A Letter from the Chair — COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement, Masking Guidance, DBMI Retreat Update & More

Hi everyone, 
It was a long and painful 2020 for many of us. In addition to COVID-19 in March, there were tornados, floods, bombings, racial inequities and the inability to see and comfort friends and family for the most part.  
2021 brought us some hope, despite the insurrection, with the slowing of the spread of the coronavirus thanks to the vaccine, the emergence of outdoor seating at our favorite bars/restaurants and the promise of learners returning to the classroom/campus. Rob and I had a lovely meal with Teresa, Ron and Kim. Trent showed me some of the best walks in the Nashville Park system. We were BACK!
Then there was Delta variant, and a pandemic among the unprotected, and we were forced to go backward to save unprotected loved ones and colleagues.

COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement & Masking Guidance

Our hospital is now handling surges in COVID cases among patient and employee populations. Because of this, VUMC announced that all employees must be fully vaccinated by September 30. This means that if you have not yet received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you should register to receive your first dose of the vaccine by no later September 1. VUMC continues to provide vaccines to employees. Click here to see five ways you can get your COVID-19 vaccine at VUMC or a location near you.
In addition, masking is again required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in all public indoor areas of VUMC, including non-clinical locations and corridors.
Like many of you, I’ve missed my friends in DBMI, and I’ve missed impromptu meetings with friends. I want to go back to having a choice about masks, and I’ve personally enjoyed coming back to the office. But we have to walk before we can run...
I encourage you all to continue working where you feel safest. If you go into the office, please remember to wear your mask and maintain six-feet distance between you and others, until at least two weeks after September 30th.
Let’s also remember that COVID-19 is impacting younger unvaccinated children, and as a pediatrician and father, I am concerned for kids of all ages. This VUMC Reporter article states that family pediatricians should be the first line of defense for COVID concerns. Please read the article if you need advice.

DBMI Retreat Update

I’ve had to make the difficult decision to move what was shaping up to be an engaging, informative and hybrid mode retreat back to a full-virtual mode. I know that many of you were looking forward to gathering in-person (and I was certainly hoping to get a picture with you!), but I assure you that the DBMI Retreat Planning Committee has some fun, virtual activities in store! Be on the look out for additional messaging from the Committee as the retreat date (August 31 & September 1) approaches.

Looking Ahead

On a brighter note, we have much to look forward to. Although I will be stepping down, becoming an adjunct professor, and moving to the University of Pennsylvania in November, I’ve had a chance to see the short list of chair finalists. Many of you met Peter Embi, who is one of them. I feel extremely positive about the future of DBMI and of our culture, and that gives me joy.
And in September, we are welcoming our newest class of bright students and future informaticians. Look out for an education-focused special edition of the DBMI Digest on September 1.
In the meantime, please check the VUMC COVID website regularly for the latest updates and watch this COVID-19 guidance video from Dr. Balser.
Take care and be safe! — Kevin 

Table of Contents

  1. Department News & Announcements
  2. Faculty News
  3. Educational Updates
  4. DBMI Spotlight: Michelle Gomez & Alex Becker
  5. MyVUMC
  6. Funding Opporunities 
  7. HR Updates
  8. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

Department News & Announcements

DBMI Retreat Now Fully Virtual — August 31 & September 1

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has led VUMC leadership to recommend limiting large in-person gatherings whenever possible. Therefore, we have decided (with heavy hearts) to change the retreat from a hybrid to a full virtual event. We know that many of you were looking forward to an in-person event, but we have assurances that the funds we save from not having a venue or a caterer will be saved for a future gathering.
We still have an engaging program planned for August 31-September 1, so please keep those times blocked off on your calendar. We will be sending out more details later this week and over the upcoming weeks. Thank you all for your flexibility during this ever evolving situation.
— DBMI Retreat Planning Committee

Intro to eStar Workshop — September 14

The Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center (VCLIC) is back with its first workshop of this academic year! Please join us on Tuesday, September 14th to learn about Epic!
This workshop will be co-led by Allison McCoy, PhD, FAMIA, and Aileen Wright, MD, MS. The first half of the course will focus on clinical workflows (led by Dr. Wright), and the second half will focus on CDS and build capabilities in Epic (and will be led by Dr. McCoy). Participants are welcome to join for either half of the session or the entire session, and we are determining the possibility for in-person attendance (you will be able to indicate all of these selections on the sign up form, linked below). We hope you can join us!

If you have questions, please email Elise Russo at elise.russo@vumc.org or complete this REDCap form to sign up.

