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Marcus Institute for Brain Health

Marcus Institute for Brain Health
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James Kelly, MD

Executive Director


James Kelly, MD

Dr. James Kelly is a Chicago native who accepted a Congressional appointment to the US Air Force Academy after graduating from high school in 1970 and later transferred to Western Michigan University where he obtained his BA in Psychology in 1974 and MA in Clinical Psychology in 1977.  He directed an adolescent psychiatric unit in Illinois prior to attending Northwestern University Medical School (later named Feinberg School of Medicine), graduating in 1983.  He served his Neurology Residency and Behavioral Neurology Fellowship at the University of Colorado where he joined the faculty of the School of Medicine in 1989 where he studied brain-behavior relationships and started its first concussion treatment program.  He is currently Professor of Neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

In 1993, Dr. Kelly was recruited by Northwestern University to be Director of the Brain Injury Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).  He spent the next 10 years in Chicago at RIC, as Neurology Residency Director and as Mentor of Kelly College at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  He was later recognized for his career contributions in medical education to Northwestern University by induction into the national Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society in 2014.

Dr. Kelly is the Senior Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, serving as an advisor to the former President on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions in our military veterans – the “Invisible Wounds” of our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

His immediate past position was Director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  As its founding Director, he led the creation of an innovative interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who blended high-tech diagnosis and treatment with complementary and alternative medical interventions in a holistic, integrative approach to the care of US military personnel with the complex combination of TBI and psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.   In this role, Dr. Kelly was frequently called upon by leaders in the Military Health System in the Pentagon, at US Congress, at the Department of Veterans Affairs and at numerous military facilities in the continental US and abroad.  He twice traveled to Afghanistan to advise and assist at military hospital programs and forward operating base medical units.  

Additional positions, accomplishments and honors include:​

  • Inaugural Chairman of the US Defense Health Board TBI External Advisory Subcommittee
  • Lead author of the first sports concussion guideline for the American Academy of Neurology
  • Co-author of the Standardized Assessment of Concussion, the most widely used mental status test for concussion in athletes, military personnel and the general population worldwide
  • Co-author of numerous reports on advances in civilian and military concussion care through the US Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Neurology, and the international sports community (IOC, IIHF, FIFA, etc.)
  • Founder of the Aspen Neurobehavioral Conferences which assembled the first international group of leaders in the field of TBI to develop consensus medical management guidelines
  • Author/co-author of over 100 published medical articles, chapters, reports and abstracts
  • Numerous awards, honors, invited lectures and speaking engagements