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Johnson named VUMC Biomedical Informatics chair

BY: JOHN HOWSER

12/15/2011 - Kevin Johnson, M.D., M.S., professor and vice chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) and professor of Pediatrics, has been named the department’s new chair after an extensive national search. His appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Johnson succeeds Daniel Masys, M.D., who retired in June.
As the new chair, Johnson will be responsible for one of the Medical Center’s most integral and prolific departments. Already the nation’s largest academic department of its kind, the DBMI is slated for significant programmatic growth under Johnson’s leadership.

Kevin Johnson, M.D., M.S.

Kevin Johnson, M.D., M.S.

Founded in 2001, the DBMI is home to more than 70 faculty, a graduate training program, a broad-ranging portfolio of research and development projects ranging from computational biology and bioinformatics applied to the understanding the effects of biological molecules, advanced clinical information systems that help care for hundreds of thousands of patients at Vanderbilt, to regional health information projects spanning across Tennessee and other states.

“Through Vanderbilt’s longstanding tradition as the nation’s most comprehensive academic program developing and integrating information technology for the advancement of scientific discovery and the delivery of health care, we are perhaps best known among our peers on the national and international stage as the leader in biomedical informatics,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“During his tenure, Dr. Johnson has demonstrated outstanding leadership across a broad continuum of responsibilities, including the development and implementation of new informatics tools now directly benefiting our patients, scholarly research and the careful orchestration of administrative programmatic growth. We are delighted Kevin will be assuming this new role and about his vision for the department’s future,” Balser said.

Since joining VUMC in 2002 as the DBMI’s vice chair, Johnson’s contributions and accomplishments have been broad ranging. Upon his arrival, Johnson’s goal was to make biomedical informatics more accessible to everyone in medicine. He has helped develop important tools such as RxStar, the Medical Center’s electronic prescription writing platform, medication reminders and other critical IT tools now essential and available throughout VUMC’s inpatient and outpatient settings.

“Dr. Johnson is a “triple threat,” the go-to person internationally at the intersection of informatics’ clinical medicine and health services research,” said William Stead, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and Chief Strategy and Information Officer.

“He will take the DBMI to the next stage, fully developing our bioinformatics capability while strengthening areas such as consumer personalized medicine tools and evaluation.”

Johnson’s research and other contributions within the fields of biomedical informatics and pediatrics have resulted in numerous distinctions. In 2010, he was elected into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. His research has focused on the evaluation and adaptation of information technology in the health care setting.

At the state level, Johnson was instrumental in the Mid South e-Health Initiative in West Tennessee, the state-sponsored program to innovate Tennessee’s health information exchange (HIE) technology and connectivity. His leadership as the evaluator of this program resulted in national visibility for the project and several publications. During this project, he worked with the state to develop a national campaign, entitled “HIE Perspectives,” that consists of videos from patients describing how HIE has impacted care.

“The leadership role within DBMI is vital to essentially every aspect of the Medical Center’s strategic growth,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and chair of the search committee. “The search committee carefully evaluated a number of highly skilled andaccomplished candidates from an applicant pool of national scope. Dr. Johnson’s selection was unanimous.

“I want to thank all the other members of the search committee for their steadfast commitment to the selection process for such an important role,” Pietenpol said.

Other members of the search committee included: Robert Dittus, M.D., MPH, associate vice chancellor for Public Health and Health Care and senior associate dean for Population Health Sciences; John Gore, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science; Bonnie Miller, M.D., senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education; William Pao, M.D., director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology; David Piston, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics; Dan Roden, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Personalized Medicine; Warren Sandberg, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anesthesiology; and Mary Zutter, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Integrative Diagnostics.

“I am extremely grateful to the search committee for its efficient and fair selection process,” Johnson said. “I also very much appreciate the time Drs. Balser and Stead spent with me to understand my vision for the DBMI, and to ensure our success leading and supporting the development of next-generation health care.”

Johnson is a 1983 graduate of Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa., and a 1987 graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His post-graduate training was at Johns Hopkins (where he became pediatrics chief resident) and Stanford University School of Medicine (where he earned an M.S. in medical informatics). Johnson taught at Johns Hopkins for 10 years before joining Vanderbilt.

In addition to his election into the Institute of Medicine, Johnson is a member of the American College of Medical Informatics and a Fellow of the American Pediatric Society. He recently completed a term on the National Institutes of Health National Advisory Research Resources Council.

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