Jeff Balser

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Jeffrey R. Balser is president and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.[1] He is a 1990 graduate of the Vanderbilt MD/PhD program in pharmacology and subsequently completed residency training in anesthesiology and fellowship training in critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins.


Dr. Balser graduated from Tulane University in 1984, where he majored in engineering, prior to attending Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.[2] He graduated from medical school in 1990 having earned dual degrees- M.D. and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology. He undertook residency training in anesthesiology and fellowship training in cardiac anesthesiology and in critical care medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 1995, where he practiced cardiac anesthesiology, ICU medicine, and led an NIH-funded research program aimed at the genetics of cardiac rhythm disorders, such as sudden cardiac death.

In 1998, he returned to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) as Associate Dean for Physician Scientist Development, and soon was appointed Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, directing one of the Medical Center’s largest clinical service programs. He became the Medical Center’s chief research officer in 2004, leading a period of scientific expansion that moved the School of Medicine into the nation’s top 10 in NIH funding. Under his leadership, VUMC launched big-science programs aimed at personalized medicine, health informatics, and genomics, culminating in 2016 with the National Institutes of Health awarding its Data and Research Support Center ($71.5M over 5 years) for the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative to VUMC.

In 2008, Dr. Balser was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and later that year was named the eleventh dean of Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine since its founding in 1875. In 2009, he was also appointed Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs with executive responsibility for all health-related programs including the hospitals, clinics, research programs, and the medical and nursing schools.

He has led the Medical Center through a period of marked service-volume growth with major inpatient expansions of the children’s hospital and the adult critical care areas, bolstered by 4% compound annual growth of outpatient care (as of 2016, over 2.1 million visits per year), and by the creation of Southeastern region’s largest, multi-state provider-led network (over 50 hospitals and 3000 clinicians across 5 states: the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network).

In 2013-2014 in response to nationwide declines in healthcare revenue, he led a system-wide $230 million (8%) cost reduction across all mission areas, improving VUMC’s competitive position in a rapidly evolving price-sensitive marketplace.

Beginning in 2014, in coordination with Vanderbilt University and its Board of Trust, he led VUMC through an historic restructuring process that concluded April 30, 2016, placing its clinicians, hospitals, clinics, research and graduate medical education programs into a financially and legally separate, $3.2B not-for-profit corporation.

As the first President and CEO of VUMC he serves, and participates on, an independent 11-member board of directors, and continues to serve as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Balser also serves on the Board of Tulane University.


Balser was implicated as one of the chief proponents behind a medical record system at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that was involved in "widespread Medicare fraud for more than a decade." [3]. The medical center later settled with the federal government for $6.5 million [4]. He has also been responsible for laying off over 1000 employees in a $250 million cost reduction initiative after the Medicare fraud was discovered [5]. A federal court ruled that the layoffs were in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. [6].


Dean Balser's 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.


  • Petersen, Christina I.; McFarland, Toni R.; Stepanovic, Svetlana Z.; Yang, Ping; Reiner, David J.; Hayashi, Kenshi; George, Alfred L.; Roden, Dan M.; et al. (2004). "In vivo identification of genes that modify ether-a-go-go-related gene activity in Caenorhabditis elegans may also affect human cardiac arrhythmia". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101 (32): 11773–8. doi:10.1073/pnas.0306005101. PMC 511051. PMID 15280551.
  • Tan, Hanno L.; Kupershmidt, Sabina; Zhang, Rong; Stepanovic, Svetlana; Roden, Dan M.; Wilde, Arthur A. M.; Anderson, Mark E.; Balser, Jeffrey R. (2002). "A calcium sensor in the sodium channel modulates cardiac excitability". Nature. 415 (6870): 442–7. doi:10.1038/415442a. PMID 11807557.
  • Schwinn, Debra A.; Balser, Jeffrey R. (2006). "Anesthesiology physician scientists in academic medicine: a wake-up call". Anesthesiology. 104 (1): 170–8. doi:10.1097/00000542-200601000-00023. PMC 2322866. PMID 16394703.
  • Wingo, Tammy L; Shah, Vikas N; Anderson, Mark E; Lybrand, Terry P; Chazin, Walter J; Balser, Jeffrey R (2004). "An EF-hand in the sodium channel couples intracellular calcium to cardiac excitability". Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 11 (3): 219–25. doi:10.1038/nsmb737. PMID 14981509.
  • Balser, Jeffrey R.; Baruchin, Andrea (2008). "Science at the Interstices: An Evolution in the Academy". Academic Medicine. 83 (9): 827–31. doi:10.1097/ACM.0b013e318181d1ed. PMID 18728436.


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