Read the Nov. 2022 issue of the DBMI Digest.
Read the Nov. 2022 issue of the DBMI Digest.

A Letter from the Chair

Dear DBMI family,
I hope you all are staying warm this season! As we head into the holidays and prepare for Thanksgiving, I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks and deepest gratitude for your hard work, collaborative spirit, support of one another, and dedication to our department and advancing our mission.  

This year, we celebrate some great achievements in DBMI—including receiving significant support for our research and innovation efforts, growth in our staff and faculty ranks, and significant impacts of our work on health and health care, as recently demonstrated by making our presence known at AMIA 2022.
Of course, we’ve done this while also experiencing hardships as we've grappled with violence against marginalized communities, an ever-changing political climate, and the continued effects of COVID-19 and other disease burdens in our communities. The ways in which we deal with hardships say much more about us than the ways we deal with successes, and by that measure, I couldn’t be more proud and thankful to work with so many outstanding people such as yourselves.

Indeed, as my first anniversary as Chair of DBMI quickly approaches, I've had the time to reflect on the reason why I came to Vanderbilt's DBMI in the first place. The answer has been and remains the same: YOU.
You all have welcomed me with open arms, in an uncertain time, and have assisted me and each other in countless ways. During this transition, you haven’t skipped a beat. Our productivity and accomplishments have continued, even as we've been working to address and improve upon our strong foundations, and plan for the future. As I recently shared in my DBMI Seminar and our November DBMI Faculty Meeting, our strategic plans are coming together, informed by all of you and our broader VUMC community, and I've enjoyed being able to share a bit about those plans with you already. Rest assured, we’ll be sharing even more about our plans for building the future of DBMI as we proceed into the new year!
In the meantime, I sincerely hope you all take this week to rest, enjoy the company of your loved ones, check in with your colleagues, and reflect, as I will, on the many things for which we are thankful. 
Thank you again for all you do and for who you are!
Happy Thanksgiving!
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 Updates & Reminders
  3. Department Announcements: AMIA 2022 Recap
  4. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  5. A Message from ST Bland
  6. Faculty News
  7. DBMI Spotlight: Laura Zahn
  8. Funding Opportunities
  9. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

COVID-19 Updates:
Booster Shots due Jan. 15

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.  


In case you missed AMIA 2022, below are some award highlights! Congratulations to: 
  • Laurie NovakCathy Ivory and colleagues won the Diana Forsythe Award at AMIA 2022 for their paper, “Disappearing Expertise in Clinical Automation: Barcode Medication Administration and Nurse Autonomy”. 
  • Elise Russo received a Distinguished Poster recognition for her poster “Hacking Mental Health: A Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center Hackathon,” done with Allison McCoy, Thomas Reese, Adam Wright and colleagues. 
  • Yasemin Akdas received a Best Poster nomination for her work on real-world challenges with SDOH data.
  • Allison McCoy, Elise RussoKevin JohnsonThomas ReeseDara MizeJonathan WandererLindsey KnakeAdam and Aileen WrightTina FrenchWael AlrifaiSharidan Parr, and colleagues, whose Clickbusters initiative made it into the AMIA 2022 Year in Review!
  • Allison McCoy’s article on the AMIA First Look Program also made it into the AMIA 2022 Year in Review! She also joined the FAMIA executive committee as Secretary/Treasurer this year.
  • Colin Walsh, who was inducted as a Fellow of ACMI class of 2022!
  • Allison McCoyAdam WrightKim UnertlScott Nelson and Sina Madani were honored at the inaugural AMIA Certified Health Informatics Professional (ACHIP) Diplomates reception.
  • Benjamin Collins, who received the Academic Forum Best Paper Award for his work on the “Development of an Online Training Module on Algorithmic Bias in Health Care for Clinicians”.
  • Victor Borza, who received a Student Innovation Award for his paper “A Representativeness-informed Model for Research Record Selection from Electronic Medical Record Systems”. This award was provided by the AMIA 2022 Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining Student Innovation Award program committee.
  • Marco Barbero Mota, who received the 2022 AMIA Leadership and Education Awards Donation (LEAD) Trainee Scholarship Award. He presented his poster “Validating Data-Driven Clinical Fingerprints as an Input Feature Representation”.

