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K. Michael Welch, MB, ChB, FRCP
Dr. Welch is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom, a pioneer in the emerging specialty of vascular neurology and renowned researcher who studied brain function and structure in cerebrovascular disease, stroke and migraine. He served as president and CEO of Rosalind Franklin University from 2002 to the time of his retirement in 2018.
After 36 years of service as a clinician and vital contributions to academic medicine, Dr. Welch turned his talents to administration. As university president, he led a transformation of education delivery, pioneering the interprofessional healthcare model of education, in which students learn to work in patient-centered, collaborative teams.
Under his leadership, RFU made history in 2004 as the first medical institution in the United States to recognize a female scientist through an honorary namesake. The university also committed to two decades of strategic growth, making major investments in its biomedical research enterprise, the formation of new colleges and academic programs, and the construction of new buildings and facilities — including most recently, the Innovation and Research Park. Key investments in simulation technology, curriculum development and teaching were aligned with national goals for improving health and safety in health care.
Dr. Welch led the formation of public and private partnerships, including the regional Health Professions Education Consortium, and the strengthening of existing clinical partnerships with the goal of educating a diverse, highly competent and compassionate healthcare workforce. He also championed community engagement, investing in student- and faculty-led community health outreach and service learning programs as a means to improving access to care for the uninsured and underserved. RFU’s outreach initiatives include the student-driven Interprofessional Community Clinic, the Community Care Connection mobile health coach, our nationally recognized INSPIRE summer research and mentoring program, and the North Chicago Community High School Healthcare Pathways curriculum.
A native of Wales, Dr. Welch graduated from the University of Bristol in England and was trained at the United Bristol Hospitals and United Sheffield Hospitals where he was influenced by and learned from professionals in other healthcare disciplines. That interaction taught him to value the interprofessional healthcare team at the same time the concept was developing in the United States.
He emigrated in 1970 to take up a research fellowship and subsequent faculty membership at Baylor College of Medicine-Methodist Center for Cerebrovascular Research in Houston, where he studied mechanisms of stroke and migraine and for a brief time worked on an early form of the artificial heart. In 1981 he became the founding chair of the Department of Neurology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where he pioneered the use of MRI. During this time, Dr. Welch was principal investigator of one of the nation’s 14 National Institutes of Health recognized stroke centers and the first NIH-funded headache research center, the latter receiving the Harold G. Wolff award for the best headache research worldwide for an unprecedented seven times.
Dr. Welch was also the clinician responsible for the conduct of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke tissue plasminogen (tPA) study — the first to establish effectiveness of thrombolysis (clot busting) leading to the worldwide development of acute stroke units and centers. This work was recognized by the world’s leading medical journal, New England Journal of Medicine, as one of the top 10 papers in the 200 year history of its publication. He was also principal investigator of a clinical trial that first established statin treatment for secondary stroke prevention. In 1995, he gave congressional testimony, at the invitation of the U.S. House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment, on research efforts to combat neurological disorders.
In 1998, Dr. Welch was appointed vice chancellor of research and president of the Research Institute at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Editor-in-chief of two neurological journals, Dr. Welch has authored two textbooks and published nearly 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including an honorary doctor of medicine from his alma mater, the University of Bristol, whose regalia he wears today. Dr. Welch has offered his knowledge and expertise to numerous national and international professional and scientific societies, advisory and editorial boards, and scientific review committees of the National Institutes of Health, in efforts to improve the treatment of stroke and migraine.