Read the June 2023 issue of the DBMI Digest.
Read the June 2023 issue of the DBMI Digest.

A Letter from the Director of Graduate Studies: Update on the 2023 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP)

Dear DBMI,
Today, we wrap up Week 5 of the Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP), which means we are halfway through the program!
Putting together our VBISP cohort each year feels a bit like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle: making sure that students have the skills needed to be successful with research projects, ensuring mentors are a good fit for each student’s needs, trying to line up the support and resources needed for everyone to have a great experience...Once the program starts and we get to know each other, the final shape of the puzzle comes together and a beautiful picture emerges.
As an educator, having the opportunity to help VBISP students gain more knowledge about informatics and confidence in their skills as informatics researchers is a real highlight of the year. Our group of students this year is truly exceptional and are doing exciting research with their faculty mentors.
I’m excited that, as we do each year, we’re able to share profiles of VBISP students in the newsletter with you so you can get to know a bit about this great group. See some profiles of our students in the newsletter below!
Looking forward over the next few weeks, I hope many of you can join us in person or virtually when the students share their group design challenge projects and their individual research project presentations.

Important VBISP Dates to Remember:
  • Thursday July 21 from 1-3pm: VBISP Group Design Challenge Presentations
  • Monday July 31 from 1-3pm: VBISP Individual Research Project Presentations
  • Tuesday August 1 from 1-3pm: VBISP Individual Research Project Presentations
  • Wednesday August 2 from 1-3pm: VBISP Individual Research Project Presentations
— Kim Unertl, PhD, MS, ACHIP, FACMI, FAMIA
Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Director of Graduate Studies, DBMI
Pictured: Kim Unertl, Alex Becker, Leigh Anne Tang and Rischelle Jenkins with the 2023 VBISP students!

Table of Contents

  1. Update: AI Policy & Tolls at VUMC
  2. Admin Updates & Reminders
  3. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  4. Faculty News 
  5. Education
  6. DBMI Spotlight: 2023 VBISP Profiles, Pt. I 
  7. MyVUMC
  8. Funding Opportunities
  9. Upcoming Events

Update: AI Policy & Tools at VUMC

A Message from Peter Embí: 

I’ve had several additional questions from some of you regarding this matter, including concerns that we may no longer be allowed to do certain kinds of research involving AI tools. Many have the wrong impression about this, so I'm writing another message to hopefully clear up any confusion or misunderstandings about what’s allowed and not allowed regarding the use of generative AI tools for work and research at VUMC.
  • The announcement earlier this week made clear that VUMC policies prohibit the use of VUMC data with external/public-facing AI tools like those hosted or managed by third-parties like OpenAI.
  • In order to limit the inappropriate sharing of VUMC data with such external tools, sites that host such tools were blocked on the VUMC network. 
  • The use of such external tools by those who are doing work or research that DOES NOT involve the use of VUMC-derived data is not prohibited. The key is whether you are using VUMC-derived data or non-VUMC data. 
  • Recognizing that there is work and research many wish to conduct that does use VUMC data, we have been working diligently on new capabilities and tools.
  • The first of these is a VUMC-managed aiChat tool that is accessible on the VUMC network and affords much of the functionality available on the ChatGPT site accessible at
  • Other more advanced, VUMC-managed AI tools and capabilities are undergoing testing now and more information will be shared as soon as they are ready for access.
In summary, our ability to continue to innovate by using the latest technologies is crucial to the work we do in DBMI and across VUMC. We are still permitted to use such tools with non-VUMC, but we are not allowed to use VUMC-data with such external tools and we can no longer access them from our VUMC network. If you want to use such AI tools, whether with non-VUMC data or with some types of VUMC data, you now have a new capability what was not previously available (our internally managed aiChat tool).
  • I'd encourage you to use this VUMC-aiChat version of ChatGPT for your VUMC-related work rather than the one on because it will not share any data with OpenAI. We are working on more advanced capabilities available soon for use with more sensitive types of VUMC data. 
  • Again, more will follow about that ASAP, and you can read updates and find links here:
I hope this helps to clarify. Please let me know if you have any questions. 
Professor & Chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics
Professor of Medicine
Senior Vice-President for Research & Innovation

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
2525 West End Avenue, Suite 1475
Nashville, TN 37203

For scheduling requests, please contact my assistant, Ms. Jodi Dedeyan, at:

Admin Updates & Reminders

Srushti Gangireddy Welcomes Baby Girl!

Congratulations to Srushti Gangireddy, Application Developer in DBMI, who gave birth to a baby girl! Baby “Swara” was born on June 19, 2023, at 3:40 am. Send your congratulatory messages to!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

VUMC Symposium Offers New Ways to Overcome Health Disparities

Ideas for addressing the disproportionate impact of cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal diseases on disadvantaged populations were shared June 9 during a diversity symposium at VUMC.
Hosted in partnership with Meharry Medical College, the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Gastrointestinal Specialized Program of Research Excellence and the Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center, the symposium offered innovative approaches for overcoming intractable health challenges. Ashley Spann, an advanced fellow in hepatology and soon-to-be faculty member in DBMI, discussed informatics-based innovations in the care of chronic liver disease. Read more here!

Faculty News

Peter Embí to Help Steer National AI Code of Conduct initiative

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is launching a three-year initiative convening health, technology, research and bioethics leaders to produce a code of conduct for the development and use of artificial intelligence in health, medical care and health research.
Among members of the project’s 21-member steering committee is Peter Embí, Professor and chair of Biomedical Informatics and Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation at VUMC. Read more here!

