In late 2018, Rush welcomed Mia Levy, MD, PhD, as the Sheba Foundation Director of the Rush University Cancer Center.
Coming to Rush is a homecoming for Levy. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs and graduated from Rush Medical School in 2003.
It is also deeply personal.
“It’s been a journey of the heart,” Levy says. “My mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer during my first year of medical school, and she received her medical care here at Rush. I saw firsthand how we can treat cancer as a chronic disease for many patients. My mother lived for seven years with metastatic breast cancer before she passed. She saw me graduate from medical school, get married and have my first child. She lived a wonderful life and had a good quality of life.”
Levy, in turn, became a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer and completed a doctorate in biomedical informatics.
As a nationally recognized leader in bioinformatics and precision oncology, Levy is helping to elevate Rush’s precision oncology efforts.
“Precision medicine is about trying to understand how we can tailor treatment to each patient,” says Levy. “How can we predict which patients are likely to be at risk for cancer? Which patients are likely to benefit from a particular treatment?”
These answers are often linked with data — which is right in Levy’s wheelhouse. Before coming to Rush, Levy helped build data-driven, clinical decision support functionality at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. She also helped create the nation’s first web-based precision cancer medicine knowledge resource, My Cancer Genome.
“Dr. Levy has helped shape the field of precision oncology,” says Larry Goodman, MD, former CEO of the Rush System and of Rush University Medical Center. “That leadership and deep understanding of the challenges clinicians face in accessing, interpreting and applying genomic data will accelerate how Rush’s multidisciplinary teams devise treatment plans that are unique to each patient.”
A learning health care system
Levy specializes in determining how to apply technology, such as electronic medical records and data science, to advance the entire cancer care continuum and cancer research.
Through her work at Vanderbilt to implement clinical decision support, Levy and her colleagues opened up new ways for researchers and physicians to use data. “We made the data available for researchers, enabling them to ask questions for discovery purposes and to understand quality of care, and how to improve clinical processes and care,” she explains.
This resulted in a learning health care model in which providers leveraged the data collected as a part of routine care for treating patients and created a cycle of continuous learning.
The concept behind a learning health care system is that the care of the patient I saw yesterday informs the care of the patient I’m seeing today. And the care of the patient I’m seeing today will inform the care of the patient I see tomorrow,” says Levy. “This is what I’m most excited to bring to Rush. It’s a bold goal. But it’s the right time. Our ability to do data science for discovery gives us an opportunity to continuously learn from the experiences of all of our patients, not just the five percent who participate in clinical trials.”
A destination cancer center
Levy has taken the lead on growing Rush into a destination cancer center: one that attracts patients from across the country, with data-informed care and advice that’s unmatched in the region.
Developing this destination cancer center revolves around three guiding principles:
- Excellent care with integrated, multidisciplinary teams
- Novel diagnostics and therapeutics for patients
- A learning health care system
“To bring this to the people of Chicago is so aligned with where my passion is, where my heart is, and where the heart of Rush is as an institution,” says Levy.