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Earlier this year, Parsa Mirhaji, director of clinical research informatics at Einstein and Montefiore, traveled to Washington, DC, to take part in President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative Summit at the White House. Healthcare leaders from across the country met to begin integrating biological, clinical, environmental and administrative data to fuel research innovations and improve care.
In this issue of Einstein magazine, “Big Data Comes to Academic Medicine” describes how Dr. Mirhaji and his colleagues are building an Einstein-Montefiore infrastructure that will allow findings from research studies and patient encounters to flow into a “semantic data lake.” From there, those findings can inform clinical decision-making, personalize therapies, define community health needs and more.
About 15 years ago, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) trial revealed several effective measures for staving off type 2 diabetes: a lifestyle intervention that involved exercise and modest weight loss, and taking the insulin-sensitizing drug metformin. As director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which supported the DPP, I had the honor of bringing this news to the public. In the ensuing years, despite education efforts, the nation continued to gain weight, and type 2 diabetes rates continued to rise.
Perhaps stronger medicine is needed. In our cover story, “The Defect Detectives,” five scientists at the Einstein−Mount Sinai Diabetes Research Center take us on a guided tour of their work. Their surprising conclusion is that strategies should shift upstream, to the brain—and that the best approach to obesity and type 2 diabetes may be to treat them as brain disorders. Their studies will get a boost from Einstein’s new Brain Science Initiative as it moves forward.
The “Collegial Life” section describes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s visit to Einstein-Montefiore to highlight the opioid abuse epidemic devastating the United States. Addiction too is increasingly viewed as a brain disorder, one that Einstein, with its outstanding neuroscience research, and Montefiore, given the patient population it serves, are in a unique position to address.