Dr. Rao currently serves as Executive Vice President, DHR Health System and President and Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health Institute for Research & Development.
Until recently, he served as the Senior Adviser to the President, McNeese State University. In this role, he advised the President and his senior leadership team in areas of strategy, innovation, global outreach and transforming the delivery of education and training in disciplines related to health sciences. He also served as the Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana Healthcare Education Alliance (LHCA), a not-for-profit state entity, which was established to enhance collaboration in the areas of clinical, undergraduate and graduate education in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and allied health sciences, research and community outreach.
Dr. Rao obtained his MD from Dow Medical College; his MA in Physiology from Boston University, School of Medicine and Doctorate in Philosophy (DPhil) from the Wolfson College, University of Oxford, UK.
Prior to joining University of Louisiana System, Dr. Rao served as the System Vice President for Research and Academics and Chief Academic Officer, CHRISTUS Health. He also served as Executive Director, CHRISTUS Institute for Innovation & Advanced Clinical Care, CHRISTUS Health and the Designated Institutional Official for Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Additionally, he also served as the Academic Physician Leader, CHRISTUS Physician Group and the CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic.
At CHRISTUS Health, Dr. Rao and his team have successfully created a system-wide, functional infrastructure for research, which includes (but not limited to) establishment of CHRISTUS Institute for Innovation & Advanced Clinical Care, Office of Sponsored Programs, Office of Human Subject Research Protection, Office of Research Compliance and Office Investigator Support. Given the geographical expanse of CHRISTUS Health, five domestic and international regional research offices were also created along with integration of investigators in various CHRISTUS physicians groups. To facilitate translational and clinical research, master research agreements were established with major industry partners and clinical trial organizations along with an exclusive partnership with TriNetX. In the area of graduate medical education, Dr. Rao and his team were successful in obtaining ACGME institutional accreditation; transition of sponsorships of all residency programs; recruitment of new program directors and faculty; establishment of graduate medical education committee; updated existing and created new policies that meet ACGME, specialty boards and individual State Medical Board requirements; created new academic affiliations with medical, nursing, pharmacy and schools of allied health sciences for clinical rotations for undergraduate students, residents and fellows; created new residency and fellowship programs; realignment of all interdisciplinary clinical simulation centers; integration and financial and operational oversight all of residency clinics, etc.
Prior to serving CHRISTUS Health, Dr. Rao served as System Vice President for Research, Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, Louisiana. He also served as the Professor and Deputy Head of Schools Research, Ochsner Clinical School, University of Queensland. In this capacity, he was responsible for providing leadership of a basic, translational and clinical research enterprise across the system, which included (but not limited to) the Office of Research with over 140 employees, Center for Clinical Research (with over 50 clinical coordinators), Center for Basic and Translational Research, Core Facilities, Ochsner Cancer Research Center, Ochsner Neurosciences Research Center, Ochsner Cardiovascular Research Center, Ochsner Transplantation Research Center, Ochsner Center for Women’s Health Research, Ochsner Center for Pediatric Research, Center for Applied Health Sciences, Center for Medical Informatics, Center for Investigator Education and Training, Center for Investigator Support, Phase I-IV Clinical Trial Units, and facilities for BioBanking, animal care and use facilities (both small and large animals), etc. Under his leadership, Ochsner conducted over 1000 clinical trials/year and successfully obtained AAHRPP accreditation of its Human Subject Research Protection Program as well as implement a state-of-the-art clinical trials management system which was instrumental in improving compliance.
During his tenure at Ochsner, Dr. Rao also served as the Vice President, Ochsner International. In this capacity, Dr. Rao was responsible for all international outreach in the MENA (Middle East and North America) region related to clinical, research, undergraduate and graduate education in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and allied health sciences. On behalf of Ochsner, he also served as the consultant to facilitate the establishment of two universities, a medical city and two university hospitals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Prior to coming to Ochsner, Dr. Rao served University of South Florida Health (USF Health) as Professor of Surgery and Molecular Medicine. He was also the Senior Associate Vice President at USF Health and served as the Chief Research Officer for this academic entity. His areas of oversight included the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He was also the Vice Dean for Research, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs in the College of Medicine, Founding Director of the School of Biomedical Sciences, and Medical Director for Research at the Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, Florida. During his tenure at USF, he also served as the Chief Operating Officer, Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute. His principal task at USF Health was to raise the NIH profile of funding for the health sciences, which culminated in the recruitment of outstanding faculty, departmental mergers and a complete redesign of the faculty appointment and tenure process. In 2017, he also served as the Vice Chair of the LCME self-study team, which was successful in obtaining continued accreditation of the medical school.
After completing his doctoral education at Oxford, Dr. Rao joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1993 where he served as an Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and the Director and Chief of the Section of Cellular Transplantation and the Section of Medical Informatics, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, he also served as the Associate Director, Thomas E. Starzl Transplant Institute where he was tasked with establishing and subsequently providing strategic and operational oversight of the world’s largest transplant program.
