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MD Anderson’s Chin Heads to UT to Lead Efforts to Fight Diabetes

Xconomy Texas — 

Lynda Chin, who led the University of Texas MD Anderson’s efforts to corral big data to fight cancer, is leaving that post to join the UT System as its first associate vice chancellor for health transformation and chief innovation officer for health affairs.

In her new position, Chin will create and lead the new Institute for Health Transformation at UT, which will use technology to better diagnose and treat patients. Its first effort will be Project DOC (Diabetes Obesity Control), founded last year to improve diabetes care in South Texas using big data. About one in three Texans who live in the southern part of the state have diabetes, with 1.9 million diabetic Texans statewide. That costs the state about $19 billion a year, UT says.

“Social and mobile technology has changed our life in almost every aspect,” Chin told me in an interview. “How can we leverage these capabilities to change the way we deliver medical care, so that we are creating a new delivery system designed for and amenable to management of chronic diseases like diabetes?”

In South Texas, in particular, such efforts can reach a currently underserved population, a “medical desert,” she says.

William McRaven, chancellor of the UT System, said Chin’s appointment will help UT bring new ideas to healthcare delivery. “Dr. Chin is a very talented physician scientist who has the vision and the ability to get it done,” he said in a press statement.

Chin came to MD Anderson four years ago, from faculty positions at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University, to oversee the Institute for Applied Cancer Science, or IACS, at MD Anderson, an academically hosted institution that is focused on drug development. She also became chair of the hospital’s department of genomic medicine. In an interview last December, Chin said a key motivator of her work in Houston was to make the wall separating academia and industry more porous while encouraging equal respect for applied scientists and discovery scientists in the field.

Andrew Futreal, who had been deputy chair of the genomic medicine department, takes over as interim head at MD Anderson. Chin says she doesn’t believe another scientific director at IACS will be appointed. “IACS has matured significantly over the last three years,” she says. “They have a tremendous leadership team that manages day-to-day operations.”

Chin, who is an Xconomist, begins at UT Monday and will remain based in Houston, though she says she expects to be spending a lot of time in Austin and in South Texas, where a new medical school is being built. She hopes to put relationships and expertise at the Texas Medical Center, which is also home to UT institutions, into good use in her new role.

Technology, she says, should help patients—whether at the TMC or Texas border towns—have access to the best care possible. “We can offer the right kind of education, self-monitoring, to get those services anywhere so we help them maintain their health.”