Read the October issue of the DBMI Digest.
Read the October issue of the DBMI Digest.

A Letter from the Chair

Dear DBMI family,
As we come to the conclusion of another incredibly productive month, I’m very happy to write this introduction for our monthly DBMI Digest.
As you’ve seen in our ongoing communications via weekly emails, social media posts, and other posts, so many in our DBMI family continue to excel and make great strides across science, teaching and practice.
Celebrating those accomplishments is important, and I’m excited that we are doing that again in this Digest, such as with the recognition of recent promotions like those of Dr. Martin Were (see below)!
I’m also very excited that many of us are starting to attend in-person meetings again, and that very soon we will be convening for our annual AMIA Symposium in Washington, DC. We will, as always, have a strong presence at our premier meeting for informatics professionals, and this will be another banner year.
As we head into the Halloween weekend, I hope you all get to enjoy the crisp weather and have some fun. Now, please enjoy the other informative parts of this month’s Digest!
Professor & Chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics; Professor of Medicine; Senior Vice-President for Research & Innovation at VUMC

Table of Contents

  1. COVID-19 Updates
  2. HR Reminders
  3. Department Announcements
  4. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  5. A Message from Trent Rosenbloom: Faculty Promotion & Tenure
  6. Faculty News
  7. Education
  8. DBMI Spotlight: Eric Kerchberger
  9. Funding Opportunities
  10. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

COVID-19 Updates

As a reminder, employees are required to receive the bivalent COVID-19 booster by January 15, 2023
We encourage you to remain cautious as COVID-19 is still circulating in our community.
Follow VUMC’s COVID-19 safety protocols, and do the following if you are exposed:
If you have any other questions or concerns, please review the VUMC COVID-19 Information Page.
Remember to get your flu vaccine by December 1, 2022. Have questions about how to submit documentation? See this helpful Teams post from Laurie Novak

HR Reminders

DBMI Staff Award Nominations Due NOV. 1!

Everyone is invited to nominate staff for the DBMI Administrative Excellence Award and/or the DBMI Research Staff Excellence Award, which will be awarded this fall. Please refer to the email that Elizabeth Brown sent on Oct. 19 and send your electronic nomination(s) to elizabeth.a.brown@vumc.orgNominations are open through Thursday, Nov. 1. 

Over the past three years, the administrative award recipients have been:
  • Elise Russo
  • Steve Johnson (no longer with the department)
  • Terri DeMumbrum
The research staff award recipients have been:
  • Dax Westerman
  • Liz Hanchrow (no longer with the department)
  • John Still 
Unfortunately, per the guidelines, these six individuals will not be eligible for the award this year. Elise and Dax, as 2021 award recipients, will sit on their respective selection committee, to assist in determining the award recipient this year.  

Go for the Gold Deadline: October 31

We're in the home stretch of Go for the Gold; deadline is October 31st. Complete each step and earn rewards up to $240 per year, if paying for Vanderbilt Health Plan benefits in 2023. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

WATCH VUMC DEI Chat Room Series: "Where Do We Go From Here? The Racial Equity Plan in Context"

The VUMC Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted two Chat Room series to discuss how you can be part of dismantling racism at VUMC and how you can implement the Racial Equity Plan in your own department. Recordings of the sessions are available online
  • Part I breaks down the 8 thematic areas which characterizes the racial equity plan. Watch here.
  • Part II opens the opportunity to engage clarifying questions pertaining to the Racial Equity Plan. Watch here.

DBMI's Joyce Harris Joined Panel for Strategy Share 2022: "Overcoming Resistance & Sustaining Change"

Joyce Harris, Manager, Data Analysis in DBMI, and two other panelists, who are all members of our Antiracism Training Community of Practice, discussed their paths to social justice work and offered suggestions on what others can do in their own lives to overcome resistance and sustain change for VUMC's 2022 Strategy Share event on October 26. 

