Precision Medicine: Who Will Lead?


By Hillary Ross

Precision medicine was a late-term focus of the Obama administration, and will remain a national priority as the new regime comes to Washington. The potential benefits number too many to ignore.

As health systems decide on what precision medicine (or personalized medicine) will look like for them, and move toward implementation of that vision, there is a need to recruit strong and innovative leaders. My colleague, Zachary Durst, and I recently had the opportunity to share our thoughts on the kind of leaders it will take to successfully implement precision medicine in What Does It Take to Be a Leader in Precision Medicine?, published by STAT, a website tracking trends in health and medicine.

Executives overseeing precision medicine typically carry a Director or Chief designation. “We have seen precision medicine leaders with MDs or PhDs or both, with background specialties including computational genomics, biomedical informatics, bioinformatics, pharmacogenomics, and other areas.” But, background and education are just two pieces of the leadership puzzle.

Hillary Ross

A clear vision for the future and an ability to map a strategy toward that future are essential qualities for these leaders. A precision medicine executive must create and lead a team charged with implementing advancements while also considering the organization’s culture and current structure. This leader must have the ability to engage with the outside market, including venture capital firms and insurers. Additionally, a successful precision medicine leader is a health care innovator and able to promote that innovation to both patient consumers and clinician providers.

These are broad responsibilities requiring exceptionally strong leadership skills. As the STAT article noted, “A precision medicine leader must be more than a source of grant revenue for an institution. This person must be an executive in the truest sense of the word.”

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