. Rezai and his team will also work closely with other WVU schools such as engineering and computer science, to develop new medical technologies, and collaborate with other medical specialties such as cardiology.
The West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute will incorporate both the building and programmatic elements of the existing West Virginia University Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (BRNI), but will also expand to include the clinical, research, and academic missions of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, among others. The Institute will spearhead efforts to develop innovative solutions for West Virginians and those across the world with neurological and psychiatric conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s; autism to stroke; and paralysis to chronic pain, addictions, and traumatic brain injury.
“As someone who has personally watched how Alzheimer’s can affect the life of the person they love, I’m delighted and excited to see the continued growth of the work being done at West Virginia University and WVU Medicine,” Senator Jay Rockefeller said. “I look forward to the day when Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders are no longer concerns for society, and I am extremely optimistic that the Institute, under Dr. Rezai’s leadership, will help get us there.”
Rezai holds 54 U.S. patents for medical devices and technologies, and his inventions and innovations resulted in the creation of five start-up companies. He has authored 220 scientific publications, and serves on the editorial board of five scientific journals. He is a past president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, as well as the past president of the North American Neuromodulation Society and the American Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, and was also named one of the best doctors in America in Castle and Connolly’s Guide to America’s Top Doctors for 16 consecutive years from 2001-2017. He received his medical degree from the University of Southern California and undergraduate degree from UCLA, and completed his neurosurgical training at New York University and his subspecialty training in functional neurosurgery at the University of Toronto.
“I am enthusiastic to be coming to an organization with a big vision, an audacious goal, and a passion to make rapid and impactful progress for patients in West Virginia and throughout America and internationally,” Rezai said. “There’s lots of talk about ‘population health,’ and while progress is being made on that front, my decision to make the move to WVU Medicine is based on an even bolder proposition: to join other top leaders and minds in medicine who are relocating to West Virginia University in order to make a positive and measurable impact on the integrated health of an entire state, one resident at a time. WVU Medicine works within an aligned, agile leadership structure and team that can adapt to address some of our most pressing public health challenges.”