A Message from the Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs: Faculty Promotion & Tenure

Hi everyone, 
Last week at our monthly DBMI Faculty Meeting, I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to y’all about how the School of Medicine considers readiness for faculty promotion and tenure, and how that might vary based on which academic track you are on. It has been a bit of time since I’ve had a chance to discuss this with the wider department. This is an important topic.
While most of us are focused on our work and our science, per se, it is nice to know what it takes to be recognized for the impact our work and services. Further, promotion and tenure operate on the principle that a rising tide lifts all ships. That is, when any one of us is successful, that both inspires and very directly helps others as they develop their own path. 
The biggest challenge for us in biomedical informatics is that there is no single formula for promotion, no single guaranteed set of activities we need to complete. Rather, our diversity allows for numerous different paths towards promotion. That is our great strength. The central principle, however, remains the same as those in other departments: promotion is based on recognition and the impact each of our work has. From my perspective, it’s always exciting to see your successes.
I understand many of you in our faculty group did not make it to the discussion last week. Please know that I am always happy to discuss the general principles and the specifics to each and every one of your individual paths. Email me anytime at and we can talk in detail.
 S. Trent Rosenbloom, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA
Professor & Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs, Biomedical Informatics; Director, Clinical Effectiveness Research for VHAN; Director, My Health at Vanderbilt; Associate Directo, Medical Innovators Development Program; Professor, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics & Department of Nursing

Faculty News

Martin Were Appointed Professor in DBMI

Martin Were was recently promoted from Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics to full Professor of Biomedical Informatics, with tenure, on the physician investigator track in DBMI, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, effective October 20, 2022.
Send him a congratulatory message by emailing him at!

Toufeeq Ahmed Received AAMC's 2022 MedBiquitous Caped Crusader Award 

Toufeeq Ahmed was named recipient of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) MedBiquitous 2022 Caped Crusader Award! The MedBiquitous Caped Crusader award recognizes and celebrates community members who facilitate and participate in the most presentations at the annual meeting.
From left: Toufeeq Ahmed, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Julie Youm, University of Irvine, Office of Medical Education; Helen Macfarlane, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Irina Russell, Stanford University School of Medicine; and Pauline Becker, Stanford University School of Medicine. Not pictured: Gia DiGiacobbe, Kaiser Permanente, Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.

Travis Osterman Appointed Chair of mCODE Executive Committee

Travis Osterman was appointed Chair of the executive committee for the Minimal Common Data Elements (mCODE) initiative. 
The mCODE initiative serves as an internationally recognized standard for describing patients with cancer across the cancer care continuum. It is an interoperable data layer that can be applied to electronic health records (EHR) using the fast health care interoperability resources (FHIR) standard to provide EHR gained consensus among national data standards groups.

“mCODE is an incredibly important project to the oncology community. We have over 55 implements across multiple countries and adoption continues to grow. I am humbled and honored to take this critical leadership position,” said Osterman. Read more in the VUMC Reporter.

Jessica Ancker Joined PCORI Panel Discussion on the Equitable Use of Telehealth

Jessica Ancker gave an invited talk to the 2022 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Annual Meeting on the potential use of telehealth to expand access to care and improve healthcare outcomes, particularly among underserved populations.

Laurie Novak, Gretchen Purcell Jackson, IBM Research Featured in Health IT Analytics 

research report published in Academic Medicine outlines artificial intelligence (AI)-related clinical competencies for healthcare professionals in an effort to address practical and ethical concerns raised by the growing interest in and adoption of these tools in clinical settings. 
Authors of the study from VUMC include Laurie Novak, Bonnie Miller, Regina Russell, Kim Garvey, Gretchen Jackson, and Don Moore. Read more in the VUMC Reporter.

