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

A Letter from the Director of Graduate Studies

End of Spring Semester 2023

Dear DBMI,

As we approach the end of another academic year, I want to acknowledge faculty who contribute to teaching Biomedical Informatics courses – directing one of our core courses, offering a selective course, mentoring a student in an independent study experience, giving a guest lecture, and more. Your contributions are crucial to helping our students establish a foundation they will build on for the rest of their careers. We appreciate the time and effort you put into our courses.
I’d also like to acknowledge the contributions of three graduate students who did excellent work while completing their teaching practicums this year: Thomas Brown (BMIF 6300), KJ Krause (BMIF 6315), and Leigh Anne Tang (BMIF 6310).

After the end of the spring semester, the education space in DBMI will rapidly pivot to welcome 15 students for the 16th year of the Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) on May 30, 2023.
  • 3 high school students
  • 11 undergraduate students 
  • 1 graduate student
Reminder: Final presentations for the summer will be on July 31, August 1, and August 2 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, and all of DBMI is welcome to attend these presentations in person or virtually!
We’ve had an intense period of work over the last few months recruiting applicants, reviewing applications, gathering projects from faculty, matching applicants to potential mentors, interviewing students, and offering students spots in the program. Rischelle Jenkins is now shepherding students through onboarding requirements so that everyone can start the program on time, and other members of the admin team are making sure they have space to work, computers to use, and will get paid on time.
I’m especially excited this year about our new NLM R25 collaboration with Fisk University and Meharry Medical College. VBISP will include one graduate student in biomedical data science from Meharry and two undergrads from Fisk this summer, and we’re coordinating several other summer program activities with Fisk and Meharry colleagues.
Thanks to the generosity of Daniel Fabbri, we’ll have three high school students in VBISP again this summer, and I’m always excited to see what these students will accomplish in their 10 weeks in DBMI!
If you’d like to contribute to help fund high school student internship spots in the future, we now have a fund that accepts donations.
On a personal note, I’ve been biking around Nashville this spring. I bought my first ebike this fall and have been enjoying exploring on bike. My 13-year-old, Emerson, learned how to bike this spring and went from being skeptical about why anyone would even want to bike to being a super fan. While it hasn’t been without some bumps (Emerson: a memorable crash + impressive road rash; Me: being reminded that you should always cross railroad tracks perpendicular), it has been exciting to get a new lens on Nashville and to connect with new friends in the community. Let me know if you’d like to get together for some slow-paced DBMI group rides!
— Kim Unertl, PhD, MS, ACHIP, FACMI, FAMIA
Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, DBMI

Table of Contents

  1. ADMIN Updates & Reminders
  2. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  3. Faculty News 
  4. May DBMI Events
  5. DBMI Spotlight: Donnie Sengstack
  6. MyVUMC
  7. Funding Opportunities
  8. Upcoming Events

ADMIN Updates & Reminders

Review the Workday Go Live Checklist—Now Updated with VUMC Emergency Contact Info

With the May 1 payroll coming soon, VUMC employees should log into Workday and review some important information for accuracy, including their direct deposit information. A helpful checklist is available to guide them through this process.
The checklist has recently been updated to include information on how to review employees’ contact preferences for emergency notifications from VUMC. Please follow the steps in this Quick Reference Guide to complete the review and update process.

Conference Poster Templates

For those of you attending conferences and presenting posters in the next few weeks, the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center (VCLIC) team created a poster template on their Confluence page. We highly recommend checking this out! 
NOTE: You have to be on the VPN or on the network at VUMC to access.

