Prof. Rivka Carmi was born in Israel and is a graduate of Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She completed a residency in pediatrics, a fellowship in neonatology at the Soroka University Medical Center and an additional two-year fellowship in medical genetics at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University Medical School.
She served as Director of the Genetics Institute at the Soroka University Medical Center and held several important academic administrative positions in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Promoted to full professor in 1995, she was the incumbent of the Kreitman Foundation Chair in Pediatric Genetics. In 2000, she was elected Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at BGU – also the first woman to hold this position in Israel – and served in that position for five years. Between 2002 – 2005, she also served as the Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Medical Deans.
Prior to her entry into the administrative arena of the University, Professor Carmi's research focused mainly on the delineation of the clinical manifestations and molecular basis of genetic diseases in the Negev Arab-Bedouin population. Author of over 150 publications in medical genetics, her research included the Identification of 12 new genes and the delineation of 3 new syndromes, one of which is known as the Carmi Syndrome. Her community projects were aimed at preventing hereditary diseases in the Bedouin community. She was deeply involved with the establishment of major biotechnology initiatives at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, primarily serving as the Acting Director of the nascent National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.
Carmi was elected to serve as President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev by the University's Board of Governors in May 2006. She was the first woman to serve as president of an Israeli university. In August 2010, she also became the first woman to serve as the Chairperson of the Committee of University Heads in Israel. She served in that role until December 2012.
In addition to her duties as President, Prof. Carmi remained a member and served as a consultant of national, professional and public committees and organizations, was a scientific reviewer for various international journals and funding agencies and served on the editorial board of prestigious scientific journals. Honors she has received include: the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Yated organization for children with Downs Syndrome; the Achievement in Medicine Award by the Municipality of Beer-Sheva; the 2002 Award for Peace from the Canada International Scientific Exchange Program (CISEPO), to which she served as representative of the Israeli Medical Deans; the 2008 Women of Distinction Award of the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America; in 2009, an award in excellence from the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association (IAPA); in 2013 she received an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and in June 2015, Carmi received an honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the name of Queen Elizabeth II.