HR Updates & Reminders

DBMI Winter Party on Dec. 6— RSVP!

The DBMI Winter Party will take place on Tuesday, December 6 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on the 15th Floor of 2525 West End Avenue. 
The DBMI Annual Employee Awards Celebration will also take place! We will announce the winners at the party and distribute awards. Holiday gifts and food will be available!
Remember to RSVP here and email Jodi Dedeyan at if you have any questions. 
See you in December! 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

A Message from the DBMI DEI Committee Co-Chair:

Trans Day of Remembrance, Colorado Springs, Checking In with Each Other

Dr. James Barry (b. 1789) was the first surgeon to successfully perform a caesarean section where both the mother and child survived. He spent much of his career also advocating for better sanitation in barracks, prisons, and asylums. When Dr. Barry died in 1865, his last wishes were to be buried in the clothes he died in—perhaps, to keep his true identity as Margaret Ann Bulkley a secret post-mortem. 
November 20 marked Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). While TDOR started in 1999, members of the transgender and non-binary communities have been a part of society all along. Many have gone to great lengths to hide their true identity in fear of rejection or persecution. Many members of the transgender community are long forgotten because history would not be kind to their legacies.  
We continue to fight for safety as members of the LGBTQ+ community are still targeted in hate crimes.  The LGBTQ+ community grieves the loss of eight people in the attack in Colorado Springs over the weekend, and honors the 32 transgender Americans killed in 2022 because of their identity (see the 2022 Human Rights Campaign report). As members of the LGBTQ+ and DBMI communities, we ask that you join us to honor these lives and advocate for safety and dignity that every human deserves. 
As we enter the holiday season, our third in the midst of the pandemic, it’s important to remember that many colleagues may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or continuing to grieve during this time. While many restrictions are lifted, there are many among us who are providing care for those diagnosed with COVID-19, the flu, RSV and more. Some of our colleagues are battling the effects of long-term COVID. And there are some of us grieving the loss of friends, colleagues, or family from the pandemic. While we celebrate the holidays (because there are many reasons to celebrate!), take a minute to check in with your colleagues or offer support.
“Kindness is giving hope to those who think they are all alone in this world.” - Raktivist
ST Bland, MPH, MBA
Pronouns: any/all (why I have this)
Sr. Project Manager, Center for Precision Medicine, Department of Biomedical Informatics

WATCH VUMC DEI Chat Room Series Part III: "Breaking the Silence: Speaking Up and Practicing Self-Advocacy"

The VUMC Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted its third Chat Room series to discuss the importance of self-advocacy within unfriendly environments and learn how you can build the confidence to set boundaries, speak up and take action for yourself and others. WATCH HERE.
  • Recordings of the other previous sessions are available online here.

Faculty News

Travis Osterman at AJMC "Perspectives in Precision Oncology from Prevention to Treatment" Event, 11/17

Travis Osterman discussed "Leveraging Structured Genomic Data" at the American Journal for Managed Care (AJMC) "Perspectives in Precision Oncology from Prevention to Treatment" event. 

Center for Knowledge Management Team's Study Supports Removing Race from Estimate of Kidney Function

An in-depth analysis of published research studies supports removing race from the calculation of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) — an assessment of kidney function. Although measured GFR (mGFR) is the gold standard for evaluating kidney function, it requires infusing chemicals into the blood and quantifying them in urine. Estimated GFR is calculated from the value of a blood marker such as creatinine and other variables including sex, age and race.
Taneya Koonce, deputy director of the Center for Knowledge Management, is co-first author of the systematic review study. Additional collaborators include Sheila Kusnoor, Dario Giuse, the study’s senior author, Nunzia Giuse, and colleagues. Click to read more.