Thomas Reese Published Study on Drug-Drug Interactions 

Thomas Reese published an article in JMIR Formative Research titled "Shared Decision-Making for Drug-Drug Interactions: Formative Evaluation of an Anticoagulant Drug Interaction". Click to read more

Cathy Ivory, Patty Sengstack, Brenda Kulhanek, Kelly Aldrich, Alvin Jeffery Attend Nursing Gatherings

DBMI nurse informaticists Cathy Ivory, Patty Sengstack, Brenda Kulhanek, Kelly Aldrich, and Alvin Jeffery attended recent gatherings for the 2022 American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Health Policy Conference to celebrate AAN Fellows and nursing accomplishments/innovations. Alvin Jeffery and Kelly Aldrich also attended the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research gala. Alvin was able to meet other Betty Irene Moore Nurse Fellows!

Cathy Ivory (left) was also recognized for her position as Past-President of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)!

More News:

  • Peter Embí and members of Indiana University and Regenstrief Institute, Inc. published an article titled "What Can We Learn about SARS-CoV-2 Prevalence from Testing and Hospital Data?" in The Review of Economics and Statistics. Click to read more.
  • Peter Embí, Paul Harris and team published an article in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science titled "Selecting EHR-driven recruitment strategies: An evidence-based decision guide". Click to read more.
  • Allison McCoy, Adam Wright and team published a paper in Applied Clinical Informatics titled "Real-Time User Feedback to Support Clinical Decision Support System Improvement". Click to read more
  • Lisa Bastarache, Jonathan Mosley and team published a study in BMC Nephrology Oncology titled "Limited clinical utility for GWAS or polygenic risk score for postoperative acute kidney injury in non-cardiac surgery in European-ancestry patients". Click to read more.
  • Cosmin "Adi" Bejan published an article in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics titled “Radiation Therapy and Subsequent Clonal Hematopoiesis: An Analysis of a Biorepository of 89,782 Patients". Click to read more.
  • Wei-Qi Wei presented a poster at the 2022 Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) Symposium titled "Representing and Utilizing Clinical Textual Data for Real World Studies". Click to read more.


VUMC DBMI Virtual Open House on Nov. 2

Multiple biomedical informatics training programs will be holding a series of collaborative webinars for students, trainees, and mid-career clinicians who are interested in AI, computerized clinical decision support, imaging informatics, pandemic tracking and prediction, predictive modeling and consumer health informatics. 
Kim Unertl and team will be hosting Vanderbilt's open house on November 2 at 4:00 pm CT/ 5:00 pm ET/ 2:00 pm PT

DBMI Students Visit Gentry Farm

The DBMI students organized a trip to Gentry Farm in Franklin recently. Kudos to Social Chair Hannah Slater for organizing!
Pictured L-R in the photo: Julie Nguyen, Hannah Slater, Monika Grabowska, Victor Borza, KJ Krause, Uday Suresh, Marco Barbero Mota.

Kim Unertl & VBISP's Kassandra Jutis Learn about Advocacy for Undergrad Research

Kim Unertl was in Washington, DC recently with Kassandra Jutis, 2022 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) intern, for the Council on Undergrad Research Students Transforming through Research program to learn about advocacy for undergraduate research!

West End Neighborhood Halloween Fest TONIGHT, Oct. 28!

Vanderbilt's Student Engagement & Leadership and Vanderbilt Athletics are excited to reintroduce the West End Neighborhood Halloween Festival!
The West End Neighborhood will be open as a safe place for families to trick-or-treat and celebrate the season. Fraternities, sororities, student athletes and other student organizations are excited to welcome members of the community with fun Halloween activities and treats. Festive fun with a bouncy slide, student performance groups, music, and more will be provided! All children must be accompanied by an adult. More info here.
  • WHEN: October 28, 2022 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM CT
  • WHERE: West End Neighborhood (Kensington Place & Vanderbilt Place).Parking is available in the 25th Ave. Garage. 