HIMSS 2021

DBMI Faculty Present at the 2021 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference & Exhibition

Yaa Kumah-Crystal, MD, MPH, MS, Assistant Professor in DBMI and Pediatric Endocrinology, participated in a pre-HIMSS interview with Heath Tech Magazine to discuss her experience using natural language processing (NLP) in health care and how NLP could be a game-changer for EHR workflows. Click to read more
Dr. Kumah-Crystal was also a speaker as one of the “CMIO X.0 The Next Generation of Health IT Leaders” (Pictured above: Dr. Kumah-Crystal (second from left)). Click to read more
Adam Wright, PhD, FACMI, FAMIA, FIAHSI, Director of the VCLIC and Professor in DBMI, discussed the value of a comprehensive list of a patient's active medical conditions, methods on improving the list's accuracy & how that list can prevent burnout. Click to read more. (Pictured above, left: Dr. Wright).
Stuart Weinberg, MD, FAAP, FAMIA, Associate Professor in DBMI and Pediatrics, discussed the Immunization Integration Program Collaborative, issues with immunization interoperability and registries and more. Click to read more. (Pictured above, right: Dr. Weinberg).

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

2021 Vanderbilt Radiology DEI Inclusion Week — Recordings Available

If you missed the 2021 Vanderbilt Radiology DEI Inclusion Week, you can view the recordings of the presentations here.

2021 Southern LGBTQ Health Symposium — August 12 to September 16

The 2021 Southern LGBTQ Health Symposium by Vanderbilt Osher Center for Integrative Medicine consists of five online presentations, each taking place on Thursdays at 12:00 pm CT on Zoom. Register now! Be sure to follow VUMC LGBTQ Health on Twitter @LGBTQ_Health!

October 30 – November 3, 2021

As a reminder, AMIA 2021 will convene in-person in San Diego this year. AMIA will also offer a live streaming track to enable virtual attendance. Registration is open. See here for more info. Please also read AMIA 2021's updated public health and safety policy here.
Below are some other AMIA news: 
  • Call for Participation for AMIA 2022 Informatics Summit: Help advance the science of informatics. Submit your state-of-the-art informatics approaches, theories, and methods relevant to translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, and health data science. Deadline: August 19. AMIA 2022 Informatics Summit takes place March 21-24, 2022. See here for more info.
  • Do you have a graduate degree in health informatics or a related field and qualifying health informatics experience? You may be eligible for AHIC, the AMIA Health Informatics Certification. Deadline: September 20. See here for more info

Faculty News

25x5 Symposium: Executive Summary Now Available

Following an amazing collaboration in early 2021, led by experts at Columbia University's Department of Biomedical Informatics, VUMC, AMIA and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the Clinical Documentation Burden Reduction Executive Summary from the 25x5 Symposium is now available
The 25x5 Symposium aims to reduce documentation burden among U.S. clinicians to 25% of its current level by 2025. 
Trent Rosenbloom, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA, Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs in DBMI, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Nursing, is Co-Chair of the 25x5 Symposium Steering Committee.
Be sure to follow the #25x5 hashtag on Twitter for updates!

For More Precise Drug Treatments, ‘Squeeze’ the Genome: Study Finds

Large-scale studies will be required to identify the complexity of genetic variations that affect how patients respond to a given drug and whether they will have side effects, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Such studies are needed both to find new gene variants and to fulfill the promise of precision medicine to improve health, the researchers concluded in a paper published last month in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
“At Vanderbilt we’ve gotten really good at using genetic information to help predict drug response,” said the paper’s corresponding author, Sara Van Driest, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at VUMC. “The question is whether we’ve squeezed all the information we can out of the genome. If we throw more genes, more variants, into the model, will we do a better job predicting drug response?”
Ayesha Muhammad, the MD/PhD student who led the work, said that the results “remind us that even though we have gotten so good at predicting drug response, we have so much more potential to improve.”
Co-author Dan Roden, MD, the Sam L. Clark, MD, PhD, Chair and Senior Vice President for Personalized Medicine at VUMC, is internationally known for his studies of the role that genetic variations play in adverse drug reactions such as drug-induced abnormal heart rhythms. Dr. Roden also is a mentor to Van Driest, Muhammad and co-senior author Jonathan Mosley, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at VUMC, who provided key technical insights in the model analysis.

Siru Liu & Thomas Reese Published in JAMIA

Siru Liu, Research Fellow in DBMI, and Thomas Reese, PharmD, PhD, Assistant Professor in DBMI, to explored the theoretical underpinnings of effective clinical decision support (CDS) factors using the comparative effectiveness results in a new study titled "A Theory-Based Meta-Regression of Factors Influencing Clinical Decision Support Adoption and Implementation". The study was published in JAMIA. Click to read more.

