Rutgers Names Inaugural Executive Chair of Psychiatry, Director of New Genomic Psychiatry Center
Carlos Pato and Michele Pato to Oversee Behavioral Health, Addictions and Genomic Psychiatry Research
Rutgers has selected two distinguished psychiatrists – husband and wife Carlos N. Pato and Michele T. Pato – to oversee behavioral health, addictions and genomic psychiatry research, a rapidly growing field in psychiatric medicine that investigates the genetic connections to mental health.
Carlos Pato will be the first executive chair of psychiatry at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) and Michele Pato, the director of SUNY Downstate’s Institute for Genomic Health, will become the inaugural director of the new Rutgers Center for Genomics of Psychiatric Health and Addiction (RCPHA) and will join her husband as professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“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,” said Carlos Pato, who also has been named 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, Carlos 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.
“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. “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.”
Carlos Pato believes an organization is strengthened when a leadership team defines an integrated vision and mission and creates and implements a strategic plan.
“We share that philosophy,” said Robert L. Johnson, dean of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and interim dean of 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.”
Frank A. Ghinassi, president and CEO, Rutgers UBHC/UCHC, senior vice president of the behavioral health and addiction service line for RWJBarnabas Health, said Carlos Pato’s research in the area of population health and underserved individuals will be invaluable.
“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,” said Ghinassi, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Before coming to Rutgers, Carlos Pato served as executive director of the Institute for Genomic Health at SUNY Downstate, an institute created with his wife, Michele Pato, 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. For nearly three decades the two physicians have worked together, expanding 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. Most recently they have studied African and Latinx ancestry. Carlos Pato has also undertaken a COVID-19 Biobank to study host genomics in COVID-19.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 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. 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.