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‘Moneyball’ data guru joins Scripps Health

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New Dodgers General Manager Paul Depodesta shares a few laughs with the media during a press conference at Dodger Stadium Monday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Scripps Health announced Monday that baseball data guru Paul DePodesta is joining the Scripps Translational Science Institute faculty as an assistant professor of bioinformatics.

DePodesta, who will start Jan. 1 but maintain his role in the New York Mets front office, rose to fame with the use of data analytics to acquire players who kept the low-budget Oakland A’s competitive under General Manager Billy Beane. Their successes were recounted in the “Moneyball” book and film, with actor Jonah Hill portraying DePodesta.

The Harvard graduate later worked for the Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.

“In disciplines as disparate as baseball, financial services, trucking and retail, people are realizing the power of data to help make better decisions,” DePodesta said.

“Medicine is just beginning to explore this opportunity, but it faces many of the same barriers that existed in those other sectors — deeply held traditions, monolithic organizational and operational structures, and a psychological resistance to change,” said DePodesta, who lives in La Jolla.

He said he could apply the lessons he learned in baseball to an industry “ripe for this kind of revolution.”

STSI is a National Institutes of Health-sponsored consortium led by Scripps Health in collaboration and The Scripps Research Institute. The research partnership is leading efforts to translate wireless and genetic medical technologies into diagnostics and treatments for patients.

At STSI, DePodesta will work on large medical data projects with the center’s analytics team.

Their studies include sequencing and analyzing the DNA of adults, children and infants whose sudden deaths can’t be explained using traditional medical investigative methods; identifying genetic mutations associated with atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, so doctors can predict patient risk; and using DNA to look for genetic causes and potential treatments of serious, but rare and perplexing health conditions that defy diagnosis and standard treatment.

According to Scripps Health, DePodesta read “The Patient Will See You Now,” by STSI Director Dr. Eric Topol, and contacted the author because he was struck by the parallels between baseball and medicine, and was looking to apply his skills and knowledge to a field with global impact. A planned one-hour lunch turned into a more than three-hour discussion about big data analytics and health care.

DePodesta was a featured speaker at a STSI conference in October.

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