Welcome our new students!
Welcome our new students!

Welcome to VUMC DBMI
Fall Semester 2023!

Jessica Ancker, PhD, MPH, FACMI, Professor and Vice Chair for Educational Affairs
Hi everyone, 
This fall, we are delighted to welcome our new predoctoral, postdoctoral, and professional trainees. We are looking forward to the new energy brought by:
  • 3 PhD students 
  • 1 former MS student starting a PhD
  • 1 postdoctoral fellow starting an MS
  • 1 staff member starting an MS
  • 2 non-degree seeking postdocs on the T15 training grant
  • 2 Vanderbilt Genomic Medicine fellows
  • 6 MSACI students including 1 clinical informatics fellow
Also, we are welcoming a number of graduate students from other programs into our biomedical informatics classes. Students are coming to train with us from biostatistics, epidemiology, genetics, and other graduate programs. We welcome this opportunity to contribute to team science at Vanderbilt!
Seminars and Colloquium
The DBMI Seminar series has been renamed DBMI Grand Rounds. It will remain in the Wednesday 12:00 pm noon timeslot. Many speakers will be in-person on the 8th floor at 2525 West End Ave or in Light Hall. We will maintain the hybrid option for attendees who prefer to call in.
The DBMI Research Colloquium has moved to Mondays at 11:00 am. It will be held in Room 8110 of 2525 West End. Additional audience members will be able to participate using the Zoom link.
Workshop on K and Dissertation Awards
Our monthly Zoom workshop on developing grant proposals for K awards and dissertation awards resumes September 13. Grant writers may use these sessions to share their specific aims for group discussion and feedback. Any aspiring grant writers interested in learning more about the process should feel free to attend. Also, we are delighted to welcome any faculty member who has time to attend, to provide constructive grant feedback and help contribute to our trainees’ success. No preparation is needed – just show up and provide input. Please email Jessica Ancker for an invitation to the workshop and a sharing invitation for our departmental library of previous K and dissertation awards.
Thank you, and welcome to the 2023-2024 academic year!
— Jessica

Research & Educational Opportunities

At Vanderbilt, we have exciting research and educational opportunities in all the core domains of biomedical informatics, which include: Biomedical Data Science, Clinical Informatics, Translational Bioinformatics, Clinical Research Informatics, Consumer Health Informatics, People and Organizational Informatics, and Public Health Informatics. To learn more about faculty and courses in these domains, visit our DBMI Education site here!

If you have questions about any of Vanderbilt's educational programs in biomedical informatics, contact Rischelle Jenkins, Program Manager, at rischelle.jenkins@vanderbilt.edu

Table of Contents

  1. DBMI Honors & Accolades
  2. Fun Times in DBMI 
  3. A Message from Kim Unertl
  4. Trainee Wellness Resources
  5. VU COVID-19 Update
  6. MS/PhD Section
  7. Postdoc Section
  8. MS in Applied Clinial Informatics (MSACI) Section
  9. DBMI Contacts & Resources 
  10. Upcoming Events

DBMI Honors & Accolades

Congratulations to Peter Embí and Laurie Novak who were awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Moore Foundation! Working with collaborators from Duke AI Health, the University of Iowa, and the Coalition for Health AI (CHAI) network, the grant aims to support the creation and initial validation of standardized benchmarking tools to enable health systems to internally identify strengths and weaknesses for the development and deployment of AI technology.
Robert Carroll received a five year U24 award from the NGHRI for his project “AnVIL Clinical Environment for Innovation and Translation (ACE-IT)”. Bryan Steitz was awarded a five-year K01 grant from the National Institute on Aging for his project “Integrative Data Science Approach to Advance Care Coordination of ADRD by Primary Care Providers”. 
Sharon Davis and Michael Matheny published a commentary on the nuances of label leakage when defining candidate predictors and operationalizing prediction models in JAMIA.
Uday Suresh’s AMIA 2023 paper “Designing Support to Help Health Communication Professionals Convey Numbers Clearly to the Public – A Needs Assessment and Formative Usability Evaluation” was named a finalist for the Diana Forsythe Award!

Fun Times in DBMI!

Over the past year, the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) has had many opportunities to gather and celebrate one another—both in and outside of the workplace! See some pictures of our students hanging out at local Nashville spots and at nationwide meetings like the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Conference! 

