On September 1, 2001, Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., already professor of anesthesiology in the department, became chairman after Dr. Charles Beattie’s departure. He served as chairman until July 15, 2004.
Dr. Balser, a 1990 graduate of the Vanderbilt MD/PhD program in pharmacology, undertook residency training in anesthesiology and fellowship training in critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins. He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 1995, initiating a basic research program aimed at the molecular pharmacology of cardiac arrhythmias. His clinical work has primarily involved the care of postoperative cardiac surgery patients in ICU settings. Dr. Balser moved to Vanderbilt in 1998, and served as Associate Dean for Physician Scientists. He established an intramural mentoring program for junior faculty physician scientists that has been a national model for centralized management of physician scientist career development and is supported by the NIH. His research program has been aimed at the pharmacogenomics of cardiac arrhythmias. His studies in Nature, PNAS, and Nature Structural and Molecular Biology have established new paradigms for cardiac excitation-contraction coupling and are yielding new targets for arrhythmia control.
In 2001, Dr. Balser was appointed the James Tayloe Gwathmey Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology and was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Under his leadership, Vanderbilt anesthesiology scientific programs diversified to include NIH-funded programs in health services research and perioperative genomics, and the department advanced into the top 10 in NIH funding.
Under his leadership as chairman, Vanderbilt anesthesiology clinical, educational, and scientific programs diversified and expanded, becoming a premier department nationally. In 2004 he became Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for the Vanderbilt Medical Center, overseeing in enterprise-wide strategy, infrastructure, and investments in research during an expansion period where Vanderbilt moved into the top 10 in NIH funding. In October 2008, he was named Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. He has chaired the NIH Director's Pioneer Awards, is a member of American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and in 2010 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Comprised of top health experts and life scientists, the IOM is a national adviser to improve health and promote health-related research.