Read the August issue of the DBMI Digest.
Read the August issue of the DBMI Digest.

A Letter from the Chair: Peter Embí

Dear DBMI family,
I hope this message finds you all well and looking forward to an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. As some of you know, I’ve been out for the past week recovering from surgery to repair a hernia that was a complication of my previous operation in March. Thankfully, it went very well, and I am happy to report that I am on the mend and expect to be back online full-time next week. I have promised everyone that this is my last operation for a very long time, and I plan to stick to that promise!
Seriously, I once again want to thank all of you for your support, and particularly to our outstanding leadership team who have stepped up to make sure that everything continues to run smoothly at the departmental level.
In particular, special thanks to Jessica Ancker for leading our weekly departmental message last week, and to Trent Rosenbloom for representing us at the VUMC Directorship celebration earlier this week, where Jessica Ancker, Daniel Fabbri, and Adam Wright were recognized for their recent appointments to endowed directorships. Congratulations once again to each of them!
Among other things that are happening this time of year is the beginning of a new term, and that means welcoming new students to our department. To all of you have recently joined our training programs, welcome and I look forward to having an opportunity to interact with you in the coming weeks.
To the rest of you, I hope that you were able to enjoy these last few days of summer starting with this holiday weekend, and I look forward to seeing you around the office again very soon. 

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. Department Announcements
  3. HR Reminders
  4. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  5. Faculty News
  6. Education
  7. DBMI Spotlight: Siru Liu
  8. MyVUMC
  9. Funding Opportunities
  10. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

COVID-19 Updates

VUMC shared a reminder about its COVID-19 infection prevention guidelines for all workforce members at the institution. Remember: Masking is still required in all indoor, non-clinical areas of VUMC (including 2525 West End Avenue) regardless of vaccination status.

COVID-19 is still very much prevalent in our community, so we encourage you to remain cautious, follow VUMC’s COVID-19 safety protocols, and do the following if you are exposed:
If you have any other questions or concerns, please review the VUMC COVID-19 Information Page.

2022 DBMI Annual Retreat: RECAP

Share Your Thoughts About the DBMI Retreat via REDCap Survey

What did you think of our first in-person retreat since 2019?! Did you like the venue? Which activities stood out to you? What would you like to see happen next year? Share your post-retreat feedback that we can plan next year’s retreat! 
Share your thoughts by completing this short REDCap survey:
For those who weren’t able to make it (or those who didn’t pick up a gift bag), we still have gift bags for each of you. Please contact Jodi Dedeyan at for info on how to receive your gift bag. They are located on the 14th floor of 2525 West End Avenue.

REMINDER: Complete the DBMI "Who's Who" Survey

This is a reminder to complete this REDCap survey for the DBMI Retreat’s “Who’s Who” brochure. This brochure will be used as a resource for both current and new employees! Please fill in the following REDCap form:
Who’s Who Facts Survey:

Questions include:
  • What are your current research/work interests?
  • What is a fun fact about you (either personal or professional)? Can include hobbies.
Please fill out the form when you can – or if you’d prefer, email your responses/pictures to Mia at

Join VCLIC's InformaticCon — Fall 2022

Please join us for VCLIC’s first InformaticCon on September 28, 2022!
This special, two-hour event will include lunch, a sampling of short, dynamic talks, and a poster session to showcase clinical informatics work going on across VUMC.
It will take place on Wednesday, September 28th, 2022, from 12:00-2:00 pm in the Vanderbilt University Student Life Center Board of Trust Room (address and map below). The first hour, when the talks will occur, is during the standard DBMI seminar time (InformaticCon will be the DBMI seminar for Sept. 28th), and the poster session will follow. Click here for more information.

HR Reminders

DBMI Staff Quarterly Kudos — Submit Nominations by SEPTEMBER 7!

For the next week, we'll continue to collect submissions for the DBMI Staff Quarterly Kudos drawing. 

As before, the criteria for entry is that the nominated staff member has gone above and beyond or made a positive impact in the department – showed stellar customer service, pushed harder to complete a tough task, developed something new, had a great idea, etc. 

We’ll draw a name from the collected entries during our DBMI All Staff Meeting on Thursday, September 8th. The winning staff member will receive a $100 Amazon gift card. All other nominated staff will be recognized in a follow-up email after the meeting, as well as in the next DBMI Digest.