AMIA 2023 Annual Symposium: Informatics Education

A Message from the Director of Graduate Studies 

Hi everyone,
Vanderbilt’s biomedical informatics educational programs have become well known for dissemination of research and insights related to informatics education. At this fall’s AMIA 2023 Symposium, our education research activities will be well represented at the Symposium and the AMIA Academic Forum LIEAF Conference, held concurrently with the Symposium.
Alex Becker will be presenting a poster at the Symposium on an evaluation project that we’ve been conducting for the last two years with the summer program. Michelle Gomez and Leigh Anne Tang also have key roles in this evaluation. 
Sharon Davis will be presenting a podium abstract at LIEAF about the effort she is leading with a subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee to gather faculty input and develop a plan for the next iteration of our first-year MS/PhD curriculum.
I will be presenting a podium abstract at the Symposium about the process we followed to discontinue use of the GRE and development of new approaches for graduate admissions evaluations. I will also be presenting a podium abstract at LIEAF about high school internships and the AMIA high school scholars program, and organized a panel with colleagues and students at Fisk and Meharry to discuss our NLM R25 collaboration. See you in New Orleans Nov. 11-15! — Kim
Kim Unertl, PhD, MS, ACHIP, FACMI, FAMIA, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies 

Trainee Wellness Resources

All trainees and faculty should be aware of the many resources and programs available at VU and VUMC to help support trainee wellness. Here is a snapshot of a few programs to be familiar with:
  • BRET has developed a helpful Mental Health Resource Map for graduate students, which we have also printed and posted around DBMI: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/bret/wp-content/uploads/sites/35/2023/07/BRET-RESOURCE-MAP-FA23-2.pdf
  • RC Stabile, the Associate Director of Trainee Well-Being in the BRET Office, is available for meetings on a range of topics, including assistance with navigating wellness resources. Trainees can schedule a meeting with RC here: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/bret/health_and_wellness/. He will also be presenting at one of our DBMI Research Colloquium sessions this fall.
  • The Graduate and Postdoc Academic Success (GPAS) program (https://gradschool.vanderbilt.edu/gpas/) provides support for trainees in reaching their academic goals. They offer workshops on a range of topics, including time management, goal setting, and procrastination and are also available for individual consults. Stacey Satchell, GPAS Director, will be presenting a session on “Managing Up” at DBMI Research Colloquium this fall.
I encourage trainees to explore these resources and identify tools that will be of most use to them in their academic and life journeys. I’m also always available for discussions or for help with connecting with any VU/VUMC resources. See other resources below:

Vanderbilt University COVID-19 Update

Currently, there are no COVID restrictions in place. The department will inform students if the policy changes. We note that sometimes in recent years, VU and VUMC have had slightly different COVID policies, and we’ll do our best to help students navigate those policies.
As always, in alignment with VU and VUMC policies, students and faculty are welcome to wear masks in our classroom spaces and offices.  

Master's/PhD Students

Please welcome our new MS and PhD students this semester. See below!

Matt Christensen, MD – MS Student

Matt received his MD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (May 2017). Matt is a Clinical Fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care at VUMC. He is pursuing a master's degree.

Chris Guardo – MS Student, Associate Statistical Analyst

Chris received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Statistics from Belmont University (May 2022). Chris is a part-time student pursuing a master's degre and is an Associate Statistical Analyst in Wei-Qi Wei's lab. 

Marco Barbero Mota – PhD Student

Marco was admitted as a master's student in Fall 2021 funded by a Fullbright scholarship. Marco is admitted as a PhD student for Fall 2023 with funding from Fundacion "la Caixa" of Barcelona, Spain. The fellowship award is administered by the "la Caixa" Program Office at Indiana University. Marco's mentor is Tom Lasko. 

Nick Jackson – PhD Student

Nick Jackson received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Florida (May 2023). Nick participated in the Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) as an intern (summer 2022). Nick is a PhD student funded by the National Library of Medicine.

Hyunjoon Lee, MS – PhD Student

Hyunjoon received his Master of Science in Data Science from Brown University (May 2020). Hyunjoon is a PhD student in Colin Walsh's lab. 

Drew Wilimitis – PhD Student

Drew received his Bachelor of Science in Computational and Applied Math from the University of Chicago (June 2018). Drew was a Statistical Analyst working with Colin Walsh. Drew is a PhD student funded by the National Library of Medicine. 

Postdoc Section 

VUMC DBMI hosts a vibrant community of postdoctoral trainees who conduct cutting-edge research and launch a career under the mentorship of an established faculty member. Yet it can also be a stressful experience as trainees transition to the relatively unstructured format of the postdoctoral fellowship and begin establishing their research career. At DBMI, we are committed to supporting our postdocs with access to the resources and assistance they need to be successful! Learn more about DBMI's postdoctoral research training opportunities here.

