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Top neuroscientist Ali Rezai leaving Ohio State for West Virginia

Ali Rezai, the director of the Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute, is leaving Ohio State for a position at West Virginia University less than five months after he signed a letter that criticized the performance of the medical center’s senior leadership.

In a press release Thursday, West Virginia said Rezai will lead its recently formed Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute after spending more than eight years at Ohio State.

In May, Rezai and scores of other medical center faculty and clinical chairs expressed “no confidence” in the medical center’s senior leadership, which led to the ouster of then-CEO Sheldon Retchin. Retchin now serves as a senior advisor to University President Michael Drake.

“The failure to provide the culture and environment to allow this Institute and other Institutes to flourish is at best weakening, if not significantly damaging, to the reputational excellence achieved over the past decade by this great Medical Center,” the letter stated.

Dr. Ali Rezai is leaving Ohio State after more than eight years at the Wexner Medical Center. Courtesy of Ohio State

The neurological team along with Rezai asserted that Retchin’s leadership led to “poor faculty morale as evidenced by high rates of attrition.”

The letter also said the environment at the medical center and the College of Medicine is “increasingly characterized by low morale, distrust, and a sense of alienation from the great university that attracted many of us to Columbus.”

Rezai, who was also the associate dean of neuroscience and the director of the Ross Center for Brain and Health Performance, leaves behind his salary of $980,351, including bonuses.

According to his biography on the medical center’s website, Rezai “has been involved in pioneering the use of brain pacemakers for treating Parkinson’s disease, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and traumatic brain injury.”

He holds 54 U.S. patents for medical devices and technologies, and in 2014, he was named Ohio State’s innovator of the year.

At West Virginia, Rezai will be reunited with Ohio State’s previous president and West Virginia’s current president E. Gordon Gee. Gee was Ohio State’s president when Rezai left the Cleveland Clinic in 2009 for Columbus.

“The addition of Dr. Rezai to our team is a major step in our continuing effort to build West Virginia University’s medical enterprise — academic, research, and clinical — to world-class status,” Gee said in a statement announcing Rezai’s hiring.

In an announcement sent to colleagues, Dr. Craig Kent, the dean of the College of Medicine, thanked Rezai for the “great progress” made in neuroscience and neurosurgery while he was at Ohio State.

“Dr. Ali Rezai has accepted a position as leader of the clinical and research programs in the neurosciences at West Virginia University and WVU Medicine,” Kent said. “In the coming days, we will share details about transition plans. We congratulate Dr. Rezai and wish him the very best in his new role.”

One comment

  1. The May 3rd no confidence memo signed by Dr. Rezai and others ended with an expression of hope and the desire for dialogue with the leadership of the medical center as well as reassurance from the highest levels of university university leadership. That Dr. Rezai’s departure is announced more than four months later seems to indicate that the leadership of the university and the medical center have not been responsive and that Dr. Rezai’s patience was finally exhausted. It seems clear that the problem is at least as much with the highest leels of the university as it is with the leadership of the medical center.

    Woody Hayes used to say, “You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.” The news from the medical center is not encouraging. With every departure, recruiting at the medical center becomes more difficult. At the medical center, things are getting worse.

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