Please submit your entries by next Wednesday, September 7th. Submit your entries here

REMINDER: Administrative On-Site Support, Guest Parking, Validations & More

Beginning next week (9/6/22, the day after Labor Day), there will be one Administrative Assistant on-site at our 2525 offices Monday through Thursday to assist with on-site needs that may arise.  Please keep in mind that if you are a faculty member, who has been assigned an administrative assistant for travel/meeting arrangement, reimbursements, purchasing, etc., you will continue to contact that assigned individual to assist you in completing those tasks. The schedule will be as follows:
  • MondayBarbara Payne
  • TuesdayKelly Hammonds
  • WednesdayBarbara Payne
  • ThursdayWil Comstock
As many of you have become aware, a new parking system is in place for visitors. Our on-site personnel may assist your guests with parking validation. There are other methods of doing this if our on-site personnel have had to step away or not in the office at the particular time the validation is needed. Please refer to the follow-up email sent by Barbara Payne on 9/1 (6:22 pm) for more information. If you have any questions regarding parking in either the 2525 attached garage or the Kensington Garage, please contact Barbara Payne

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Call for Twitter Profile Submissions:

Hispanic Heritage Month — September 15 to October 15

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15! We are looking for volunteers in DBMI to be profiled on Twitter. NOTE: Anyone can participate, including allies!
Volunteers will be asked about their work and lives, and they will be asked to answer: "What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?"
If you're interested, please contact Mia Garchitorena at and she will provide next steps.

Faculty News

Jessica Ancker, Daniel Fabbri & Adam Wright Honored for VUMC Endowed Directorships

Congratulations to Daniel FabbriAdam Wright, and Jessica Ancker on being named as holders of endowed directorships!
  • Daniel Fabbri, PhD, FAMIA, was named holder of the DBMI Directorship in Informatics Innovation.
  • Adam Wright, PhD, FACMI, FAMIA, FIAHSI, was named holder of the DBMI Directorship in Clinical Informatics.
  • Jessica Ancker, PhD, MPH, FACMI, was named a holder of the Randolph A. Miller Directorship in Biomedical Informatics Education. 

DBMI Faculty Met with Sen. Marsha Blackburn's Office to Discuss CDS, AI, Regulatory Issues & More

Adam Wright, Brad Malin, Travis Osterman and Michael Matheny met with staff from Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s office to discuss the intersection of clinical decision support, machine learning and artificial intelligence, with a focus on emerging regulatory issues.
This was organized by Alex Currie, VUMC’s Director of Federal Affairs. The discussion focused on the extent to which the federal government should regulate clinical decision support tools or other tools that involve machine learning in healthcare. "We helped explain the diverse uses of these tools at VUMC, and how numerous they are. The next step is for us to be available to Sen. Blackburn’s staff as they have questions in the future," said Adam Wright.

More News:

  • Sharon Davis, Colin Walsh, and Michael Matheny published an article in Frontiers in Digital Health titled "Open Questions and Research Gaps for Monitoring and Updating AI-Enabled Tools in Clinical Settings". Click to read more.
  • VCLIC team members Adam Wright, Sharidan Parr, Scott Nelson and Elise Russo received an R01 from the National Library of Medicine.
  • Adam Wright and Scott Nelson published a case series in JAMIA titled "Clinical Decision Support Malfunctions Related to Medication Routes". Click to read more.
  • Digna Velez Edwards was elected to the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) Board of Directors. Click to read more.
  • Marco Barbero Mota received the 2022 LEAD Trainee Scholarship Award. He will be honored at the AMIA 2022 Annual Symposium Awards and LEAD Gala on Sunday, November 6.

Applied Clinical Informatics (ACI) Special Issue: CALL FOR PAPERS — DEADLINE: OCT. 16

Trent Rosenbloom, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA, Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs and Professor in DBMI and Director of My Health at Vanderbilt; Bryan Steitz, PhD, Intructor in DBMI; and Marianne Sharko of Weill Cornell Medicine are guest editors of a Special Issue of Applied Clinical Informatics. 
The title of the Special Issue is “Adolescent Privacy and the Electronic Health Record”Submissions are due October 16, 2022. Click here for more information


New Student Orientations: Welcome to DBMI!

A warm welcome again to our new students who joined this fall. Orientation began in mid-August and we are eager to see what the students learn and work on! If you see students around DBMI, please make them feel welcome!
Pictured left (MS/PhD Students): Parker Evans, Joseph Vento, Matthew Krantz, Samuel Jean-Baptiste, Julie Nguyen, Creea Shannon
Pictured below: MSACI student orientation via Zoom. Left (Fall 2021 Class): Scott Nelson, Claudia McCarn, Peter Mack, Anirban Bhattacharyya, Eddie Qian, Casey Distaso, Jason Zhengfeng Chen, Holly Ende; Right (Fall 2022 Class): Wing Liu (professor), Claudia McCarn, Julie Bauml, Jay Patel, Robbie Skinner (non-DBMI student), Adam Broslat, Hanna Semega, Eric Brown, Nicholas Goldsmith, Ahra Kim (non-DBMI student). 
(Not pictured: Non-degree postdocs Cathy Shyr, Benjamin Collins and Brett Heimlich) 