In 2000, he joined Drexel University, College of Medicine (previously named as MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine) as the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Biomedical Graduate Studies and Professor in the Departments of Surgery, and Microbiology and Immunology. He subsequently became the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Drexel University College of Medicine and in 2003, was promoted to the position of the Senior Associate Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies at Drexel University. He and his team were tasked with the responsibility of turning around a bankrupt medical school, which was successfully accomplished.
In 2004, he joined the Middle Tennessee State University; the largest comprehensive institution of higher education in the Tennessee Board of Regents System (the Nation’s sixth largest higher education system) where he served as Vice Provost for Research and Dean, College of Graduate Studies. During his tenure in Tennessee, he also served as the Chair, System-wide Research & Graduate Education Committee and was instrumental in initiating (among others) doctoral programs in English Literature, Molecular Sciences; Literacy Studies; Computational Sciences; Economics and Human Performance and MBA (with concentration in Healthcare Management) and Masters of Fine Arts in Recording Arts & Technology.
His area of research interest largely focused on bench to bedside (and reverse) translation of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at alleviating a clinical problem. In the area of clinical research, he and his group have worked on the protocol for induction of donor-specific tolerance in organ allograft recipients (funded by NIH); cellular therapeutic treatment of refractory post transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (funded by CTRF); islet cell transplantation to reverse type I insulin-dependent diabetes (funded by NIH and the JDFI); transmission of infection following animals to humans (funded by an extramural grant) organ and cell transplantation. Additionally, his group has also been actively involved in basic cellular and molecular biology research in the following areas: induction of tolerance, islet cell transplantation, NK cell immunobiology, post transplant vasculopathy (chronic rejection); liver derived growth factors; generation of transgenic pigs and xenotransplantation. His recent research interests involve prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and other communicable diseases.
To his credit are over 140 publications in peer-reviewed journals and numerous book chapters. He has a Research Gate (RG) Score of 42.88. He has presented or has been invited to present >400 lectures on various issues related to his area of expertise. He has served on the editorial board of the journal Transplantation and Graft. He has served as the reviewer for Immunology, Life Sciences, Nature Medicine, Liver Transplantation Surgery, and Surgery. He has served as a mentor for >50 junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows, and >20 pre-doctoral candidates. For his team's innovative discoveries, he has been interviewed by the CNN, Discovery Channel, and many local, national, and international television, radio, and print media.
For his contributions to science, teaching, public service and for his scholarly distinction, in 2005, Dr. Rao was also selected as a Senior Scholar by Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines.
Terri Garcia is Senior Director at the DHR Health Institute for Leadership Development. She has been a member of the DHR Health family since 2004 and brings more than 25-years’ experience in healthcare.
Terri started her career working for South Texas Health System and was the first Service Excellence Facilitator at McAllen Medical Center. Upon her move to DHR, she led the launch of the DHR Guest Relations Department and was instrumental in the development of the DHR Health CARES Values that the organization operates by to this day. In her capacity, she was also the first to manage the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) hospital survey and reporting, which captures DHR’s former hospital patients’ perspectives of hospital care and experience.
Terri studied under the tutorship of Jim Collins, who is the nationally recognized author of the book, “Good to Great,” which coaches organizational leaders to elevate a company from good work to great.
In her current position, Terri leads the teachings of a culture of servant leadership in the newly created Institute for Leadership Development. The institute is designed to meet the development and training needs of people. The purpose of this work is to create a clear path forward – by designing, creating and fulfilling specific goals that are unique to DHR Health – all with the core tenet: For You, For Life.
Terri has facilitated more than 1,000 professional development and employee trainings. Her strengths include corporate training, patient experience, consumer engagement and loyalty, service recovery, employee development and process standardization.
Terri is an alumni of Pan American University and attended South Texas College and San Antonio College.
Terri may be contacted at the Institute for Leadership Development at (956) 362-7176 or at
Elva Valle is a Project Coordinator at the DHR Health Institute for Leadership Development. Prior to that, she had been working with DHR Health’s Recruitment Team as a Recruitment Coordinator, then shortly after getting promoted to Recruiter for clinical service lines within the organization.
In her current position, Elva will be overseeing the Healthcare Interns at DHR by supporting their growth as young professionals and guiding them to elevate their knowledge, learning abilities, and their overall experience with DHR Health. In addition to the Healthcare Interns, Elva will also be in collaboration with the Leadership Development Team to execute a successfully designed development training for our executive leaders. This designed training will be the path to create a culture of servant leadership at DHR Health.
Elva is an alumni of Texas State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and minor in Business Administration.
Elva may be contacted at the Institute for Leadership Development at 956-362-2362 or at [email protected].
Lorena Contreras is the program manager for the DHR Health Institute for Leadership Development. She earned a B.S in Biology with a teaching certification in Life Science from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Prior to joining DHR Health, Lorena taught Biology and Anatomy & Physiology at Donna ISD and McAllen ISD.
In her current position, Lorena will be supporting the development of the Institute’s strategy with areas of focus that enables the team to develop and implement training solutions. Through strategic collaboration with executive leaders, the Institute for Leadership Development will promote a servant leadership culture at DHR Health.
Lorena may be contacted at the Institute for Leadership Development at (956) 362-3782 or at [email protected].