Katie Brown, PhD – T15 Non-Degree Postdoc

Katie received her PhD degree in Engineering (Computer Science) from Tennessee Technological University (July 2023). Katie is a non-degree postdoc funded from the National Library of Medicine.

Benjamin Collins, MD, MS, MA – T15 Non-Degree Postdoc

Benjamin Collins received his MD from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (May 2017). Benjamin was a postdoctoral fellow in Ethics, Legal and Social Issues of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare working with Ellen Clayton and Brad Malin. Benjamin is a non-degree postdoc funded by the National Library of Medicine. 

Vanderbilt Genomic Medicine (VGM) Training Program 

The Vanderbilt Genomic Medicine (VGM) Training Program, based in the Center for Precision Medicine (CPM) and led by Josh Peterson, Nancy Cox and Dan Roden, focuses on pharmacogenomics, precision phenotyping, medical informatics, and disease-based genomics. Please welcome our newest VGM fellows! See below:

Bassim El-Sabawi, MD

Bassim El-Sabawi is a VGM postdoctoral fellow and a cardiovascular medicine fellow at VUMC. He is originally from San Diego, CA. He completed his MD Training at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Medical Residency at Mayo Clinic (Rochester). Bassim's prior work has focused on optimizing outcomes of transcatheter interventions for valvular and structural heart diseases. He is now focused on identifying whether proteomic signatures of myocardial remodeling/dysfunction are present early in aortic stenosis before traditional clinical thresholds for intervention. If present, this may point to known/novel pathways contributing to heart failure in aortic stenosis patients and provide an early molecular barometer for clinical surveillance and personalized timing for aortic valve replacement.

Master's of Applied Clinical Informatics

(MSACI) Program

Scott Nelson, PharmD, MS, ACHIP, CPHIMS, FAMIA, Program Director for MSACI
Hi everyone!
I would like to extend a warm welcome to our newest class of MS-ACI students, we are so excited to have you join us and we are looking forward to a great year!
Our first-year students will be working on mastering the concepts and foundation of applied clinical informatics. The second-year students will be focused on applying those concepts with their capstone projects, with topics in machine learning, predictive modeling, clinical decision support, as well as interoperability and efficiency gains.

In some exciting news, the MS-ACI program was officially approved to transition to an online-only degree program, so be sure to reach out to our students virtually through email or Teams. The best way to predict the future is to build it!
Watch this Intro to MSACI video below and visit our VU website here! Check here for current student resources

DBMI Welcomes Fall 2023 MSACI Students

The leaders of the MSACI Program are pleased to welcome its newest class of students! See below:

Derek Baughman, MD

My Path to Clinical Informatics: pursuing Family Medicine provided broad insight into the underlying reasons for disillusionment with the US healthcare system. This furnished my interest in health policy opportunities early in residency, where serving in multiple state and national leadership positions within organized medicine developed my passion for health services research. As a visiting scholar at multiple institutes in Washington DC, I learned from esteemed national researchers in primary care and focused my publications on clinical quality measures in telemedicine. Mining large data sets provided me with expertise in value-based care, which fueled my desire to apply policy and research knowledge in federal healthcare operations. During my time at CMS’s Center for Innovations (CMMI), I was an integral member of multiple work groups designing the Making Care Primary (MCP)alternative payment model, where I shaped decisions on HEDIS measure selection, social risk payment, and details of care delivery. This experience changed my perspective on large-scale change in modern health care, where work across federal offices (ex: AHRQ, ONC, HRSA, etc.) highlighted our reliance on big data and influenced my decision to pursue clinical informatics.
Joys in Life: my three ladies: my wife Katie and our two young daughters (Brynlee and Brooklyn). Serving in church playing drums, home gym workouts while listening to audible, reading leadership books, golfing, and watching all the most fantastic sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies. We’re addicted to pizza in all forms (hierarchy: Detroit style > Chicago style > mom-and-pop shop pan style), Disney Resorts, and strong coffee (essential for chasing busy toddlers).
Today and Beyond: currently, I serve active duty with the USAF as the medical director of primary care at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, LA. I also help lead a pilot program at WellSpan Health, providing part-time telemedicine and asynchronous care. I greatly enjoy my relationships with researchers across the country and continue working on telehealth and value-based care projects. After obtaining ABPM certification, I hope to lead healthcare operations in a hybrid environment involving the federal, private, and research sectors. For now, I look forward to exploring my specific interests in clinical informatics during the MSACI program:
1. Billing model development that dynamically represents the comprehensiveness of value-based care. Leveraging medical knowledge, I plan to investigate clinical mapping to operationalize the concept which will likely include private and public payer spaces integrated with academia.