REMINDER: Update Your Metropolis Account

Kensington Parkers Only: If you have renewed your vehicle’s license plates this month or last month, or if you recently purchased a new vehicle, please don’t forget to update your Metropolis account. You can add three different vehicles that you drive to your account. This will avoid having to pay a fee of $70.00 in the future.  Website:
If you have questions, please email 

VUMC Celebrates Administrative Professionals Day—April 26

Be sure to thank your admin staff, assistants and projects managers for their hard work and support!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

VIDEO: Jeff Balser, President and CEO, Provides a Special Message Urging Support for Members of VUMC’s LGBTQ Community

In this message, Dr. Jeff Balser stresses the importance of caring for each other as we care for others. “This is a time we all need to go the extra mile to assure a safe environment for our LGBTQ patients and employees.” Watch here:

AAPI Pioneers in Medicine at VUMC Panel—May 2023

In celebration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, the HAAPI (Healthcare Alliance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Employee Resource Group is hosting a virtual panel event, “AAPI Pioneers in Medicine at VUMC,” that features a few of our influential AAPI healthcare leaders. 
Moderator: Sunil Kripalani; Speakers: Ben Ho Park of VICC, Wei Zheng and Danxia Yu of Epidemiology, and Stephen Kim of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.  

Faculty News

Peter Embí presented at Penn Medicine's Learning Health Systems Symposium and discussed the role of AI and algorithmovigilance.

He also spent the day with Philip R.O. Payne, Director of the Institute for Informatics, Data Science and Biostatistics at Washington University in St. Louis.


May DBMI Events—Final Seminar & Research Colloquium for Spring 2023

DBMI Spotlight: Donnie Sengstack

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!  
Donnie Sengstack joined the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center (VCLIC) as an Application Developer in January 2022. He assists Allison McCoy and Elise Russo on the VCLIC Core Team. He is passionate about his newfound career in informatics, especially following in the footsteps of his mother Patty Sengstack! But his true love for standup comedy remains strong. He recently did standup at Zanie's during the Nashville Comedy Festival. In May, he will be traveling to Barcelona to perform at The Comedy Clubhouse! 
Pictured: Donnie with comedian Nate Bargatze at Zanie's in Nashville! Donnie performed during a live taping of "Nateland Presents" on April 24, 2023.
Follow him on Instagram here! Follow him on Twitter @donsengstack!
Below, Donnie shares his story:
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Damascus, Maryland. A small town about an hour outside of both DC and Baltimore.
Your mother is Patty Sengstack. What was it like growing up with her? Any memories from growing up that stand out to you?
That is correct! Patty Sengstack is in fact my mother. I could not tell you how many times I have been asked, “Any relation to Patty?” since I started working here. I consider it a positive.
People always have nothing but good things to say about my mom, which is nice to hear! I was a teenager when she was studying for her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing. She had always told me not to procrastinate on my homework, so when she went back to school, I was able to flip it back on her and constantly reminded her not to procrastinate. It was fun!
Pictured: Patty and Donnie on the National Mall, early 2000s. 
What career paths were you interested in as a child? 
I have always wanted to be a comedian in some form or another. I started writing my own jokes in sixth grade and still have all the spiral notebooks with those jokes. I started performing standup comedy in DC and Baltimore when I was still in high school. I had interests in math and IT too, but comedy was always #1. (Pictured: Performing at the DC Comedy Festival in 2015.)
Tell us what your early academic and career path was like.

