Personalized Medicine Education and Advocacy

Thought leadership in personalized medicine

A Chancellor’s Tale: Transforming Academic Medicine

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Guest Blog
by Ralph Snyderman, M.D., James B. Duke Professor of Medicine, Chancellor Emeritus, Duke University


Ralph Snyderman, M.D.

A Chancellor’s Tale:  Transforming Academic Medicine is a personal and intimate story of my 15-year journey as Duke University’s Chancellor for Health Affairs during a time of major upheaval in medicine. The story, I hope, will help demonstrate the importance of planning, leadership and organizational change to the advancement of the personalized medicine paradigm.

My experience as a scientist and a physician prior to assuming my role as chancellor did little to prepare me to deal with a highly complex and entrenched institution that, unbeknownst to itself, was in need of disruptive change. The story describes the path the institution and I took during my tenure as chancellor, during which time the Duke University Medical Center became known for innovations in medicine and the conception of personalized health care.

As CEO of the Duke University Health System, I saw that despite our delivering outstanding, state-of-the-art care, treatments were generally directed towards the reversal of episodes of late-stage disease.  By 2000, anticipating the power of genomics and associated advances in technology, my colleagues and I began to envision an entirely new approach to care.  Rather than being reactive to disease, health care could be proactive, predictive, preventive and personalized.  As health and disease are a consequence of one’s genetics and environmental exposures over time, the availability of technologies to quantify health risks, track disease progression and identify specific disease mechanisms could be a game-changer for how care is delivered.  Rather than starting with a disease manifestation and working back, clinicians could, in conjunction with their patient, anticipate disease risks and work to mitigate them and to treat them precisely when needed.  As a consequence of this thinking, my colleagues and I conceived of an entirely new approach to health care and in doing so, laid the foundation for personalized health care.

A Chancellor’s Tale tells the story of the major transformation of Duke’s academic enterprise along with the concepts that resulted in the creation of care delivery models for personalized, proactive, patient-driven care. The book describes the difficulties of making change in a complex academic institution including what worked, what went wrong and lessons learned.  My hope is that the personalized medicine community will find the stories interesting and my learning experiences useful.

The book is available for purchase at

Special offer: Use coupon code E16SNYDR to save 30 percent on the hardcover edition when you order from

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