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Thomas C. Chalmers Papers 1927-1995
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Biography

Biographical Note

Thomas C. Chalmers, MD, clinician- scientist- teacher- administrator- entrepreneur, was born in Forest Hills, New York, on December 8, 1917 and played a pivotal role in the scientific development of the randomized control trial and clinical trial meta-analysis. He attended Yale College from 1936 to 1939 as an English major and received his M.D. degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University in 1943. He spent the following year interning in medicine at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and completed his residency in 1947 at Harvard Medical Services of the Boston City Hospital.

Over the next six years he served as a part-time physician of the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory while practicing medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1951 he was the principal investigator of the hepatitis treatment research unit of Harvard Medical School in Kyoto, Japan, and his military service was spent doing research as a member of the metabolic unit of the Army Medical Services Graduate School at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. From 1955 to 1968 he was Chief of the Medical Services of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston and Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical School, and lecturer at Harvard.

In 1968 Chalmers became head of the research and education program of the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C. After 18 months, he was appointed Associate Director for Clinical Care and Director of the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health until 1973. During these same years he also served as Professor of Medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine also in Washington, D.C.

After his tenure at NIH, he became President, Dean, and Professor of the Mount Sinai Medical Center and School of Medicine until 1983. During his time at Mount Sinai he created and developed both the Biomathamatical Sciences and the Geriatrics and Adult Development departments.

During the latter half of the 1980s he served as Distinguished Physician at the Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center. In addition, he was also a lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine, and in Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

In 1993 he co-founded MetaWorks, Inc. with Susan Ross, M. D. and served as chairman of the company until his death in 1995. Metaworks, Inc. provides evidence-based medical information and is a designated Evidence-Based Practice Center. MetaWorks specializes in acquiring, synthesizing, analyzing, interpreting and delivering medical information in a way that transforms it from raw data into meaningful, actionable evidence. Chalmers' expertise was instrumental in the training of the MetaWorks scientific team, and in establishing the systems and practice standards by which MetaWorks' methods and procedures are governed.

Chalmers held memberships in a number of professional societies, including the Association of American Physicians; the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, of which he was president in 1959; the American Gastroenterological Association, of which he was president in 1969; and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He was a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chalmers also served on review committees and advisory boards of governmental and national professional bodies, including the National Cancer Institute, National Heart and Lung Institute, National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Disease, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Research Council.

His research interests included the methodology of clinical trials; meta-analysis; clinical gastroenterology and cardiology, and geriatrics. Chalmers realized earlier in his career that many of the treatments he was taught had been disproved by clinical trials. This ultimately changed his views on medicine and led him to pioneer and promote meta-analysis during the latter half of his career through his medical practice, research, and professorial positions. He also advocated the randomized assignment of patients in studies to avoid bias in the selection of treatment. Through his studies of randomized control trials Chalmers proved that had the trials been systematically and cumulatively synthesized, important treatments such as thrombolytic therapy for myocardial infarction would have been recognized much earlier. In addition, he also demonstrated that the advice given in textbooks and reviews articles did not correspond to the current available evidence when published.