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    ‘Revolutionary health research initiative’ launched in Baton Rouge

    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the National Institutes of Health launched a revolutionary health research initiative called “All of Us Research Program” in Baton Rouge.

    The All of Us Research Program is building the largest and most diverse health data resource of its kind by asking one million or more people from across the country of different races, ethnicities, age groups, geographic regions, gender identities, sexual orientations, and health statuses to share their unique health information. Many of these people have historically been underrepresented in medical research. Health data from such a large and diverse group of people will enable scientists to study how different factors – from genetics to exercise habits – affect a person’s health.

    Baton Rouge is one of the early cities in the nation to see a focused effort to recruit participants, led locally by Blue Cross. The All of Us Research Program recognizes Louisiana’s diverse population and unique health challenges and encourages residents to sign up for a chance to be part of the future of precision medicine.

    Precision medicine is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes. With eyeglasses and hearing aids, we have long had customized solutions to individual needs. More recently, treating certain types of cancer is now possible with therapies targeted to patients’ DNA.

    By partnering with one million diverse people who share information about themselves, the All of Us Research Program will enable researchers to more precisely prevent and treat a variety of health conditions.

    “The All of Us Research Program is an opportunity for individuals from all walks of life to be represented in research and pioneer the next era of medicine,” said NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The time is now to transform how we conduct research-with participants as partners-to shed new light on how to stay healthy and manage disease in more personalized ways. This is what we can accomplish through All of Us.”

    “Here in Louisiana, a state rich in diversity, we have the opportunity to be part of this important research initiative, one that can go a long way in helping to address some of the state’s health problems,” said Dr. Vindell Washington, Blue Cross executive vice president and chief medical officer. “We all know the state of health in Louisiana is poor. We have some of the highest rates of obesity and chronic diseases in the country, and we are consistently at or near the bottom of rankings of health statuses. All of Us will lead to healthcare breakthroughs we believe will be beneficial for our people.”

    Leaders from Blue Cross, the Urban League of Louisiana, Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome’s Healthy City Initiative, Louisiana Department of Health, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, the NIH and the YMCA of the Capital Area spoke in support of the program.

    “Through The Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative, we bring together many key stakeholders who make Baton Rouge a healthier place.” said Hymowitz “Good, timely data is something we always struggle to identify. All of Us will help us to make more data-driven decisions to better support our community.”

    Partners were also able to get a more thorough understanding of what it means to take part in the All of Us Research Program, what information participants are asked to provide and how the research is being used to further precision medicine.

    “This initiative is important to Baton Rouge and populations who often are underrepresented in medical research,” said Judy Morse, President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “Without the preventative healthcare measures of programs like All of Us, it would be nearly impossible to detect and cure the diseases that plague our community.”

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    Dr. Vindell Washington named Blue Cross chief medical officer

    Dr. Vindell Washington has joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana as chief medical officer. He brings to the state’s largest health insurer extensive experience in leading clinical teams and in health IT, most recently as the national coordinator for healthcare information technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Prior to that, Washington was at the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System in Baton Rouge for more than seven years, leaving as president of the medical group, which includes more than 500 medical providers and 1,400 employees. While at the health system, he also served as vice president of performance excellence and technology and chief medical information officer.

    Washington is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. Before coming to Baton Rouge, he served as chief executive officer of Piedmont Emergency Medicine Associates, a large private group in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    He received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and his medical degree from the University of Virginia. He also received a Master of Science degree in healthcare management from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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