OUR LEADERSHIP

Forward-Thinking Leadership

The leadership at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute guide our teams in providing compassionate patient care and advanced medicine through forward-thinking leadership, education, research, and outreach in the many diverse communities we serve. It is this collaborative approach that allows us to offer exceptional patient care in the many unique communities we serve – while maintaining our national and international prominence. Learn more about our leadership team.

Ali Rezai, MD

Executive Chair, Vice President of Neuroscience

Associate Dean, John D. Rockefeller IV tenured professor in neuroscience, West Virginia School of Medicine

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Dr. Rezai earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Southern California and underwent neurosurgical training at New York University. He completed his subspecialty training in functional neurosurgery at the University of Toronto. He then joined the neurosurgical faculty at New York University Medical Center, becoming the director of the Center for Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery until January 2000, when he joined the faculty at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Dr. Rezai was the director of the Center for Neurological Restoration, as well as the Jane and Lee Seidman Chair in Functional Neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic until July 2009, when he joined the faculty at the Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. At OSU, Dr. Rezai was the Associate Dean of Neuroscience and the Director of the Neurological Institute until November 2017, when he joined West Virginia University as the Executive Chair and Director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI). The RNI structurally oversees and manages the overall clinical and research enterprise with in-patient, out-patient facilities and over 175 full time physicians and scientist in the Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Neuroradiology, and Neuroscience.

A board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Rezai’s clinical areas of expertise is functional neurosurgery and the neurosurgical management of patients with Parkinson’s disease, tremor, chronic pain, brain injuries, anxiety disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Rezai was named one of the best doctors in America in Castle and Connolly’s Guide to America’s Top Doctors for 18 consecutive years from 2001-2019.

Dr. Rezai has over 200 scientific publications with an H-Index of 60 (Google Scholar) including publications in Nature, Lancet Neurology, JAMA Neurology, and PNAS. He has served on the editorial board of multiple scientific journals. He has edited a book on surgery for psychiatric disorders and the two-volume textbook, Neuromodulation. In addition, Dr. Rezai has been the Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-investigator on seven NIH grants. Dr. Rezai has trained over 50 neurosurgical fellows, has delivered more than 500 lectures, and chaired numerous symposia and meetings. Dr. Rezai presented his work to the President of the United States as well as to members of the US Senate and House of Representatives on Capitol Hill and four Governors.

Dr. Rezai is the Past President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), the largest neurosurgical society in the world, as well as the Past President of the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS), and the American Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN).

Dr. Rezai’s research focuses on population health and wellness, and development of new innovations and therapeutic applications of brain stimulation and focused ultrasound for Parkinson’s disease, mood and anxiety disorders, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain and addictions. Dr. Rezai has received the Bottrell Neurosurgical Award, Congress of Neurological Surgeons Clinical Fellowship award, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons William Sweet Investigator Award. He has also received multiple innovation awards including the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University innovator of the year awards. Dr. Rezai holds 55 issued US patents for medical devices and technologies.

Dr. Rezai’s work has been in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News and World Report, USA Today, MIT’s Technology Review magazine, Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Reader’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Globe and Mail. He has appeared on numerous local and national radio and television broadcasts including CBS’ 60 Minutes, The Charlie Rose Show, Prime Time, The Diane Rehm Show, CNN, NPR, PBS, PBS Newshour the BBC, HBO, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS Nightly News and The Discovery Channel.

James H. Berry, DO

Chair, Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry

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James H. Berry, DO, is director of addiction services and interim chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry in the West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is a nationally recognized expert in addiction psychiatry. He is the director of the WVU Medicine Chestnut Ridge Center’s Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment (COAT) program and conducts training throughout the state on evidence based management of addiction. Dr. Berry received his Doctor of Osteopathy degree from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then completed a psychiatry residency at the WVU School of Medicine, followed by a fellowship in addiction psychiatry at the University of Hawaii Manoa. He is board certified in psychiatry and addiction psychiatry.

Jessica Belt, BSN, RN, MHA, NE-BC

Assistant Vice President, Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry

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Jessica Belt oversees the behavioral medicine service line to include inpatient operations, outpatient operations, United Summit Center, and the Center for Hope and Healing residential treatment center.

