People to Watch 2019
President and CEO
Anthony Slonim, MD, DrPH, FACHE, is the president and CEO of Renown Health, the largest provider of healthcare services in northern Nevada. Tony has been instrumental in the creation of the Healthy Nevada project, the largest public genomics project in history. Tony holds a medical degree from New York Medical College as well as a master’s degree and Doctorate in Administrative Medicine and Health Policy from George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences.
Datanami: Dr. Slonim, congratulations on being named a Datanami Person to Watch 2019! The Healthy Nevada project is in its third year now. How do you measure the success of the project?
Dr. Slonim: A collaboration between Renown Health and world environmental sciences leader, the Desert Research Institute (DRI), the Healthy Nevada Project is a first-of-its-kind population health study. Our research team is examining genetic, clinical, environmental and socioeconomic data, in combination, to better understand the complex interplay between these factors and related effects on the health of Nevadans. This is important because, despite leading the country in growth and innovation, Nevada ranks 47th in the nation in terms of health.
The pilot phase of the Healthy Nevada Project launched in Sept. 2016, enrolling 10,000 Nevadans in just 48 hours, and within 60 working days, each participant donated a DNA sample for genotyping. The pilot phase concluded early this year, and in March, the Nevada Governor announced the study’s expansion, opening enrollment to an additional 40,000 participants.
The Healthy Nevada Project offers no-cost genetic testing to study volunteers in Nevada. Study volunteers take a DNA saliva test provided by population health partner Helix, receive ancestry and trait information at no cost, and a Helix.com account to explore additional DNA-powered products. If study participants choose to complete a follow-up survey from the Project, they have the chance to choose additional health and wellness apps specific to their individual genetic results.
Datanami: What sort of insight do you hope the Healthy Project will reveal in 2019?
With 35,000 research study participants enrolled, including 25,000 people who enrolled in the past nine months alone, the Healthy Nevada Project is the fastest-enrolling genetic study in the country. Leveraging Renown Health’s forward-thinking approach to community health care and Desert Research Institute’s data analytics and environmental expertise, the team at Renown Institute for Health Innovation has enhanced its capabilities to lead a larger, more complex research study. Study researchers, including physicians, scientists and data analysts are currently analyzing and modeling public health risks in Nevada based on the genetic testing results of 35,000 participants. The Healthy Nevada Project is now a national model for community-led population health studies that seek to improve overall health and meet the “Triple Aim” of improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improving the health of populations; and reducing the per person cost of health care.
In October 2018, the Project began returning clinical results to genetic study participants. In just three months, more than 20,000 northern and rural Nevadans have been notified of their risk for CDC Tier 1 conditions including familial hypercholesterolemia or FH (a genetic tie to high cholesterol), BRCA 1/2 (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome), and Lynch syndrome (tied to endometrial and colon cancers). The importance of population-level screening has become evident as more than 60 percent of those testing positive for these conditions had no family history risk and would not have been diagnosed using traditional standards of care.
Datanami: Genetic data is some of the biggest data on the planet. Where are we in terms of our ability to understand all that data, and where are the areas that we need to do the most work?
Looking ahead, the Healthy Nevada Project is planning for the next phase, which aims to reach more than 250,000 people. We aspire to not only to offer genetic testing to every Nevadan interested in learning more about their health and genetic profile but also in expanding to new communities across the United States to ultimately drive positive health outcomes nationwide.
The accelerated speed of the Project is made possible thanks to the ever-decreasing cost of sequencing. Today, Helix is able to sequence an entire exome – which allows reporting on most actionable genomic knowledge – for a fraction of what it would have cost just 10 years ago. Additionally, advances in digital health mean Helix and Healthy Nevada Project researchers can capture unprecedented amounts of health data digitally, making significant contributions to advancing precision health.
The partnership has managed to remove the traditional barriers of population health studies, including the difficulty in recruiting participants, establishing quality high-throughput lab systems, and scaling interpretation and return of results. These developments are key to expanding the Healthy Nevada Project model through other health systems around the country, with the ultimate ambition to help people across the United States.