DBMI Spotlight: V. Eric Kerchberger

Each month, we will feature one of our DBMI faculty, staff, students, trainees or alumni. If you or someone you know is new to the department, has an interesting backstory, or is making an impact at work or in their personal lives, email Mia Garchitorena at!  
Vern Eric Kerchberger, MD, is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics. 
He completed his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Yale University (May 2008), his medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine (May 2012), and then his internal medicine residency training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
In 2015, Eric relocated to Nashville to join Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Eric, who was a master's student in DBMI funded on the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Training Grant, recently completed his master's defense!
Project Title: "Temporal-informed phenotyping scans the medical phenome to identify new diagnoses after recovery from COVID-19" 
"It went great!" he says of his defense experience. "We were able to do a hybrid meeting so we had several people attend in-person as well as many more via Zoom. Having the Zoom-conference option was wonderful because my wife and my parents got to listen in to my talk." Read more about Eric below! 
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago.
When did you begin to become interested in medicine?
I have a lot of family members in medicine, and both my parents are physicians, so I was aware of medicine as a career path at a relatively early age. When I was younger, I was fascinated by how it seemed that medicine could provide the *right* answers to explain how things happened to people & their bodies. It is somewhat ironic in retrospect because now I am most excited by the areas of medicine where we DON'T know the right answer!
What are some favorite memories or impactful events that happened throughout your early career?
My internal medicine residency program was organized so that we rotated through the different services as "pods" of the same 4 people. Most of my favorite memories from my residency training involved hanging out with my podmates both at the hospital and outside of work. Even though we are now spread out across the US, we all remain good friends and still keep in touch with each other's lives.
Pictured above and below: Eric and his wife, Neha. 
What brought you to DBMI? What interests you about informatics?
I got interested in informatics after coming to Vanderbilt for my clinical fellowship. I had a research project trying to understand how common genetic variants could influence the risk of bad things happening to patients when they got sick enough to end up in the intensive care unit. The work I was doing ultimately snowballed (in a good way) such that it became clear that I needed more advanced research training to make a career out of that work. The research training opportunities at DBMI fit well with where my research was going so it was a natural fit for me to enroll in the MS program.
Please share the importance of your research/dissertation.
We wanted to understand what medical problems patients were developing after surviving COVID. Vanderbilt obviously has been collecting a lot of data on our COVID-19 patients in our EHR over the last ~3 years, but the high-throughput tools that we usually use for making inferences from EHR data like PheWAS were not set up to account for how patient's patient's medical problems might change over time. So, I worked on developing a method that allowed us to use PheWAS to assess which problems in patients' medical records were new since surviving COVID. Along with providing insight into what is happening to COVID survivors, I think this work can be extended to help us understand the potential long-term consequences of other common acute medical conditions such as pneumonia or sepsis, which are also associated with significant morbidity and disease burden among survivors.
The VUMC Reporter recently covered his research with Josh Peterson and Wei-Qi Wei. Read the story here!
What are some things you’re looking forward to working on now? 
I am working with Wei-Qi Wei on a project using data from the All of Us Program looking at risk factors for long COVID among survivors of infection. We are using some data sources that are really unique to AoU which I think will provide some interesting insights. I am also working on several projects related to precision medicine in critical care that I think will yield some very interesting results over the next few years. 
Tell us briefly about the work (research and/or clinical) you do in the Department of Medicine. Do you see patients regularly?
Yes. I am a practicing pulmonologist and intensivist, so I see patients every Friday morning in the Vanderbilt Lung Institute Clinic at One Hundred Oaks, and I attend in our medical ICU and the inpatient pulmonary consult service for 7-8 weeks per year.
Tell us about your wife, Neha. How and when did you meet and start dating?
I met Neha in New York City during my last year of residency. She grew up in northern New Jersey, went to NYU's Stern School of Business, then worked in the NYC financial markets, first at Bear Sterns and then at J.P. Morgan after Bear blew up during the 2008 financial crash. By the time we met, Neha had been living in the city for 12-13 years and was a VP in Mortage Backed Security sales at J.P. Morgan -- so she was clearly well above my league!
We met online through a "premier" dating website in NYC that has since folded: it is really interesting to reflect on how rapidly dating culture changed even over a few years from being "still kind of out there on the fringes" in ~2010 to "ubiquitous and nearly essential for single young adults in large cities" by ~2013-2014. The other fun story that I like to tell about how we met is that we started seriously dating 2 days before I was set to find out where I would match for fellowship. None of the NYC programs were high on my rank list, so that made for an interesting first-date discussion! Once I matched at Vanderbilt, we had about 6 months to figure things out before I had to move down to Nashville for a 3+ year committment! 
How did you navigate this new relationship after matching at Vanderbilt? 
After I came down to Nashville, we dated long-distance for most of my first fellowship year, but it was ultimately enough to convince Neha that there are, in fact, acceptable places to live west of the Hudson River! She was able to take a voluntary "reduction in force" severance near the end of my first year so she could move to Nashville for my second fellowship year.
Once Neha moved here, we kind of did everything backwards: we moved in together in July, bought a house together in October, then got engaged that December. She gave me an ultimatum that I needed to propose by the end of the year, so (naturally) I waited until December 29th to propose -- which is mountains of time relative to my usual MO 😂. Neha now works as a portfolio manager for the Tennessee Department of the Treasury. She manages ~$3.5 billion of Tennesse's pension fund for state employees and retirees. She is a total rock star and remains, as always, well above my league!
You and Neha had your second son, Michael Parks Sakaria, in November 2021. How is your family doing these days? What do you all like doing for fun? 
We are busy! Both of our boys (Varen, age ~2.5, and Parks, age ~11 months) are little roller-coasters. Parks especially as he is trying to learn to walk now so he just doesn't stop moving. My wife and I try to spend a lot of our weekends outside either at local parks or out in our yard as there's a lot of energy that needs to be dissipated. We also do Friday evening family outings to outdoor restaurants in our area for similar reasons.
Any advice to people, especially trainees and students, in DBMI? 
Make sure that you're having fun. Medicine (and especially academic medicine) can be challenging at times so make sure that you are getting satisfaction from what you're doing.
Pictured: Eric with his two sons.

