J. Robert Beck, MD

Bob Beck

J. Robert Beck received his AB summa cum laude from Dartmouth in 1974 and his MD from Johns Hopkins 1978, where he began developing his interests in health services research and biomedical informatics.  He trained in pathology and laboratory medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in Clinical Decision Making at the New England Medical Center.  During his fellowship Dr. Beck worked with health decision science pioneers Stephen Pauker and Jerome Kassirer, and developed Markov and life expectancy models for medical decision making that have strongly influenced the field. Bob’s two main Markov modeling papers (1983 and 1993) have been cited over 2200 times.

Bob returned to Dartmouth Medical School in 1982 as Assistant Professor of Pathology.  Over the next eight years he served as medical director of the blood bank, staff hematopathologist, acting director of clinical pathology, and founding director of a program in medical information science.  He was promoted to Associate Professor of Pathology and Community & Family Medicine during this period.  In 1989 Dr. Beck was recruited to Oregon Health Sciences University as Professor of Pathology, Medicine, and Preventive Medicine & Public Health, where he established and directed the Biomedical Information Communication Center under a contract from the National Library of Medicine (NLM).  He also served as OHSU’s Chief Information Officer.

In 1992 Bob moved to Baylor College of Medicine as Vice President for Information Technology and Professor of Pathology and of Community & Family Medicine.  While there he led Baylor’s NLM-funded Integrated Academic Information Management Systems initiative, developed collaborative training programs with Rice University and the University of Houston, and served on the board of the Houston Academy of Medicine – Texas Medical Center Library.  He assisted the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in converting its School of Allied Health to one of Health Information Sciences.  In 1999 Dr. Beck was asked to take an interim role as Executive Director of the Library, while retaining a vice presidency for Information Research and Planning at Baylor.

Dr. Beck was recruited to Fox Chase Cancer Center in 2001 as Vice President and Chief Information Officer.  He has served in several roles at Fox Chase, becoming Deputy Director of the Division of Population Sciences in 2006, Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer in 2007, Chief Medical Officer in 2009, and Deputy Director of the Center in 2013.  Bob holds the inaugural H.O. West & J.R. Wike Chair in Cancer Research at Fox Chase. He has held grants from NLM and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) while in Philadelphia.  Beginning in 2008 his interest in health disparities and academic equity led Dr. Beck to establish a NCI funded partnership with Lincoln University for cancer research and training. He has been a champion for STEM education, diversity and inclusion.

Now semi-retired, Bob is a key advisor to the President and CEO on matters related to value creation, patient safety, investment in quality, risk management, regulatory and accreditation matters, clinical outcomes, employee and faculty engagement, medical staff and faculty governance, and public reporting.

Dr. Beck has published over 200 papers, has held grants throughout his career, and has served in many editorial capacities. Bob has served on non-profit, private and public corporate boards. He remains an Executive Board member of the Society for Medical Decision Making (for which he served as President).


Research Interests

I serve as Deputy Director for Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC), and am the emeritus Chief Academic Officer.  I oversee the human research protection program, research compliance, technology transfer, the Director of the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Facility (BBF), and the Population Studies Facility (PSF). I mentor trainees and junior faculty, and support health services research with methodological work in decision science.


Upon joining Steve Pauker’s group in clinical decision making as a Fellow in 1981, we developed alternatives to the static utility formalism of decision trees. My first clinical decision consult established the paradigm of Markov state transition modeling of clinical outcomes, and I proceeded to develop the methodology and tutorials.  The early Markov papers have been cited themselves over 2100 times, and the techniques are now part of standard texts and references in medical decision making. A PubMed search: Markov and (Decision or Cost-effectiveness) returns over 8000 papers. Accompanying the Markov modeling work, we have pioneered new outcome measures for medical decision making. Clinical decision models of chronic diseases required a method of representing outcomes as life expectancies, modified by competing risks of mortality. We developed a convenient approximation of life expectancy that, before the advent of powerful computers, enabled useful and relatively accurate decision modeling. The Declining Exponential Approximation of Life Expectancy is still cited (over 700 total) and being improved.


As a clinical pathologist, our group blended applied mathematics and decision science training to advance applications of these technologies to laboratory diagnosis.  Important papers in this arena included articles on ROC analysis and likelihood ratios, applied to clinical laboratory tests. As an academic chief information officer, my groups made contributions to a number of areas in medical informatics, including shared decision making, workstation development, biomedical informatics communities, and artificial intelligence. Projects with trainees have emphasized cost-effectiveness of cancer therapies and diagnostic procedures, especially when there are methodologic nuances.

Lab Overview

I am a senior decision scientist interested in methodologic development and applications to problems in cancer. Recent work has explored modeling toxicity in advanced prostate cancer, and modeling the value of CT colonography in colorectal cancer surveillance.

Selected Publications

Kuntz KM, Popp J, Beck JR, Zauber A, Weinberg DS. Cost-Effectiveness of surveillance with computed tomographic colonography after resection of colorectal cancer. BMJ Open Gastroenterology 7 1, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgast-2020-000450.

Ramamurthy C, Handorf EA, Correa EF, Beck JR, Geynisman DM. Cost-effectiveness of abiraterone versus docitaxel in the treatment of metastatic hormone naïve prostate cancer. Urologic Oncology 37:688-695, 2019.

Beck JR, Ross EA, Kuntz KM, Popp J, Zauber AG, Bland J, Weinberg DS. Yield and cost-effectiveness of computed tomography colonography versus colonoscopy for post colorectal cancer surveillance.  Medical Decision Making Policy and Practice 3: 2, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1177/2381468318810515

Egleston BL, Pedraza O, Wong YN, Griffin CL, Ross EA, Beck JR. Temporal trends and characteristics of clinical trials for which only one racial or ethnic group is eligible. Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 9:135-42, 2018. PMC5898501

Wong YN, Egleston BL, Sachdeva KS, Eghan N, Pirollo M, Stump TK, Beck JR, Armstrong K, Schwartz JS, Meropol NJ. Cancer patients' trade-offs among efficacy, toxicity and out-of-pocket cost in the curative and non-curative setting. Medical Care 51:838-845, 2013. 

Wong Y-N, Meropol NJ, Speier WF, Sargent D, Goldberg R, Beck JR. Cost implications of new treatments for advanced colorectal cancer. Cancer 115:2081-2091, 2009. [PMCID: PMC2875773]

Zupan B, Demsar J, Kattan MW, Beck JR, Bratko I. Machine learning for survival analysis: A case study on recurrence of prostate cancer. Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, 20:59-76, 2000.

Sonnenberg FA, Beck JR. Markov models in medical decision making: A practical guide. Medical Decision Making 13:322-338, 1993.

Beck JR, Shultz EK: The use of relative operating characteristic (ROC) curves in test performance evaluation. Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine 110:13-20, 1986.

Beck JR, Pauker SG: The Markov process in medical prognosis. Medical Decision Making 3:419-458, 1983.

Beck JR, Pauker SG, Gottlieb JE, Klein K, Kassirer JP: A convenient approximation of life expectancy (the "DEALE"): II. Use in medical decision making. American Journal of Medicine 73:889-897. 1982.

Beck JR, Kassirer JP, Pauker SG: A convenient approximation of life expectancy (the "DEALE"): I. Validation of the method. American Journal of Medicine 73:883-888, 1982.

Additional Publications

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