Richard L. Tannen is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and an Affiliate Member of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He joined the Penn faculty in 1995 with an extensive background as an investigator in nephrology, clinician, and medical administrator. During his 30 years in biomedical science, he held continuous NIH funding, served as director of the NIH-funded George M. OBrien Kidney Research Center at the University of Michigan, and was recipient of an NIH Merit Award. He has held faculty positions at the University of Vermont, where he was Chief of the Nephrology Division, and at the University of Michigan, where he was Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Nephrology Division. For the seven years prior to joining the faculty at Penn, he served as Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
He has published more than 100 journal articles, was the co-editor of a major book in Kidney Diseases and has served as President of the American Society of Nephrology, as a Vice President of the National Kidney Foundation, and as Chairman of the Kidney Section of the American Heart Association; and also is a member of many highly selective professional societies.
At Penn he served as the Senior Vice Dean of the School of Medicine, a role he relinquished in 2002 to re-invigorate his research career in a totally new area. In order to gain the specific skills for the research project he envisioned, he spent a year auditing the Masters Course in Clinical Epidemiology at Penn. He then was funded by a RO1 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, to examine whether a large computerized primary care medical record database (UK-GPRD) produced valid outcomes research results.
These collective studies, published in the BMJ (2009, 338:b81 [doi:10.1136/bmj.b81] ), assessed validity by replicating Randomized Controlled Trials and comparing the outcome results to the respective RCT. In many instances the results were comparable; but in other instances there were significant disparities, presumably secondary to “unmeasured confounding”. A new statistical method his group uncovered, overcame “unmeasured confounding” and corrected virtually all the disparate findings. This work remains the focus of his current ongoing investigative efforts, which will be funded by a recently received research grant from PCORI.
His ongoing efforts have demonstrated the feasibility of using a large, appropriately constructed Electronic Health Record (EHR) database for performing VALID outcomes research including “Comparative Effectiveness Research”, which was shown in his most recent publication. To do this successfully and thereby transform future healthcare requires an appropriately constructed and sufficiently large database along with analytic methods that overcome “unmeasured confounding/bias”.