Belt has been director of ambulatory nursing at WVU Medicine since 2012 and served as the director of the Spine Center from 2016-2019.In her role as Ambulatory Nursing Director, she directed clinical operations and performance for 32 primary care and specialty care outpatient clinics within WVU Medicine.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a Master of Healthcare Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

 

 

Karen Fields, MSHA

Assistant Vice President

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Karen Fields, assistant vice president, works to continue to expand the clinical, research, and academic missions of the enterprise, including neurosurgery, neurology, neuroradiology, as well as the basic sciences.

Fields joins WVU Medicine from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she had 20 years of neuroscience experience. As the executive administrator for the Department of Neurology, she helped build one of the largest academic neurology programs in the country. She has significant experience as a leader in operations, finance, strategic planning and research.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Work and Masters of Science in Health Administration both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

Victor Finomore, PhD

Director of Research, Development, and Data Analytics

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Victor Finomore, PhD, director of research, development, and data analytics, also serves as assistant professor in the WVU Department of Neuroscience and an adjunct professor in the WVU Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Dr. Finomore received his BS degree in Psychology at the University of Dayton in 2003 and his MA (2006) and PhD (2008) in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

Prior to coming to West Virginia University in 2018, Dr. Finomore served as Technical Advisor for the Warfighter Effectiveness Research Center at the United States Air Force Academy where he led a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers along with cadets to carry out cutting-edge research focused on improving human performance. Before his appointment at the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Finomore was an Engineering Research Psychologist in the Warfighter Interface Division, 711th Human Performance Wing, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory where he focused on multimodal displays, human performance, neuroergonomics, and advanced technology integration for Battlefield Airmen, Command and Control, and Cyber Operators.

Scott Galster, PhD

Director of Human Performance

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Scott Galster, PhD, is a psychologist who serves as the director of human performance. He joined the WVU faculty in 2017 as a tenured professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the WVU School of Medicine. His work focuses on all aspects of human performance research, including physical, cognitive, behavioral, biomarker, physiological, environmental, and social measures used to assess an individual’s or team’s functional state. He earned a PhD in applied experimental psychology from The Catholic University of America.

Dr. Galster came to WVU from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, where he led research and collaboration programs on human performance and was the Senior International Focal Point for the 711 Human Performance Wing.

Prior to that he served as AFRL’s Applied Neuroscience Branch Chief, leading a team of 80-plus civilian, military, and contractor personnel focused on providing neuroscience-based solutions, augmentations, and capabilities to U.S. Airmen. He developed the Sense-Assess-Augment framework that is being used throughout the world to focus research efforts on applied problem spaces. He also is responsible for the co-development of Divergent Collaboration with the Wright Brothers Institute, featured in “Harvard Business Review,” and the “stitching” approach used within the Small Business Office at the Air Force to create large programs out of smaller efforts.

Marc Haut, PhD

Vice Chair and Director, Clinical Research and Education

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Marc W. Haut, PhD, ABPP, is a board-certified, clinical neuropsychologist who most recently served as professor and chair of WVU’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. He joined the WVU faculty in 1989 as an assistant professor and has been an active clinician, educator and researcher. In previous roles, he directed neuropsychology training and services and headed the psychology section.

In his current role he has focused on expanding clinical psychiatric and behavioral health services to underserved areas of the state through Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) programs and telepsychiatry. In addition, he is dedicated to expanding clinical services to address the current opioid epidemic. WVU is utilizing grant funding and collaborations throughout the state to expand Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) through the use of ECHO and a hub and spoke model. Additionally, he has been building the research infrastructure of the department to support development of novel treatment programs to improve outcome for addiction and other mental health services. He is working with Dr. Ali Rezai and others at the RNI to expanding the role of neuromodulation in the treatment of psychiatric disease, including addiction.

Mark R. Lee, MD, PhD, MBA

Chair, Department of Neurosurgery

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Dr. Lee joins the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute from the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, Austin, where he specializes in conditions such as epilepsy, Chiari malformation, brain and spinal cord tumors, hydrocephalus, spasticity and spina bifida. He previously served as the Allen Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta. Dr. Lee’s efforts and leadership in pediatric neurosurgery and epilepsy have resulted in the development of one of the largest pediatric epilepsy surgery programs in the country, and the use of many innovations and new technologies such as robotics and stereotactic laser thermal ablation.

Dr. Lee is included, annually, in the prestigious listings of Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors. He is board-certified in neurosurgery and pediatric neurosurgery. He obtained his medical degree and doctorate degree in neurobiology at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, completed residency training and a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship at New York University, as well as an epilepsy surgery fellowship at Medical College of Georgia. He also earned a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.

