December 10, 2004

Masys to chair Biomedical Informatics

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Daniel Masys, M.D.

Masys to chair Biomedical Informatics

Daniel R. Masys, M.D., an oncologist and a leading biomedical informatics expert who currently directs the biomedical informatics program at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has accepted the appointment as chair of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's Department of Biomedical Informatics and chief academic officer of the Informatics Center. Masys, a 2001 electee to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, reports to work at Vanderbilt Jan. 4.

Prior to joining UCSD in 1994, Masys was director (from 1986 to 1994) of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, a research arm of the National Library of Medicine. In that capacity he was the program architect and first director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which hosts the DNA data from the Human Genome Project. Before that he was chief of the International Cancer Research Data Bank, a program of the National Cancer Institute.

“We are delighted that Dan Masys has agreed to accept this important role in the School of Medicine and the Medical Center,” said Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the school. “Through his successive appointments at the National Cancer Institute, the National Library of Medicine and most recently at UCSD, Dr. Masys has helped shape biomedical informatics. We look forward to working with him as Vanderbilt continues to expand its leadership in this exciting and essential field.

“I would also like to thank Dr. Randy Miller,” Gabbe said, “who as the founding chair has done such an outstanding job, building the department and bringing it to prominence.” Miller was recently named the Donald A. B. and Mary Lindberg University Professor of Biomedical Informatics. Earlier this year he stepped down from the department chairmanship to devote more time to research and teaching. Assistant Vice Chancellor Nancy M. Lorenzi, Ph.D., is the acting chair of the department.

The growth and application of genomics and proteomics, and the promise they hold for improved understanding and detection of disease, rests on advances in biomedical informatics, said William W. Stead, M.D., associate vice chancellor and director of the Informatics Center.

“Dan is one of perhaps only four people in the country who know what we need to do in biomedical informatics to support the new biology, and who also understand clinical informatics,” Stead said.

“He's really the only one with the administrative skills to lead something of the scope that we're envisioning. At the Medical Center, we'll see the continued rapid ramp-up of Vanderbilt clinical informatics together with major new investment in the informatics techniques that will be needed to support the new biology. If we're successful, it will set us apart from anything anyone in the country is planning.”

“Dan Masys is one of the rare individuals with credibility through the entire spectrum of biomedical informatics, from clinical applications to basic molecular science,” said Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for research. “He is exactly the person we need to take us to the next level. The research enterprise is on 'cloud nine' over Dan's recruitment.”

“We're arriving at an era,” Masys said by phone from San Diego, “when abnormalities will be detected much earlier and prevention and care strategies will become unique based on an individual's molecular signature.

“I was immediately attracted to this leadership opportunity at Vanderbilt, not least because, having achieved a critical mass of experts and resources, the Medical Center is now poised to become number one in the world in academic biomedical informatics.”

Masys has a biochemistry degree from Princeton; his medical degree is from Ohio State. His residency and fellowship training in medicine, hematology and medical oncology was split between UCSD and the Naval Regional Medical Center in San Diego.

Masys and his wife, Linda, have one son, Chris, a realtor in Lake Tahoe, Calif.