Rich has a bachelor of arts degree from Oberlin College and earned his M.D. at the University of Kansas Medical School. He completed graduate training at the University of Washington and also completed fellowships at the National Institutes of Health and at Harvard Medical School.
Rich spent 25 years at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, rising to vice-president and dean of research before leaving to become executive associate dean for research and strategic initiatives at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. He came to UAB as senior vice president and dean of the school of medicine in 2004.
From 2003 to 2008 Rich was editor-in-chief for The Journal of Immunology and edited the textbook Clinical Immunology: Principles and Practice. Among his many board appointments, he served as president and chairman of the board of directors for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and as chairman for the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia. In 2008 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Immunologists.
- DeButts, Jimmy (November 13, 2009) "UAB medical school dean to retire." Birmingham News
- Robert R. Rich, M.D. profile at medicine.uab.edu