Daniel Fabbri Featured in Vanderbilt University's Research News 

Daniel Fabbri, PhD, FAMIA, Assistant Professor in DBMI and Computer Science, was profiled in VU's Research News online publication. 
He discusses growing up in Silicon Valley, his company Maize Analytics being acquired by SecureLink and serving as lead investigator for multi-department research projects sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Defense. Click to read more.

Douglas Ruderfer Featured in VUMC Discover Magazine

At VUMC, staff data scientist Theodore Morley and geneticist Douglas Ruderfer, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine and DBMI, are developing tools for shortcutting the process of characterizing rare disease gene variants.

Educational Updates

Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) — Read More Student Profiles!

The 2021 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) ended on August 6, 2021. This year’s group included 14 students from a variety of backgrounds.
Throughout their internship, we featured individual profiles for each student. Read the profiles here

DBMI Spotlight: VBISP Teaching Assistants, Michelle Gomez & Alex Becker

Each month, we will feature one or more members of our DBMI faculty, staff, student, trainee 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 mia.garchitorena@vumc.org!  
Michelle Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She moved to Nashville in 2017 after being accepted into the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-PhD Bridge Program, which seeks to improve the demographic representation in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This fall, Michelle will enter her second year of her PhD program in DBMI and expects to complete the program by summer 2025.
Michelle became interested in science when she began middle school and joined the robotics club for an afterschool activity. “I was the only female in the class – it was an eye opener!” she says. But after just a few after-school sessions, she knew in her heart that science was her passion.
She later attended a high school focused on science and mathematics and double majored in physics and biochemistry at Hobart and William Smith Colleges located in upstate New York. In college, she realized after conducting research in astrophysics that research was going to be her career path.
“As a result of that experience, I was no longer afraid of delving into the unknown," she explains. "At that time, I was ultimately trying to augment the standard solar model, and it dawned on me that at the core, I had an intense curiosity in the truths of nature."
Michelle’s introduction to DBMI began when she joined the VBISP as a summer intern. There, she was inspired to become a VBISP teaching assistant (TA) by Bryan Steitz, Research Fellow in DBMI, who was the TA at the time.
“I was the only graduate student in the program that summer,” Michelle says. “Because of this, some of the other interns asked me questions about what to look for in a college or graduate school. This affirmed to me that I had come a long way and that I could offer help to people who considered science, and/or higher education, and wanted some guidance.”
In August 2020, she began as a TA in the VBISP at the same time she started her PhD program in DBMI. This most recent opportunity to mentor the 2021 VBISP students was a great experience, Michelle says. “I thought they were a great set of students. They were eager to learn and dive into cutting edge research. By the end of the summer, it amazed me how much they had accomplished and grown. It was a pleasure for Alex [Becker] and me to be that supportive role for them.”
She is thankful to all of her mentors in and outside of DBMI. “All of my mentors, including my undergraduate and master’s mentors, and other students along the way…they’re all key people who allowed me to realize that scientific discovery and innovation is made possible through the effort of a supportive community,” she says.
“I appreciate how interdisciplinary the field of biomedical informatics is and how open and friendly everyone is, and I truly feel like a part of the community,” she adds.
Outside of DBMI, Michelle loves to cook, go on walks and spend time with her family. She also enjoys hosting virtual drawing parties with her nieces and nephews over Zoom.
Alex Becker was born and raised in Richfield, Ohio. He is currently an MS/PhD student in DBMI.
As a kid, Alex loved reading and wanted to become a literature professor "until I learned that you didn’t just sit in an armchair next to a fireplace and read all the time," he says.
In high school, he joined Science Olympiad, a national science competition, which led to his desire to pursue engineering at the University of Cincinnati (UC).
While at UC, Alex worked as a TA and had the opportunity to work at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center (CCHMC), Zimmer Biomet (an orthopedic company), and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
Alex joined DBMI in August 2020. This decision was prompted by his "discontent for the biomedical engineering job market and working with/for the FDA," he says. Alex longed for using programming to make a positive impact on people.
"I really enjoyed parts of the research I did at CCHMC, but disliked working in a wet lab environment," he explains. After doing some research, he came upon the field of biomedical informatics and took a few classes at UC.
While applying to graduate schools, he discovered the work of Colin Walsh, MD, MA, FAMIA, Assistant Professor in DBMI, Medicine and Psychiatry, and found his research fascinating. He decided Vanderbilt was where he wanted to go next.
Alex has been impacted by various projects he’s worked on since joining DBMI, including: Participating in the NLM conference planning committee, the VBISP and the DBMI Retreat Planning Committee. "It’s been fun connecting with other students, staff and faculty members, especially since I still haven’t met most people in-person," he says. 
"I’m very appreciative of the support, genuineness and kindness shown by everyone I’ve interacted with in DBMI," Alex adds. "I had several worries coming into grad school, mostly from horror stories I’ve heard from grad students in other programs, but I’m so relieved that none have come to fruition."
Outside of work and school, Alex enjoys anything outdoors (walking, hiking, camping), photography (see his in-progress portfolio here), scuba diving and cooking. 