I was very much set on doing comedy full-time when I left high school. I studied Communications at the University of Maryland and after graduation, I hopped between a lot of different side jobs to help support my comedy.
I have worked as a bike and segway tour guide on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a bike tour guide in New York City, a dog walker, and a mover in the past. COVID shut all of that down in 2020 and I went back to school to get my master’s degree in data science here at Vanderbilt. I graduated from the program in May of 2022! (Pictured: Donnie as a Segway tour guide in Washington, DC 2017.)
How did you come to learn about informatics?
Growing up with my mom, nursing informatics was a nightly topic of discussion at the dinner table. I surely absorbed some knowledge of informatics by sheer proximity to her in my formative years. During my master’s program, I got into the data side of informatics and worked on several extracurricular data science projects related to informatics.
Pictured: Patty and Donnie at Commencement when he graduated from his Master’s Program, 2022.
How, when and why did you come to DBMI?
At the end of my master’s program, I had to complete a capstone project. Taking advantage of all the resources at my disposal, I asked my mom if she knew of anyone who might have a data science project I could work on for my capstone. She pointed me in the direction of Adam Wright who did in fact have a capstone project for me. In addition to the project, he said there was also a full-time staff position available. I interviewed for the position and got the job! I started working as an Application Developer on the VCLIC Core Team in January of 2022 and have not looked back since.
Tell us what a typical work day is like for you in DBMI. What are your work and/or research interests?
I work for the VCLIC Core Team on EHR data extractions. I also build tools in the EHR basically every day. We have over 150 projects that we have either completed or are currently working on, so every day there is something new. I like that about the job. More generally, I also like making useful observations from data sets. I do think data analysis and comedy writing have a lot in common. Data analysis is looking at a set of data and making observations about the data that can be put to good use.
Comedy writing is looking at the world and making observations about life that can be used to make people laugh.
Tell us about your recent Zanies show! What do you like about standup comedy?
I have been performing standup comedy for almost 10 years now. I have been doing shows at the Zanies in Nashville since 2017. I just always knew it was something I wanted to do. I was the kid who watched every standup special on Comedy Central in the early 2000s and downloaded comedy albums on my iPod shuffle instead of music. I started doing open mics as soon as I was able to drive myself to them. There is nothing better than writing a new joke and getting instant gratification with a big laugh from a crowd
Pictured: Donnie recorded a set for The Circle Network (The Grand Old Opry’s TV Channel) at Zanies, Nashville 2022.
Who are your top three comedians (and/or comedy specials or shows) and why?
My favorite show of all time is Nathan for You. I love to watch comedy that is very creative, unique, and silly. Nathan for You is all of those things. As far as standup goes, I like to watch the comedians who have a lot fun while they are performing on stage. Rory Scovel is definitely one of those people who has a lot of fun on stage. John Mulaney is like that too in my opinion.
What is something that you’d like those in DBMI to know about you?

I would like to use this question to make 2 plugs. First: I recently performed a live set at Zanies on April 24 for Nateland Presents (Nate Bargatze’s production company)! If this comes out after that, I will certainly have more shows there this summer.
Second: If anyone reading this ever needs any data services, they can reach out to the VCLIC Core team that I work on with Allison McCoy and Elise Russo! I am always happy to talk about anything comedy or data science or informatics related. Feel free to stop by my desk on the 14th floor if you ever want to chat!
Pictured: Donnie at Nateland Presents: The Showcase with Allison McCoy, Adam Wright and Elise Russo, Zanie's 2023.
Any advice to fellow application developers, staff, researchers and/or aspiring comedians?
Have fun! This applies to everyone but is especially important for comedians. It is very simple advice, but also easy to ignore when things get stressful or nerve-racking.

I find that my best sets are the ones where I have the most fun on stage and the same applies for my work. I do my best work when I feel like I am enjoying myself and working towards something that will be good for everyone.

Pictured: Donnie posing in front of his poster in Times Square when he headlined at Caroline’s on Broadway, 2019.

Nominations are Open for the Elevate Team Award, Five Pillar Leader Award and the Credo Award

Elevate award nominations are always accepted. If a nomination is received after the cut off for quarterly award selection, the nomination will be considered for the next quarter. The next deadline is Sept. 1 for the November Leadership Assembly. Read more here.

VUMC “You’re Not Alone” Video Series Aids in Workplace Violence Prevention

Each day three members of the VUMC workforce are faced with some form of workplace violence. Disturbingly, these incidences are rising across the country and at VUMC. Workplace violence occurs anytime an employee feels verbally, virtually, or physically threatened while performing their work duties. It can occur from patient-to-worker, visitor-to-worker, or worker-to-worker.
Gaining a greater awareness is crucial. That’s why starting today three consecutive issues of myvumc will showcase “You’re Not Alone” video messages. These 2-minute, user-friendly messages  focus on awareness, response and support from different leaders. WATCH the first video in that series 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
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

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 events in May 2023 and previously recorded DBMI seminars.
Suggestions? Email