Scott Hebbring, Ph.D., a tenured research scientist in the Center for Precision Medicine Research at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, was recently selected for the Dr. John Melski Endowment in Biomedical Informatics.

He was selected by an endowment selection committee comprised of well-established scientists and biomedical informatics experts across Marshfield Clinic Health System.

“It is a great privilege to honor Dr. Melski by accepting this award. Thank you for all the support,” Dr. Hebbring said upon accepting the endowment.

Dr. Hebbring plans to use the endowment to study the genetics of malignant hyperthermia. Malignant hyperthermia is characterized by a serious reaction to general anesthesia causing a dramatic rise in body temperature during sedation. If not caught early, malignant hyperthermia can be deadly.

Dr. Hebbring and his team will scour the electronic health record for the Health System to identify patients that may be at risk. These patients will be targeted for recruitment and offered a genetic test so results can be returned to the patient and the Health System. The overall goal is to evaluate the risk predictions while preventing severe and preventable outcomes.

“Scott has been a pioneer in family-based medical informatics. His approach was the first to use free text from narrative records to do a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS), and it has revealed novel insights not present with typical PheWAS approaches. He is a productive, innovative and energetic researcher who bridges informatics and human genetics,” said Joshua C. Denny, M.D., FACMI, professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine and director of Vanderbilt Center for Precision Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. Hebbring completed his doctorate from Mayo Clinic in biochemistry and molecular biology and later was awarded a National Library of Medicine funded biomedical informatics post-doctoral fellowship from the Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine training program from University of Wisconsin-Madison with Murray Brilliant, Ph.D., and David Page, M.D., as mentors.

“The Health System has been a pioneer in biomedical informatics research for nearly 20 years. I am confident Scott will continue that legacy. The areas of research that Scott is currently pursuing and plans to conduct with this endowment will continue to position the Research Institute and Health System in a lead role in the scientific understanding of biomedical informatics and computational biology to move the area of precision medicine forward,” said Amit Acharya, B.D.S., Ph.D., executive director of the Research Institute.

Dr. Melski’s vision

The endowment was named by Dr. John and Linda Melski of Marshfield. During Dr. Melski’s 23-year career as a dermatologist at the Health System, he also worked in residency education and served as Clinical Informatics medical director. One of his most notable achievements was developing Cattails, the Health System’s own electronic health records system.

Dr. Melski’s vision for medicine’s future, coupled with his background and education in computer medicine, led him to pioneer gathering, storing and using data for better patient care.

“The EHR allowed for coding on diagnoses in a new era of big data,” said Dr. Melski.