Dr. Lee is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Council of Neurological Societies Section on Pediatric Neurological Surgery, American Epilepsy Society, American Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, American College of Surgeons and the Society of Neurological Surgeons. He has published nearly 200 papers and book chapters, and he served four years of active duty as a Major in the United States Army.

Randy Nelson, PhD

Chair, Department of Neuroscience and Director, Basic Science Research

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Neuroscientist Randy Nelson, PhD, PhD, is the inaugural chair of the new Department of Neuroscience; he holds the Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research in the WVU School of Medicine and is the Executive Director of Basic Neuroscience Research in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. He also leads the Neuroscience PhD Program, one of the seven biomedical science PhD programs at the WVU Health Sciences Center.  Nelson also is the Director of the new cross-campus Center for Foundational Neuroscience Research and Education.

Dr. Nelson earned a PhD in psychology and a second PhD in endocrinology from the University of California Berkeley. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Austin.

He came to WVU from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience. He held the Dr. John D. and E. Olive Brumbaugh Chair in Brain Research and Teaching and had a joint appointment as professor of psychology. Nelson was basic science director of the Neurological Research Institute, where he oversaw the research efforts of more than 280 neuroscientists at Ohio State. He also directed the Chronic Brain Injuries Discovery Theme as the faculty lead and co-directed the Neuroscience Graduate program prior to becoming the chair. Nelson served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University from 1986-2001, when he moved to Ohio State.

 

He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and 11 books, including “Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology,” an internationally recognized textbook. Nelson was instrumental in developing the undergraduate program in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, as well as an undergraduate major and minor in neuroscience at Ohio State. He has received numerous national honors and awards, including the 2017 Award for Education in Neuroscience by the Society for Neuroscience.

Ansaar Rai, MD

Chair, Department of Neuroradiology

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Dr. Ansaar T. Rai is board certified in Neuroradiology by the American Board of Radiology and in Endovascular Neurosurgery by the Congress of Neurosurgeons. He is the inaugural chair of the newly created, first of its kind Department of Neuroradiology in the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Rai’s clinical and academic interest has been on the diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment of cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke and aneurysms and has close to 20-year experience in this field.

Dr. Rai has published extensively in peer reviewed literature and presented at multiple national and international forums pertaining to endovascular neurosurgery. He has been a lead investigator in multiple clinical trials focused on the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. Dr. Rai has also chaired national meetings and remains actively involved in multiple organizations dedicated to the advancement of cerebrovascular medicine.

Dr. Rai currently serves as secretary for the Society of Neurointerventional Surgery which is the largest physician organization pertaining to his field. He has previously served in leadership roles in the American College of Radiology including being president of the state chapter.

Karyn Wallace, MBA, CNMT, PET

Vice President

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Karyn Wallace oversees all aspects of the RNI, including four academic departments, multidisciplinary patient care, outreach across the state and region, the research enterprise, and strategic plan implementation. She previously served as assistant vice president of neuroscience, a role to which she was appointed in October 2017.

Wallace previously served as the clinical administrative director of Radiology. Earlier in her career, she worked as a nuclear medicine technologist, a PET/CT technologist, and manager of PET/CT. She has an MBA from WVU and a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine technology from Wheeling Jesuit University.

David Watson, MD

Chair, Department of Neurology

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David Watson, MD, is a board-certified clinical headache specialist who serves as chair of the Department of Neurology and director of the WVU Headache Center. He joined the WVU faculty in 2008 as assistant professor of neurology and has been an active clinician, educator, and researcher. His clinical work focuses on patients with headache disorders, including migraine and cluster, as well as access to clinical care in underserved populations. He has also been active in clinical research focused on new treatment options for headache patients.

Dr. Watson earned his medical degree from the WVU School of Medicine and completed a residency in neurology and a fellowship in headache medicine at the University of North Carolina. In previous roles, he served as an assistant professor of neurology at the University Headache Center at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a clinical instructor in neurology at the University of North Carolina.

Watson is a member of the Government Relations Committee of the American Academy of Neurology and formerly served as the chair of the Grassroots Working Group. He founded and chairs Runnin’ For Research, a charitable organization dedicated to headache and migraine disorders research. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Palatucci Advocate of the Year award in 2017 by the American Academy of Neurology.