Newswise — NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Carlos N. Pato, MD, PhD, has been selected as the first executive chair of psychiatry at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) and vice president of research, training and academic affairs for behavioral health and addictions at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC)/University Correctional Health Care (UCHC) and RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) Behavioral Health and Addictions Service Line. He will also serve as Henry Rutgers Term Professor of Behavioral Health, with a joint appointment at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
In his new role, Dr. Pato will help develop a robust, multifaceted, externally funded behavioral health and addictions research program at UBHC, UCHC, Rutgers’ two medical schools, the Rutgers Brain Health Institute and RWJBH. He will also oversee the development and implementation of collaborative research, training and academic initiatives, looking for opportunities to expand and improve those missions at these RBHS institutions. In his system role, he will be working to build strong partnerships with the health system hospitals and community providers related to these behavioral health and addictions research, training and academic initiatives.
“Dr. Carlos Pato is the perfect candidate to lead this new initiative across RBHS. His experience and leadership ability will serve to create the foundation for extremely effective collaborations across all schools and units to expand and enhance behavioral health sciences,” said Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH. “Moreover, the addition of Dr. Michele Pato to head our newly created Center for Genomics of Psychiatric Health and Addiction will combine the skills of both highly accomplished researchers and leaders to drive Rutgers’ efforts and advance the field of genomic psychiatry nationally and internationally.”
The relationship between health outcomes in a community, learning and discovery defines an academic health system, Dr. Carlos Pato stressed, noting that he believes strengthening organizational structure with the broader leadership team is accomplished by defining an integrated vision and mission, and designing and implementing a strategic plan that addresses each of those missions.
“We share that philosophy,” said Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP, dean of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and interim dean, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Our clinical, educational and research missions are critical to who we are as an academic medical center, and I am confident that Dr. Carlos Pato has the skills and leadership to ensure that we are able to maximize opportunities to enhance and expand our roles as educators, clinicians and researchers who can serve as a bridge between research advancements and clinical care.”
“Dr. Carlos Pato’s exemplary record of leadership and research, particularly in the area of population health and underserved individuals, will be an invaluable asset to RBHS and the greater community,” agreed Frank A. Ghinassi, PhD, ABPP, president and CEO, Rutgers UBHC/UCHC, senior vice president of the behavioral health and addiction service line for RWJBarnabas Health, and adjunct professor of psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “I look forward to working with him as we align the efforts of UBHC/UCHC with other RBHS and RWJBH entities to develop research, training and academic programs that will help address the needs of our organizations and our patients.”
Much of Dr. Carlos Pato’s work is related to social determinants of health. Most recently, he served as executive director of the Institute for Genomic Health at SUNY Downstate, an institute created by him and his wife, Michele T. Pato, MD, that has received more than $60 million in NIH research funding. Their research has focused on genomic psychiatry, with an emphasis on population-based genetic studies. He and Dr. Michele Pato also have led the Portuguese Island Cohort studies for nearly three decades and expanded their work over the past 15 years through worldwide collaborations that have culminated in creating the Genomic Psychiatry Cohort. This cohort has enrolled nearly 65,000 participants, whose donated DNA and cells are shareable through the NIMH Repository and Genomics Research facility based at Rutgers. Their most recent projects focus on underrepresented populations specifically of African and Latinx ancestry. Dr. Carlos Pato also has begun a COVID-19 Biobank that is the source of a pilot study of host genomics in COVID-19.
Dr. Michele Pato, who is director of SUNY Downstate’s Institute for Genomic Health (IGH) and executive director of IGH’s Clinical and Translational Science Center, will continue these and other research efforts, as she joins Dr. Carlos Pato at Rutgers as professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School and the inaugural director of the new Rutgers Center for Genomics of Psychiatric Health and Addiction (RCPHA). In this role, she will oversee the establishment of a new institute focused on genetics of psychiatric disorders and addiction, with opportunities to expand the breadth of inquiry in genomics, and with the ultimate goal of becoming a national and international leader in genomic health.
RBHS also has the opportunity to take a leadership role regarding mental health care disparities, said Dr. Carlos Pato.
“I believe there are opportunities at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences to model methods for the nation to address disparities in mental health care by improving access to care, training that focuses on addressing the challenges faced by our patients and their families, and a significant focus on research that translates into serving the most underserved,” he said.
Prior to Dr. Carlos Pato’s experience with the Institute for Genomic Health, he served for three-and-a-half years as senior vice president and dean of the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate, doubling the number of affiliated hospital beds and affiliated faculty, and developing a focus on primary care, as well as building up research on population health and disparities, with a focus on genomics and social determinants of health. Previously, he served as chair of Psychiatry at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, where, under his leadership, the clinical program grew 350 percent, the research program grew from two to 13 NIH-funded investigators and NIH funding grew 10-fold, while philanthropic support grew 15-fold.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Dr. Carlos Pato received an honorary doctorate in medical genetics from Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal, where he has served as a visiting scientist and co-lead of the Unit for Neuropsychiatric Genetics since 1990. He completed his residency training in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and subsequently served as a research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. Dr. Michele Pato received her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, with residency training in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and research fellowships at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Both Patos are distinguished fellows of the American Psychiatric Association and charter members of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics. Dr. Carlos Pato has held leadership positions with the American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry, among his many professional associations.
A co-editor of Revista Brasileira de Psiguiatria and field editor of the American Journal of Genetics, Dr. Carlos Pato also serves on the editorial board of Translational Psychiatry and as a reviewer for nearly a dozen peer-reviewed professional journals. He has nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles to his credit, as well as publications in other journals, book chapters and a book.