June 8, 2001

Balser named chair of Anesthesiology

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Dr. Jeffrey R. Balser

Balser named chair
of Anesthesiology

Dr. Jeffrey R. Balser, a respected physician-scientist who directs the Vanderbilt University Physician Scientist Development Program, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. He will assume the post Sept. 1.

Balser, 39, professor of Pharmacology and holder of the James Tayloe Gwathmey Physician-Scientist Chair, will replace Dr. Charles Beattie, who has been professor and chair of the department since 1994.

Balser has served as Associate Dean for Physician Scientist Development since the program originated nearly two years ago and will continue in that capacity. The VPSD program is designed to provide an enriching scientific environment and salary support to allow newly appointed assistant professor physicians with significant research experience to receive additional mentored investigative training.

“As an institution we’re fortunate to have had the benefit of Dr. Beattie’s superior leadership for the past seven years,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “In Jeff Balser, we have recruited one of the most outstanding clinician-scientists in the field of anesthesiology who will build on the distinguished work of Dr. Beattie.”

Beattie said he plans to remain on the Vanderbilt faculty, furthering the development of Vanderbilt’s Perioperative Information Management System and continuing to play an active role in resident education.

“It has been my great pleasure to serve as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology for the past seven years,” Beattie said. “Our original goal was to create a group with a national and local reputation comparable to that of the other fine departments at Vanderbilt. I believe this has been largely achieved,” he said, adding that the residency program is in the top tier and is continuing to progress, the research program has enjoyed spectacular growth and success, and the department provides state-of-the-art clinical care by sub-specialists in surgical anesthesia, pain management and intensive care.

“I am exceedingly pleased that Dr. Jeffrey Balser has been chosen to lead us to even greater heights,” Beattie said. “I have had the pleasure of knowing him since his anesthesiology training at Johns Hopkins and I have followed and participated in his career development. He is truly one of the brightest stars of the profession and Vanderbilt is fortunate to have him. I feel confident the department will continue to thrive under his leadership.”

Balser, a 1990 M.D./Ph.D. graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1998. He came from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he was assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine.

“I am extremely pleased about this appointment,” Balser said. “I see this as a tremendous opportunity to concentrate on faculty development, which has been the emphasis of my leadership role at Vanderbilt. There is a national shortage of anesthesiologists and this is a great opportunity for anesthesiologists at Vanderbilt to become recognized for the extraordinary clinical work in anesthesiology that is done here and for the contributions we make to the profession.”

Another area Balser would like to see developed is linking new information from the human genome project to the variable outcomes seen in surgical patients who have experienced arrhythmias. This has been a scientific focus of Balser’s, both at Johns Hopkins and at Vanderbilt. Balser was recently inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation. The ASCI, founded in 1908, has 2,600 physician-scientist members, chosen based on their records of scholarly achievement in biomedical research.

“It’s my goal to bridge the gap between the basic scientists at Vanderbilt who have expertise in genetics with the anesthesiologists at the bedside who are taking care of patients,” Balser said.

Balser and his wife, Melinda, have three children, Jimmy, 10, Jillian, 9, and Madeline, 4.