J. Robert Beck, MD

Bob Beck

Senior Vice President

Deputy Director

Chief Academic Officer

Chief Administrative Officer

Research Program

Dr. J. Robert Beck supervises the Office of Academic Programs, the Office of Research and Development Alliances, and the Institutional Review Board, as well as biostatics, informatics and information technology. He also chairs the Center's long-term strategic planning.

As Deputy Director, Dr. Beck is a key advisor on matters related to value creation, culture of patient safety, investment in quality, risk management, regulatory and accreditation matters, clinical outcomes, employee and faculty engagement, medical staff and faculty governance, public reporting, value based purchasing, and pay for performance.Dr. Beck also helps foster academic collaboration with a wide variety of national and international universities, research institutions and oncologists. In addition, he has launched initiatives for more structured faculty development, mentoring, and educational activities.

He previously served as Fox Chase's deputy director of the population science division and as vice president for information services and chief information officer. He has also served as the Chief Medical Officer, working with physicians and nurses to improve the delivery of clinical care in both the inpatient and outpatient departments.

Before joining Fox Chase in 2001, Beck was vice president for information, research and planning at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He was also a professor of pathology and professor of family and community medicine there.

Beck earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1974 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his MD from Johns Hopkins University in 1978 and served his residency in pathology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. With a focus on clinical decision making, he completed a clinical fellowship in medicine at the New England Medical Center in 1982.

Beck was a member of the Dartmouth Medical School faculty and staff pathologist at Mary Hitchcock in Hanover, New Hampshire, from 1982 until 1989. In 1989, he joined Oregon Health Sciences University as professor of pathology and medicine and was a staff clinical pathologist at University Hospital in Portland, Ore. He also directed the university's biomedical information communication center and was a professor of preventive medicine and public health.

Beck serves on the board of directors of IDM Pharma, a publicly traded cancer therapeutics company. He is also a board member of the nonprofit HealthGrid.US Alliance, a partnership of scientific, medical and technology professionals from academia, industry and government whose mission is to promote the application of advanced information technology to solve cutting-edge problems in biomedical sciences and health care.

A past editor-in-chief of Medical Decision Making, Beck served on the editorial boards of Disease Management and the Journal of Biomedical Informatics until last year. He was the interim executive director for the Houston Academy of Medicine – Texas Medical Center Library from 1999 to 2001 and was a member of its board of directors from 1992 until joining Fox Chase. Beck is a member of many professional and scientific societies, including the American College of Medical Informatics, Society for Medical Decision Making, and the College of American Pathologists.

Research Program

Research Interests

I serve as Deputy Director as well as Chief Academic and Administrative Officer for Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC).  My role is akin to Provost or Academic Affairs Dean in a typical university setting.  I supervise the activities of the Institutional Review Board, the current Chief Information Officer, the Facility 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 1700 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 4500 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 600 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.

Selected Publications

Nghiem V, Davies K, Beck JR, Follen M, MacAulay C, Guillaud M, Cantor S. Economic evaluation of DNA ploidy analysis versus liquid-based cytology for cervical screening. British Journal of Cancer 112:1951-1957, 2015. 


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. 


Min H, Manion FJ, Goralczyk E, Wong Y-N, Ross E, Beck JR. Integration of prostate cancer clinical data using an ontology. Journal of Biomedical Informatics 42:1035-1045, 2009. [PMCID: PMC2784120]


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]


Konski A, Hanlon A, Beck JR, Pollack A. Is proton beam therapy cost-effective in the treatment of adenocarcinoma of the prostate? Journal of Clinical Oncology 25:3603-3608, 2007. 


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.


Bennett WG, Inoue Y, Beck JR, Wong JB, Pauker SG, Davis GL. Estimates of the cost-effectiveness of a single course of interferon alfa-2b in patients with histologically mild chronic hepatitis C. Annals of Internal Medicine 127:855-865, 1997.


Kattan MW, Inoue Y, Giles FJ, Talpaz M, Ozer H, Guilhot F, Zuffa E, Huber SL, Beck JR. Cost-effectiveness of alpha-interferon compared to conventional chemotherapy in chronic myelogenous leukemia. Annals of Internal Medicine 125:541-548, 1996.


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


Helfand M, O’Connor GT, Zimmer-Gembeck M, Beck JR: Effect of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA ‘88) on the incidence of invasive cervical cancer. Medical Care 30:1067-1082, 1992.


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.


Beck JR, Pauker SG: Anticoagulation and atrial fibrillation in the bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome. Medical Decision Making 1(3):285-301, 1981.

Additional Publications