Paul Harris Named Vice President for Research Informatics

Paul Harris, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics and Director of the Office of Clinical Research Informatics in the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), has been appointed to a new role as Vice President for Research Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
Harris will report to Peter Embí, Professor and Chair of Biomedical Informatics and Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation at VUMC. Read more in the VUMC Reporter!


DBMI at the NLM T15 Conference

Our Vice Chair for Educational Affairs Jessica Ancker recently attended the annual NLM's T15 Training Meeting—hosted at Stanford University this year! Pictured: Jessica with our PhD students & postdocs!

VBISP 2023 Student Picnic

This year's Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) began on May 30. This summer, we welcomed 15 VBISP students to DBMI, including three high school students11 undergraduate students, and one graduate student
On Wednesday, June 28, 2023, Kim Unertl and Rischelle Jenkins hosted a picnic for the VBISP students! We enjoyed lively discussions and local food from Monell's! 

Chris Longhurst & Melissa Marshall Host Special DBMI Seminars

This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Christopher Longhurst, CMO/CDO of UC San Diego Health, who presented an impactful talk on “Building a Highly Reliable Learning Health System”. He discussed topics like benefits of AI, ChatGPT, COVID-19 AI research & more. Thanks to Adam Wright for hosting him!
We also welcomed Melissa Marshall, science communication expert from Present Your Science, who held a training session for our faculty, trainees and students on how to improve their scientific presentations! Shoutout to the brave participants Kim Unertl, Lina Sulieman, Alex Becker, Amanda Mixon, Wei-Qi Wei and more for allowing us to review your presentations using Melissa's teachings! 

CQS Summer Institute: Intro to the All of Us Program

DBMI, VUMC Biostatistics, and All of Us Research are hosting an in-person short course from July 17-21, 2023, at 2525 West End Avenue. Researchers will get an introduction to the Researcher Workbench, how to identify & extract variables and more. Details here.

DBMI Spotlight: VBISP Students

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!  
This summer, total of 15 students are participating in our 2023 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP), including three high school students11 undergraduate students, and one graduate student! See a few of their profiles below: 

Ndidiamaka Obi (she/her)
What school will you go to in Fall 2023? 
Meharry Medical College
What do you plan on studying?
M.S. in Biomedical Data Science
MentorZhijun Yin
Why did you apply to VBISP?
A lot of my previous experiences were in the hard sciences/wet lab, so I am now doing a career shift that is more into computational work in public health. I felt like VBISP could provide me with a foundation to better understand the career opportunities I could have.
What are your research interests and career goals?
For now, I just would like to be a data scientist. I could see myself working in the healthcare sector, but I am still feeling out what interests me. 
What's a fun fact about you?
I like to cook!

Alex York (he/him)
What school will you go to in Fall 2023?
MLK Magnet
MentorAlvin Jeffery
Why did you apply to VBISP?
I want to get experience in the research field.
What are your research interests and career goals?
I'm interested in Machine Learning and want to optimize the current technology.

What's a fun fact about you?
My cat is the love of my life!

Suhas Gangadari (he/him)
What school will you go to in Fall 2023? 
University of Virginia 
What do you plan on studying?
Neuroscience and Statistics
MentorsLina Sulieman and Hasan Siddiqi
Why did you apply to VBISP?
I'm a pre-med student who also has a strong interest in statistics and data science. I was always looking for ways to combine my two interests and felt that this internship was the perfect way to explore my career goal of becoming a doctor while gaining a strong background in data science.
What are your research interests and career goals?
I'm really interested in looking at trends in clinical data and using this data to predict disease outcomes or potentially investigate treatments. Regarding career goals, my ultimate aspiration is to attend medical school and become a doctor. 
What's a fun fact about you?
I really like to sketch, listen to music, and play basketball.

Samaya Badrieh (she/her)
What school will you go to in Fall 2023? 
University of Washington, Seattle
What do you plan on studying?
Informatics (Biomedical track)
MentorJamie Robinson
Why did you apply to VBISP?
I wanted to experience a new campus and try out Nashville! Between the academics and the culture, I feel as though this would be a totally amazing place to go to grad school.
What are your research interests and career goals?
I'm most interested in translational bioinformatics and precision medicine. I generally just enjoy making clinically useful analytical tools, and at some point, I hope to also dabble in optimizing interfaces where clinicians are the end-users. Currently looking at MD paired with another research-flavored academic goal (masters, PhD, etc.).
What's a fun fact about you?
I love going to metal/rock/alternative music concerts! This year I saw Static-X and I'm hoping to see Mudvayne and Tool in Autumn. The band at the top of my concert bucket list is Gojira!

Kevin Guo (he/him)
What school will you go to in Fall 2023? 
University of Southern California
What do you plan on studying?
Computer Science and Information Sciences
MentorBrad Malin
Why did you apply to VBISP?
I applied to VBISP to explore the applications of computer science and machine learning within the healthcare field.
What are your research interests and career goals?
My goal is to attend graduate school, earn a PhD and become a college professor.
What's a fun fact about you?
I enjoy learning new instruments and sports in my free time.

VIDEO: Dr. Balser Provides Important Update on VUMC's Financial Performance

As the fiscal year draws to a close, Dr. Jeff Balser discusses the progress made toward reducing VUMC’s operating costs while outlining financial challenges and opportunities in the year ahead. Watch here.

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
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

Update Your DBMI Bio Page

REMINDER: Please review your DBMI bio page and notify us of any changes. Updates can include:
  • New headshot
  • Updated degrees, professional titles
  • Updated bio information
  • Adding Google Scholar, PubMed, LinkedIn URLs
Email Mia Garchitorena ( and Wil Comstock (

Upcoming Events

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