Funding News & Opportunities

REMINDER: Contact Terri DeMumbrum When Considering a Grant Submission

All grant proposals require approval of the Office of Sponsored Programs prior to submission. Terri will review the opportunity announcement and prepare a submission timeline/checklist as well as help with the submission. Email her at
National Science Foundation (NSF) Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) — PROPOSALS ACCEPTED ANYTIME UNTIL APRIL 1, 2024. The S&CC program supports integrative research that addresses fundamental technological and social science dimensions of smart and connected communities and pilots solutions together with communities.This S&CC solicitation will support research projects in the following categories:
  • S&CC Integrative Research Grants (SCC-IRG) Tracks 1 and 2. Awards in this category will support fundamental integrative research that addresses technological and social science dimensions of smart and connected communities and pilots solutions together with communities. Track 1 proposals may request budgets ranging between $1,500,001 and $2,500,000, with durations of up to four years. Track 2 proposals may request budgets up to $1,500,000, with durations of up to three years.
  • S&CC Planning Grants (SCC-PG). Awards in this category are for capacity building to prepare project teams to propose future well-developed SCC-IRG proposals. Each of these awards will provide support for a period of one year and may be requested at a level not to exceed $150,000 for the total budget.
NIH Funding Opportunities & Notices. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers funding for many types of grants, contracts and even programs that help repay loans for researchers. To view current funding opportunities, visit here

Open Positions

Visit here to view current open positions throughout DBMI and its Centers. If your team has a job opening, please email Mia Garchitorena at

Upcoming Events

Visit here for more details on upcoming events in fall 2022 and previously recorded DBMI seminars.
Suggestions? Email