Ramon Diaz-Arrastia Appointed Presidential Professor at Penn

Ramon Diaz-Arrastia has been named the ninth Presidential Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1. A world-leading expert in traumatic brain injury, Diaz-Arrastia will be Presidential Professor of Neurology in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price.

“At the uncharted frontier of brain science and traumatic injury, few investigators have expanded our knowledge quite like Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia,” Gutmann said. “Ramon is a pioneering force in exploring the intricacies of neural damage and repair, and as Presidential Professor he will further strengthen Penn’s vital neurological research and exceptional clinical care.”   

Diaz-Arrastia is currently professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. He also serves as director of clinical research at the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, a partnership between the USUHS and the National Institutes of Health to promote research about traumatic brain injuries. His path-breaking research focuses on understanding the molecular, cellular and tissue level mechanisms of secondary neuronal injury and neuroregeneration, especially through biomarker development. His most recent work explores using MRI, functional MRI and PET scanning to characterize the multiple complex mechanisms involved in traumatic injury to the brain, as well as combining imaging, genomic and tissue biomarkers to better predict patient outcomes after traumatic brain injuries and to develop novel therapies.

The author of more than 135 peer-reviewed primary research papers and more than 30 invited reviews and book chapters, Diaz-Arrastia has led major research projects funded by the NIH and Department of Defense, among others, and served on expert panels convened by the Institute of Medicine, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Aging and DOD. He taught from 1993 to 2011 at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he created one of the largest and most productive clinical centers in the world devoted to traumatic brain injuries. A native of Cuba, he has frequently participated in community outreach and media presentations to the Spanish-speaking community on topics such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

“Ramon Diaz-Arrastia embodies the deepest values of teaching and learning at Penn,” Price said. “His innovative research makes a tangible impact on the lives of patients around the world. At the same time, he is an award-winning teacher, a valued collaborator and a dedicated mentor of students and colleagues.”

Diaz-Arrastia earned an M.D. in 1988 and Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1986 from Baylor College of Medicine and a B.A. magna cum laude in biochemistry in 1979 from Rice University. From 1989 to 1992, he was a resident in neurology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, following a one-year internship in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

“Dr. Diaz-Arrastia will be an outstanding addition to our already robust research and teaching faculty in the neurosciences who are helping to advance our understanding of the brain biology and physiology that contributes to traumatic brain injury,” said J. Larry Jameson, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. “He arrives at Penn at a crucial time in the trajectory of our efforts to understand and develop effective treatments for this disease.”

Presidential Professorships, originating in the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence first issued in 2011, are awarded to exceptional scholars, at any rank, who contribute to faculty eminence through diversity across the University. 

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