TREND Community is proud to announce that E. Robert Wassman, MD is joining our team as Chief Medical Officer. “Dr. Bob” brings along his wisdom, experience, and distinguished contributions to the fields of medicine and genetics. Matthew Horsnell sat down with Dr. Wassman to elucidate the influences in his life that brought him to TREND and to provide insight into his approach to medicine and patient care.
Dr. Wassman grew up in Larchmont, NY, on the Long Island Sound. His near-daily surfing, sailing, and swimming activities growing up fueled a love for the ocean and an interest in marine biology. These passions helped shape his undergraduate pursuits at Yale University. It was there that he began working with Prof. Joseph Ramus and published research on the alga Codium fragile, nicknamed “sputnik weed.” At Yale, he also had the opportunity to learn from one of the pioneers of genetics and one who had the dream of unlocking the human genome: Dr. Frank Ruddle.
It was through a close friend in college who had cystic fibrosis that Dr. Wassman’s heart and mind were drawn to medicine. After some reflection, he decided to embark on his journey into medicine at Albany Medical College. Dr. Wassman has board certifications in pediatrics and genetics, but his interests and work span multiple conditions. His time working with short stature and fertility populations provided opportunities to work with communities and build relationships that were patient centered. It is that diversity in experience that served as a foundation for patient listening. Collaborating with other forward thinkers, like Dr. Omar Alfi, led to a paradigm shift on prioritizing patients’ care. Examples of this include actively involving spouses and caretakers in medical interactions and reducing genetic testing turnaround times, allowing for quicker results and access to treatment.
To know the pioneer Dr. Wassman is to know the pioneers before him. The influences on his professional career are a veritable “who’s who” of geneticists and medical minds. Dr. Wassman is a professional “grandchild” of Victor McKusick, known as the father of medical genetics. Recent and contemporary professional influencers of his include Roswell Eldridge, MD; David Rimoin, MD; Michael Kaback, MD; Larry Shapiro, MD; and the renowned George Church, PhD. He ultimately worked under the late Henri Termeer, the visionary who revolutionized the treatment of previously untreatable rare diseases at Genzyme. The experiences left an indelible mark on the significance of patient and caregiver communities advancing the care and treatment of rare diseases.
Dr. Wassman views the lessons of the “Parable of the blind man and the elephant” as a framework for treating patients. As the parable goes, a group of blind men who have never encountered an elephant learn and imagine what the elephant is like by touching one. Each blind man feels different parts of the elephant, but only one part, such as the trunk or a tusk. Each man describes the pachyderm based on their own experience, and each description of the elephant is therefore different. The moral is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their subjective and individual experience. There is a tendency to ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences, which may also have some truth.
By listening to and empowering community voices, and by seeking a complete picture of the problem, progress can be accomplished more quickly. Dr. Wassman has lived that approach. He has sought answers through genetics, he has engaged the patient and listened, and now he brings those skills to TREND in helping unlock the power of the collective community voice. Dr. Wassman is helping transform this voice using gleaned artificial intelligence, machine learning, general linguistics, and natural language processing to interpret the data from online communities. In his own words, these processes are allowing us to “sort the wheat from the chaff” in those social media conversations and find clues not seen by relying solely on clinical interactions. With his help, TREND Community is able to explicate the community dialogue to focus on trends and advancement opportunities.
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Wassman as Chief Medical Officer here at TREND Community!
For additional information on Dr. Wassman’s accomplishments, please check out his bio below:
Dr. Wassman’s Bio
E. Robert Wassman, MD, is the Principal/CEO/CMO of Life Designs Ventures, an independent consultancy in personalized medicine, genetic diagnostics, laboratory medicine, biotechnology, pediatrics & developmental disorders, and general healthcare management. Currently, he serves as Chief Medical Officer for TREND Community, which is focused on social listening in rare and emerging diseases; as Director of Progenitor MDX, focused on COVID-19 diagnostics; on the Board of Directors of the TESS Foundation, a nonprofit focused on treatments for epilepsy and symptoms of SLC13A5; and as an advisor to Phase Genomics pioneering applications for proximity ligation sequencing for analysis of complex genomic structures.
Dr. Wassman has been a pioneer in the introduction of genetic testing and personalized medicine for more than 35 years. His focus has been on the translation and delivery of cutting-edge diagnostic technology to clinical service in the areas of reproductive medicine, rare cell/noninvasive diagnostics, and next-generation DNA sequencing spanning clinical disciplines of reproductive genetics; cancer and companion diagnostics; and neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism. His strategic insights, deep knowledge, and “quick-study” abilities have enabled him to achieve numerous “firsts” in many areas.
He has served as Chief Medical Officer for multiple companies in this space, including Genzyme Genetics, Lineagen, Rosetta Genomics, Generation Health, Helicos Biosciences, Good Start Genetics, Celula, Ambry Genetics, and Alfigen. Recently, he was Co-Director of Predictive Laboratories, a novel reproductive genetics lab in Salt Lake City, UT. He has co-founded several successful ventures and served as a consultant to a wide variety of entities ranging from large and small clinical laboratories to in vitro diagnostics and biotech companies, investor groups, regulatory agencies, payers, and legal firms.
In addition to having clinical and technical expertise, Dr. Wassman has laboratory and general operational, business development, medical affairs/marketing, and sales experience. Dr. Wassman had formal training and both public and private sector experience in reimbursement and managed care. He has had international experience in Europe, Japan, and China.
Dr. Wassman is a graduate of Yale University and Albany Medical College and is board certified in pediatrics and medical genetics.