DBMI Spotlight: Siru Liu

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!  
Siru Liu, PhD, is a force to be reckoned with. Since joining Vanderbilt's Department of Biomedical Informatics as a postdoc in May 2021, she has consistently received nominations, awards, and grant funding for her research. And there's no slowing down in sight!
The biggest achievement of her career happened in August 2022, when she received the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Library of Medicine to continue her research in optimizing clinical decision support (CDS) using explainable artificial intelligence (AI). This was her first submission to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
"Submitting a K99 application is not easy," she explains. "Especially for an international student like me who is studying abroad alone. It requires a lot of writing and preparing the preliminary results." 
She fondly looks back to May 2021, when she moved from Salt Lake City to Nashville by herself after her PhD graduation. "There was no desk in my apartment and the first few paragraphs of my research proposal were done on a large cardboard box. After submitting my research in October, I visited downtown Nashville for the first time. I feel very fortunate to find my passion in clinical decision support and have great support from my mentors, friends, and our department."
In 2022, she received the following accolades:
NIH NLM K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award; American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship; American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2022 Student Scholar Program, ASPIRE on the Road (selected 12 biomedical PhD students and postdocs from Vanderbilt University to visit biotech companies in Boston), Google Cloud Research Innovator; Finalist in American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Artificial Intelligence Evaluation Showcase; NCI Multilevel Intervention Training Institute Scholar; Nominee for AMIA Doctoral Dissertation Award, University of Utah; and Nominee for NCI Pathway to Independence Award for Outstanding Early-Stage Postdoctoral Researchers, Vanderbilt University. 
In 2021, she received the following accolades:
AMIA Leadership and Education Award Donation (LEAD) Trainee Meeting Scholarship; Women in AMIA Leadership Program Scholar. Pictured below: Siru with the Women in AMIA Leadership Program.
Below, Siru shares her journey to the U.S. and eventually to biomedical informatics: 

Where did you grow up? 
I was born and raised in Chengdu, a large city in southwest China. It is known for pandas, a chill attitude towards life, famous cuisine (spicy food), tea-houses and folk music culture.

What did your parents/guardians do for work? Do you have any siblings?
My father is an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon and a clinical informaticist. My mother is a nurse practitioner. I am the only child in my family.

What was your childhood like? Are there any moments from growing up that impacted you and helped you become the person you are today?
During my childhood, I spent a lot of time with books and participated in badminton training for three years on my school team. Volunteering in high school at a local hospital that served rural areas near Tibet, I witnessed many people who were unable to receive timely primary care, resulting in delays in their medical conditions. At that time, I started to think about how to improve the uneven distribution of medical resources through technology.

When did you begin to become interested in STEM? What did you like about STEM?

I have enjoyed STEM subjects since I was in middle school. My best subjects were math and physics, and I loved the process of thinking and problem-solving. In college, I continued to study statistics, while my interest gradually shifted to computers and AI because I found that computers could help me implement algorithms to solve real-life problems.

