Who is Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil? A skateboarding Silicon Valley nerd.

Recent White House appointee DJ Patil will lead up the big data plans that will be central to Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative. But who is the guy? Yahoo News put together a florid profile that’ll give you a good idea about who our new Chief Data Scientist is. Hint: He keeps a skateboard at the White House. It’s how […]

Recent White House appointee DJ Patil will lead up the big data plans that will be central to Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

But who is the guy?

Yahoo News put together a florid profile that’ll give you a good idea about who our new Chief Data Scientist is. Hint: He keeps a skateboard at the White House. It’s how he gets to work – at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – when it’s nice out. Yahoo News paints Patil as a quirky, eminently Silicon Valley character: His office walls are whimsical – decorated with Pikachu memorabilia, for instance – but he’s one of the government’s key players in expanding its data plans. And healthcare is one of his main priorities.

Despite Patil’s lack of hands-on healthcare experience, he appears to be quite qualified to lead up the initiative. The piece touches on Patil’s plans in the precision medicine space:

Patil imagines that one day, mapping your genome may be as routine as getting a cavity filled. Doctors will then be able to tailor care based on your own genetic makeup. Cross-reference that with statistics the government provides about the environment you grew up in — the air quality, the water quality, the likeliness of disease — and, as Patil says, his brown eyes widening, “literally, data can save lives.”

The story points out that NIH Director Francis Collins is Patil’s personal hero – and though it’s early days yet in his involvement in healthcare, he’s starting to generate some ideas:

“The patient has to be at the center of this,” he said, pausing for a second to think and diving into all the questions running through his mind. “What does it mean to have the opportunity to have care that is really tailored to a specific population? What are the right privacy mechanics? Will you get a magic pill that’s customized for you? That’s a long way of saying that it’s not obvious what it means when you walk in and you get your genome sequenced.”

 

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