VUMC Requiring Full COVID-19 Vaccination for All Employees by September 30

All VUMC employees will be required to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption from this requirement by no later than Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, as a condition of employment.

As with other required vaccines, managers will have access to the VUMC Immunization Summary in Tableau (password and VUMC network required). Managers are encouraged to check regularly to ensure their staff are meeting their requirements.
To comply with this requirement through VUMC, which administers the 2-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, employees should register to receive their first dose of vaccine by no later Sept. 1, 2021. Click here to read more. Watch this video from VUMC President and CEO, Jeff Balser, above. 
If you have any quesitons, please contact Elizabeth Brown, DBMI Chief Business Officer, elizabeth.a.brown@vumc.org.

Occupational Health Offering Walk-In COVID Vaccinations

The Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) is offering COVID-19 vaccines to employees on a walk-in basis. Employees no longer need to schedule an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccine. Employees who need their first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine may walk-in to the OHC vaccine location on the 6th floor of the Medical Arts Building.
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations are available at OHC on the following days and times:
  • Tuesdays: 7 am – 3 pm
  • Wednesdays: 8 am – 4 pm
  • Thursdays: 8 am – 4 pm
  • Fridays: 7 am – 3 pm
To receive a COVID vaccine at Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital, Vanderbilt Bedford County Hospital, or Vanderbilt Tullahoma Harton Hospital, please reach out to your respective Occupational Health resource at your location. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, please visit here

VUMC's Masking Guidance

Masking is required in all areas of VUMC, including all clinical, non-clinical, research and public areas. Examples of areas where masks are required include:
  • Common public areas such as cafeterias and food courts, break rooms, research labs, conference rooms, bathrooms, elevators and waiting rooms.
Masks may be removed ONLY if a person is sitting in their assigned workspace AND can maintain at least six feet of distance from all others. Examples of areas where masks can be removed are offices, cubicles, lab benches and desks. Review the latest masking guidance here.

WATCH NOW: Latest on COVID-19 Pandemic & Delta Variant

Listen in as VUMC's chief epidemiologist, Dr. Tom Talbot, and infectious disease expert, Dr. William Schaffner, talk about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and the most common questions about the Delta variant.

Funding Opportunities

2022 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced StudyThese fellowships provide $53,000 per year for up to three years and will be awarded to adviser-student pairs, with each pair comprising an eligible graduate student engaged in their PhD dissertation research along with their thesis adviser.  HHMI anticipates making 50 awards in 2022. The program announcement that provides full details about the program, including eligibility criteria, can be found here.
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

HR Updates

DBMI Welcomes New Employees

Please welcome the following new employees, who recently joined DBMI!
  • Jhansi Kolli — Research Analyst (Colin Walsh)
  • Lara Franck — Program Manager (Travis Ostermann & Christine Micheel)

Annual Discussion, 2021

UPDATE: The annual evaluation deadline has been extended to October 29, 2021. If your evaluation meeting with your supervisor has already been scheduled, please proceed as planned.
You should refer to the completion instructions that Elizabeth Brown provided to all DBMI staff supervisors and staff via email on June 23.
If you have questions or need detailed evaluation instructions, please contact Elizabeth and Belinda Ballard.

VUMC Parking Options for Employees Who Infrequently Work On-Site

The VUMC Parking and Transportation office introduced limited options for single day parking permits, but only for the South Garage. We learned that the N-Lot has been added, which might be a more convenient option for those working at 2525 West End. Below are additional details: 
  • Employees can purchase Single Day Hangtags for the South Garage (Roof Level) and the N-Lot.
  • Hangtags are limited to five per month and cost $5 each.
  • Hangtags must be purchased in the Permit Office. Credit cards accepted.
  • No single day parking options for Kensington Garage. 2525 Garage offers paid parking but is $30 daily rate (maximum).
  • There is no option to pause monthly parking fees. The only option would be to cancel parking and re-enroll at a later date if desired.  
  • For more info https://www.vumc.org/med-center-parking/single-day-hangtags or call the Parking and Transportation Office 615-936-1215.

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 webinars and research colloquiums in August 2021.
Suggestions? Email dbmicomms@vumc.org.