What brought you to the University of Arizona? What was your experience as a Research Trainee like at Harvard Medical School?
The University of Arizona has a collaborative program with my former school in China with a unique desert landscape and diverse culture. I was fortunate to meet great professors there, such as my previous advisors Dr. Richard T. Snodgrass (in databases), Dr. Michelle Strout (in compilers), and Dr. Lingling An (in biostatistics). While at Harvard in 2016, I formally began my research in clinical decision support (CDS) and was very fortunate to be mentored by Dr. Adam Wright, a recognized expert in CDS, with a great willingness to help trainees achieve their goals. During that time, I worked on a CDS failure detection project and received training in machine learning and natural language processing using healthcare data. In addition to research opportunities, Dr. Wright provided many valuable suggestions for my PhD application and program selection.
Pictured right: Siru's PhD graduation photo taken outside Utah State Capitol.
When and how did you discover biomedical informatics? What did you find interesting about it? Did that lead you to the University of Utah School of Medicine?
During high school in 2010, I was involved in biomedical informatics research at West China Hospital (the 2nd highest ranked hospital in China). During that time, West China Hospital was in the transition from paper records to electronic health records. I witnessed how information technology could improve work efficiency and how immature tool design in EHR could greatly affect work performance and physicians’ psychological state, especially based on the generally heavy workload (40+ patients/half day) in Chinese hospitals. Then, after my summer research at Harvard, I decided to follow my passion for CDS. The University of Utah School of Medicine has a strong PhD program in CDS, as represented by my PhD advisors: Drs. Kensaku Kawamoto, Guilherme Del Fiol, and Charlene Weir.
What made you decide to join Vanderbilt’s DBMI? What did you like about DBMI?
While completing my doctoral work, I realized that leveraging data-driven methods in CDS development and management would be my future research direction. To improve my skills in CDS management, I decided to return to Dr. Adam Wright’s lab to design, implement, and manage CDS and other technology in the EHR at VUMC. Also, Vanderbilt's DBMI has many experts in various fields and is a great place for trainees to learn and build collaborations.
You’ve received many awards as a postdoc research fellow over the last few years. What are your biggest professional and personal accomplishments?
Professionally, my greatest accomplishment so far has been receiving a K99/R00 grant to continue my research in using explainable AI to optimize CDS. One personal accomplishment is that I completed my PhD in 3.5 years.
Could you briefly explain the importance and implications of your K99/R00 grant to continue your research in using explainable AI to optimize CDS? 
At VUMC, like other hospitals, we’ve developed a large number of CDS tools, including alerts. However, users don’t always accept all of the alerts we show, and they can become annoyed if we show inaccurate alerts, or too many alerts – we call this “alert fatigue.” I’m working on using AI to identify ways that we could improve the logic of alerts and suppress alerts that aren’t helpful to users. The K99/R00 grant which includes 2-year mentored training and 2-year independent research will allow me to apply novel XAI approaches to address the urgent issue of alert fatigue and substantially enhance my career. In the K99 phase, I will develop my skills in informatics, CDS, and implementation science. I will develop a standards-based taxonomy of features that affect user response to CDS alerts and a data-driven process to generate suggestions for improving alert criteria using XAI approaches. In the R00 phase, I will evaluate generated suggestions using a mixed-methods design. Following the completion of this project, I will be prepared with the training and preliminary data needed to apply for an R01 and to become an independent investigator in this area.
What was your reaction when you received notification that you got this grant?
It was mixture of surprise, excitement, and gratitude. Surprised because NLM only funds K99 grants for two scholars per year, so it is rare to receive it on the first submission. I am excited because I can start exploring explainable AI for optimizing CDS. Our previous research using machine learning to predict user responses to alerts has received good feedback. I am looking forward to the results of this research. In addition, I am very grateful. The success of this training grant would not have been possible without the support of my mentors and our department.
Pictured left: Siru at TEDxNashville recently.

What do you hope to achieve with this research? Who will it impact? 
The expected outcomes of this work include a standards-based taxonomy of features that affect user response to alerts, an innovative data-driven process capable of generating suggestions to improve alerts, and a set of expert-validated suggestions. This project will explore the ability of XAI approaches to provide trustworthy results and detect bias, which would further the development of learning health systems for CDS. These methods could be widely applied to other aspects of EHRs to achieve more intelligent, efficient, and equitable healthcare. My goal is to improve the experience of using the EHR for physicians, nurses and other members of the healthcare team, and to improve the quality and safety of care for patients.
Any mentors you’d like to give a shout-out to? 
I would first like to thank my primary mentor, Dr. Adam Wright. He encouraged me to apply for K99, provided a lot of fantastic and constructive feedback on all aspects of this study, and met with me weekly to discuss and revise the proposal. I would like to thank other mentors. Dr. Allison McCoy guided me in the implementation and appropriateness assessment of CDS. Dr. Dean Sittig provided wonderful advice on sociotechnical issues. Dr. Thomas Lasko provided excellent suggestions on explainable artificial intelligence methods. Dr. Josh Peterson provided insightful feedback to strengthen the clinical impact. I would also like to thank Dr. Jessica Anker for organizing the K Award workshop and library, as well as Dr. Bryan Steitz, Dr. Bill Stead, Dr. You Chen, and Dr. Wei-Qi Wei, Dr. Alvin Dean Jeffery for providing valuable feedback on this proposal.
What advice do you have for other postdocs in DBMI?
Communicate and collaborate with peers, share knowledge. I do my best to follow this advice myself.

What do you like to do for fun?
I am curious about nature, science, and art and love to discover beautiful things in life. I enjoy reading, cooking new recipes, making cocktails, gardening, hiking, and attending music festivals and concerts. Stargazing is the latest hobby I have developed. The most recent dishes I cooked were Volcano Ribs, street food from Bangkok, and Marc Forgione’s Bang Bang Shrimp in Lao Spicy & Sour Sauce with a glass of osmanthus-infused gin.
Pictured right: Siru went to Kentucky Bourbon Trail in March. "I bottled my own Elijah Craig!"

Funding News & Opportunities

Brad Malin was awarded a subaward with University of California San Diego for their grant “A FAIR Bridge2AI Center (FABRIC)”.
Adam Wright was awarded an R01 grant from the NLM for his project “Strategies for Engineering Reliable Value Sets (SERVS)”.

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 previous/recorded DBMI webinars from January to April 2022.
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