2. Improving national data integrity/interoperability. Leveraging research and policy experience in clinical quality performance data, this path will likely be paved via public service, involving agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (e.g., ONC and CMS).  

3. AI solutions in primary care. Leveraging professional networking within informatics, this interest involves multiple aspects of policy, research, and clinical operations. I aspire to help lead healthcare’s integration of AI and telehealth to meet the growing patient access demand.

Ali Duarte-Garcia, MD, MSc

I am a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I am originally from Mexico. I completed my residency in internal medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and served as the Chief Medical Resident. Then completed my fellowship in rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic.
My clinical focus revolves around the evaluation and coordination of care for patients facing treatment-refractory systemic autoimmune diseases, with a particular emphasis on systemic lupus erythematosus.
My research focus is on health services and epidemiologic research. My interests in informatics include optimizing and implementing electronic phenotyping techniques for systemic autoimmune diseases, enabling accurate diagnostics and personalized treatment strategies. Additionally, I am actively involved in streamlining clinical workflows for patients with complex and serious illnesses, ensuring efficient and effective care delivery.

Jake Franklin, MD

I am grateful and excited l get to join the DBMI community as the incoming clinical informatics fellow. One of my earliest professional experiences in medicine was at Intermountain Healthcare working in Health IT, so after spending the last several years training clinically while completing my medical residency in Psychiatry, I am energized to further integrate these experiences while training at DBMI. Additionally, it appears my alma mater, the Utah Utes are well represented within both DBMI and Nashville. 
Personally, I am a musician (although this has been put on the back burner for a while) and am looking forward to reconnecting with that passion while in Nashville. My wife and I call Montana home but have lived coast to coast through school and training, we have two sweet and spunky kids, and are excited for the potential that the DBMI community and larger Nashville metro present in terms of friendship and connection.
Professionally, the space where medicine and technology converge has always been my favorite place. Following my work at Intermountain’s Transformation Lab where I was principally engaged in Tele-health delivery and 3D prototyping, and then completing an internship for IBM business partner Sirius Computer Solutions, I helped launch an ‘Innovations in Clinical Care’ tract at University of Nebraska’s medical school where I interned at that their tech transfer office, continued work in 3D printing, E-learning development, and assisted on various other projects. Having spent the last four years at the University of Michigan, growing as a clinician and budding informatician, I plan to spend my time at DBMI developing as both an analyst and a leader. The disconnect between what is possible with tech and data at both a population and individual level and what actually happens in the clinic, especially in psychiatry, motivates me to assist in advancing personalized precision medicine and community health.

Scott Gregory, MD, MBA

I am joining you from Salina, Kansas. I grew up in a small town in Kansas called Herington. I attended the United States Military Academy for undergraduate studies where I completed a B.S. in Engineering Management. I then commissioned as an infantry officer in the army and served for six years gaining a variety of experiences: Ranger school, deployment to Afghanistan, company command, etc. Upon leaving active duty I joined the reserves and entered medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Salina. After finishing there, I went on to complete anatomic and clinical pathology residency at the University of Florida; where I also earned my M.B.A. in the weekend professional program. Currently, I am a staff pathologist at a private laboratory and I teach some medical student classes on the side.
It is my hope that the training provided by Vanderbilt’s program will allow me to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs in both my private laboratory and the multitude of local hospitals that I am affiliated with. After proof of concept, I would like to work with the local medical school campus (University of Kansas School of Medicine – Salina) to incorporate public health, preventive medicine, and informatics training and eventually spearhead the creation of a preventive medicine residency program in conjunction with the existing family medicine program in town (which is focused on providing health care to rural communities). 
Personally, I am a devout Catholic, have been married for 15 years to my high school sweetheart, and I have three children (b,g,b). My interests and hobbies include avid reader (fiction and non), falconry, weightlifting, and games (everything: sports, card games, board games, video games…. I like to play). I look forward to working with and learning from everyone.

