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Michael Whitfield Reappointed Chair of Biomedical Data Science at Geisel School of Medicine

Duane Compton, PhD, dean of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, announced that Michael Whitfield, PhD, has been reappointed to another term as chair of the Department of Biomedical Data Science (BMDS). Whitfield, a professor of BMDS and molecular and systems biology, first served as interim chair of BMDS in 2017 before being appointed the department’s permanent chair in 2019.

Michael Whitfield, PhD. Photo by Rob Strong

“I’m please to appoint Dr. Whitfield to another term as BMDS chair,” says Compton. “His leadership has played an instrumental role in the Biomedical Data Science department’s success and the development of its innovative research programs. The feedback that I received on his leadership was uniformly strong and highlighted his efforts to foster an atmosphere of unity and support within the department.”

In addition to his role as chair of the BMDS department, Whitfield also is the founder and director of the Center for Quantitative Biology, an NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE).  He is also co-director of the Burroughs Wellcome Big Data in the Life Sciences Training Program and Multiple Principal Investigator (MPI) on the NIH T32 Post-doctoral Training Program in Quantitative Population Sciences.

Since joining Dartmouth in 2003, Whitfield has built a successful interdisciplinary research program focused on the genomics, genetics, and mechanisms of systemic autoimmune disease and fibrosis, with a specific focus on systemic sclerosis. His lab has brought together experimental and computational scientists, as well as physician-scientists, to develop diagnostics based on genome-wide gene expression, and to mine big data and genomic networks in systemic sclerosis to identify disease mechanisms and novel therapeutic targets. Much of this research has concentrated on understanding the heterogeneity in this rare disease and the interpretation of outcomes in clinical trials.

Whitfield was the first to identify molecular gene expression subsets in scleroderma and to develop diagnostics to stratify these patients. His group has developed multi-tissue networks of fibrosis that suggest interactions between innate immune cells and the stroma are key drivers of pathogenesis.  He has developed machine learning approaches to classify patients for clinical trials and basic science studies.  Whitfield has actively collaborated across academic disciplines and with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to move discoveries from his lab into implementation in the clinic, making precision medicine a real possibility for patients with scleroderma.

Whitfield graduated with honors from North Carolina State University with degrees in biochemistry and chemistry in 1994. He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in biochemistry and biophysics in 1999, and then performed post-doctoral training in genomics and bioinformatics in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he published seminal papers on the genomic analyses of the cell division cycle and scleroderma.

Founded in 1797, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The Geisel School of Medicine is renowned for its leadership in medical education, healthcare policy and delivery science, biomedical research, global health, and in creating innovations that improve lives worldwide. As one of America’s leading medical schools, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of diverse leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in healthcare.