Matthew Semler Featured in Discover: "Your Pulse-Oximetry Results May Vary"

A new study by Vanderbilt researchers examines potential for bias in blood oxygen measurements, with SaO2 values for Black patients varying as much as 1% above or below the average for white patients in recent studies. DBMI's Matthew Semler is co-author. Click to read more.

DBMI Team Published Article: "Improving Ascertainment of Suicidal Ideation & Suicide Attempt with Natural Language Processing"

For signs of suicidal behavior in the electronic health record, the team turned to natural language processing (NLP) of notes written by the patient care team.
As reported in Scientific Reports, the researchers developed machine learning-based NLP queries for suicidal ideation and suicide attempt, using them to process 200 million notes from 3.4 million deidentified records and rank 239,785 records that bore varying indications of these behaviors. Cosmin Adi Bejan, Colin Walsh, Drew Wilimitis, Douglas Ruderfer, Katelyn Robinson and colleagues are authors. Click to read more.

More News:

  • Chao Yan, Zhiyu Wan, Ziqi Zhang, and Brad Malin's paper "A Multifaceted Benchmarking of Synthetic Electronic Health Record Generation Models" was accepted by Nature Communications. It is a collaboration between VUMC DBMI & Biostatistics, the University of Washington in Seattle and Sage Network. Brad is the lead contact supervising the project.
  • Ge Liu, Lan Jiang, Qiping Feng and Wei-Qi Wei's paper "The Relationship Between High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Sepsis: A Clinical and Genetic Approach" was accepted by Clinical and Translational Science    
  • Jamie Robinson, Robert Carroll, Lisa Bastarache, Qingxia Chen, Dan Roden, Josh Denny and colleagues published a study in Obesity titled "Quantifying the Phenome-Wide Disease Burden of Obesity Using Electronic Health Records and Genomics". 

DBMI Spotlight: Laura Zahn

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!  
Laura Zahn, MS is the newest member of the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center (VCLIC) team, who joined DBMI in August 2022 as a Senior Project Manager.
Laura obtained her BS and MS in Biology from Austin Peay State University (Clarksville) where she was actively involved in a variety of basic science research projects, including climate-related dendrochronology, animal behavior and brain tissue histology, and ultimately cancer cell biology research employing advanced confocal microscopy techniques for her thesis.
After completing her MS in 2016, Laura promptly joined Vanderbilt’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR) where she led the popular Research Studio program which enables investigators to receive focused input from multi-disciplinary experts to help refine their research goals. Through this work, Laura facilitated and participated in hundreds of high-level, science-heavy discussions focused on generating testable hypotheses, improving study design, enhancing rigor, and crafting compelling narratives to secure grant funding.
Within her time in VICTR, Laura also fulfilled critical evidence synthesis work in support of both the Drug Repurposing program, which leverages PheWAS analysis of BioVU/RD data, and the NHLBI Collaborating Network of Networks Evaluating COVID-19 and Therapeutic Strategies (CONNECTS) program. Over the years, Laura has had the opportunity to work with investigators all over Vanderbilt’s campus, so maybe you already know her, too!     
Now in VCLIC, Laura is excited to grow her budding data science skills within the realm of clinical informatics. She is particularly interested in environmental contaminants and stressors, and opportunities to use informatics in this area to improve public health.
In her role as VCLIC Senior Project Manager, Laura is assisting with organizing and executing educational initiatives and training events and will especially focus on growing and enhancing the VCLIC-HealthIT evaluation and dissemination project portfolio. She is contributing to several ongoing research efforts related to health information technology quality, safety, and user experience, learning and growing her informatics and data science skills along the way.  
In the meantime, check out her Etsy page, where she creates handmade bead jewelry, often inspired by birds! 

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