Jeremy Hutchinson, Pharm D

I am currently the pharmacist in charge of infusion services for Pacific Medical Center.  I graduated from Nova Southeastern University in West Palm Beach, Florida and moved to Hawai’i after graduation as a retail pharmacist.  I lived in Hawai’i for 4 years and then moved to Seattle.  While in Seattle I was offered a position at the University of Miami’s Cancer Center and stayed there for 2 years and missed Seattle enough to move back and start a role as a distribution pharmacist for Seattle Children's Hospital.  Finding that I prefer oncology to pediatrics, I then pursued my current position. 
I was first exposed to Epic and hospital-based workflow was at UM and was immediately interested in learning the system and gaining the opportunity to certify in Willow Inpatient and Willow Beacon.  That opportunity came up and am currently working on my Willow Inpatient and will follow with Beacon afterwards.  I enjoy pharmacy workflow improvements to decrease pharmacy to floor wait times and increase in safety.  My expertise is focused on the pharmacy side of operations and optimization of order entry for pharmacists and physicians.  I am looking to expand my knowledge in all aspects of clinical informatics and move on to an analyst position. 
In my personal time I mainly boulder indoors and outdoors depending on the weather and injuries.  Other outdoor activities are hiking and cycling in the many areas Washington has to offer.  When not outdoors, my wife and I live in downtown Seattle and delight in trying all the restaurants and cafes the are available to us. 

Layth Qassem, PharmD

I am a PharmD graduate currently expanding my education in the intersection of health and technology, specifically in the field of AI applications in healthcare. My goal is to intricately understand the nuances of clinical settings and machine learning, and to innovate in a way that ultimately results in better patient outcomes. I chose to pursue my postdoctoral master’s degree in Applied Clinical Informatics at Vanderbilt due to the institution's openness and acceptance of my goals. Vanderbilt's environment allows me to expand my knowledge and delve deeper into my interests. I have already started working on a research project with a faculty member, focusing on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). This work is promising as it can potentially speed up the process of determining the best treatment strategy for a patient, leading to better patient outcomes and helping in the fight against AMR.
On a personal note, I enjoy running and have a background in carpentry work, ranging from electrical and plumbing to finished carpentry. I find enjoyment in understanding and appreciating the work and services people do. It humbles me to realize that tasks that appear simple are often complex and require vast knowledge and experience. This understanding gives me an appreciation for all different areas of practice.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with Scott and the Vanderbilt team. I plan to learn as much as I can from him, and the wealth of knowledge Vanderbilt has to offer. I have never been part of a school so accepting and open before, and it's genuinely exciting to embark on this journey.
In terms of long-term goals, I aspire to start a pharmaceutical company whose priority is patient care first and profit second. I envision a company that partners with academic centers worldwide, working on treatment options that may not be the most profitable but are imperative for the future. This is why my current research is focused on antimicrobial stewardship.
I look forward to the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the Vanderbilt community.

Masters in Applied Clinical Informatics Program Received HIMSS Approved Education Partner (AEP) Certification

In March 2021, Vanderbilt’s MSACI program was named an Approved Education Partner (AEP) by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Vanderbilt’s Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) and the School of Nursing also received HIMSS AEP approval.

Scott Nelson, PharmD, MS, CPHIMS, FAMIA, Program Director for MSACI, led the approval. "We created MSACI out of nothing about five years ago, so this is an exciting validation," said Dr. Nelson. “The AEP designation shows that we are meeting the training needs of the growing health informatics profession. This will provide our program with more exposure to future students and provide those students with confidence that the education provided will prepare for an informatics career.” Read more in the VUMC Reporter here

DBMI Contacts & Resources

Do you need assistance with something but don't know who to contact? See our list of incredible DBMI administrative staff below and send them an email!

Rischelle Jenkins — MS/PhD Program Manager

Claudia McCarn, MBA — MSACI Program Manager

Cynthia Williams — VGM Program Manager 

  • Contact Cynthia for matters related to the Vanderbilt Genomic Medicine (VGM) Training Program and the Center for Precision Medicine (CPM). She also assists Dr. Josh Peterson (Director of CPM).
  • Email: cynthia.c.williams@vumc.org   
  • https://www.vumc.org/dbmi/person/cynthia-williams     

Jennifer Martellotti — HR Program Manager

Mia Garchitorena, MA — Senior Communications Specialist

  • Contact Mia for communications and marketing needs, including bio changes on the DBMI website, social media advice/assistance, job postings, graphics, PowerPoint presentations and more. 
  • If you have an interesting personal backstory or recent accomplishment, or a study you recently published, email Mia!
  • Email: mia.garchitorena@vumc.org
  • https://www.vumc.org/dbmi/person/mia-garchitorena-ma

Wil Comstock — Lead Administrative Assistant

Barbara Payne — Lead Administrative Assistant

Terri DeMumbrum — Grants Manager

Open Positions

Visit here to view current open positions throughout DBMI and its Centers. If your team has an job opening, please email Mia Garchitorena at mia.garchitorena@vumc.org.

Upcoming Events

Visit here for more details on the upcoming DBMI events in September 2023.
Suggestions? Email dbmicomms@vumc.org.