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

A Letter from the Chair

Dear DBMI family,

As I write this, I find myself thinking once again that this is one of those (far too common) weeks when words fail us. It can feel inadequate to describe, much less make sense of, how horribly tragic, senseless, and violent a school shooting, that takes the lives of innocent children and adults, is. It’s difficult to process and deal with such events, but when it’s just the latest in a string of tragic events, it happens so close to home, and it involves people that many of us are closely connected to, it’s even more challenging to navigate. Indeed, many among our DBMI, VUMC and Vanderbilt family have connections to the individuals, school and broader community who have been directly affected. My heart goes out to everyone who is hurting right now and particularly to those who have been impacted by this crime, both directly and indirectly. 
Even as our nation has had to deal with so many of these horrific events, and as our Nashville and Vanderbilt community mourns the loss of lives at the Covenant School in Green Hills, we are seeing groups come together to support each other. For instance, yesterday the institution held a gathering on the bridge between the VUMC Plaza and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital to grieve for the victims and their families. This is so important.
As I said on Monday, it is particularly critical in times like these to connect and check in with those who are suffering—especially friends and colleagues, parents, frontline workers, and the members of our community who might feel worried or threatened. Sadly, this includes those who have children in school, who are members of the Christian community, as well as those who might share an identity in common with the person who perpetrated this horrific crime.
To that last point, I want to take a moment to touch on another issue that has been unfortunately connected with this most recent atrocity. Today happens to be International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day in which we recognize and celebrate transgender people and their contributions to society, and raise awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. Unfortunately, the recent anti-trans rhetoric has increased because the Covenant School shooter happened to have identified as transgender. This has added yet another dimension of concern and fear in the LGBTQ+ community, including among our trans neighbors, their family members and allies. All of this is happening even as VUMC is still dealing with anti-trans sentiments following the attacks on social media in September 2022.
So, even as we worry about and continue to mourn the innocent victims and communities that were directly targeted and harmed in this horrific shooting, we can also acknowledge that there are people in DBMI and our local community who are hurting and suffering in many different ways – including because they are or may be targeted because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. We must remember that the actions of one individual do not reflect on any group they may be a member of. As good and caring people, we can and should have compassion for everyone, and we are all better for doing so. The message is simple:
Hate and violence have no place online, in our community, or in healthcare institutions like ours. 
If you are feeling impacted, overwhelmed, sad or angry—or if you’d like to talk in depth about what I mentioned above—don’t hesitate to contact me at 513-325-2200 or any of our Vice Chairs, Center Directors, our Wellness contact Colin Walsh, and/or your supervisor for support. 
VUMC’s Employee Assistance Program of Work/Life Connection is also available to you anytime. For VU, please visit the BRET Wellness and Counseling page and/or contact RC Stabile, VU Associate Director of Trainee Well-being, at 
Thank you all for supporting each other during this time,
Professor & Chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics; Professor of Medicine; Senior Vice-President for Research & Innovation at VUMC
Pictured above: Candles and red and white roses were placed on the walking bridge between the VUMC Plaza and Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at the "Connecting Our Grief with Light" event on Thursday, March 30. The event brought together staff and faculty, including VUMC leadership, to unite and express grief for the vicitims of the tragedy at the Covenant School. A message from Vanderbilt's LifeFlight Chaplain was also on display for attendees to read and reflect on.

Table of Contents

  1. HR Updates & Reminders
  2. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
  3. Faculty News
  4. Education
  5. DBMI Spotlight: Lisa Bastarache
  6. Fun Times in DBMI
  7. Funding Opportunities
  8. Upcoming Events

HR Updates & Reminders

REMINDER: MyWorkday Goes Live April 1

The MyWorkday project at VUMC involves the implementation of two new cloud-based systems, Workday and Tecsys. Taken together, this extensive transition of dozens of outdated VUMC systems allows VUMC to modernize and simplify its business tools. Large departments such as Finance, Supply Chain, Human Resources, and Research and Grants have software systems that need updating.
To learn more, visit the MyWorkday website:
  • The MyWorkday website (available at provides a wealth of resources for employees to help better manage the transition to using Workday and Tecsys. Read more.
  • MyWorkday Command Center now open – What to expect during Go Live.
  • Training for MyWorkday project is available in Learning Exchange. Read more.
  • View the MyWorkday Change Impacts Report. Read more.
  • MyWorkday Featured FAQ roundup. Read more.
  • MyWorkday Topic Spotlight: Viewing payslips in MyWorkday. Read more.

Microsoft Teams Trainings Available

If you still need Microsoft Teams training, there are training videos available for all levels on the VUMC Microsoft Teams page. Click here to access the recordings:

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

For Women's History Month, we profiled Julia Groh, Project Manager in DBMI, on Twitter! She shares more about her background, what brought her to DBMI, and her love for circus classes, aerial hoops and ballroom dancing! Read her story here!
  • We also profiled Lisa Bastarache, Research Associate Professor in DBMI. Check out her story below (and see some amazing childhood photos)!

Faculty News

Paul Harris Elected to 2023 American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows

Three Vanderbilt University faculty members have been elected to the 2023 College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Paul Harris was selected for “pioneering contributions in biomedical data collection, standardization and cloud-based systems that support machine learning.” Click to read more!

Yaa Kumah-Crystal Joined Vanderbilt's Data Science Institute to Discuss Revolutions in AI

Yaa Kumah-Crystal was invited to this event and panel to talk about leveraging LLMs like ChatGPT in medicine and research. 

Brad Malin Discussed Balancing the Impact & Ethics of Genomic Data 

Brad Malin joined Ellen Wright Clayton and Daniele Podini for the "Lab-to-Table Conversation" hosted by the Vanderbilt School of Medicine's Basic Sciences. They discussed the ethics and impact of the collection and use genetic information in today’s world.

More News:

  • Victor Borza, MD/PhD Student in DBMI, received an F30 award! He will use the funding to research electronic medical records data to better understand how sleep apnea affects people. He thanks his advisor Brad Malin for support.
  • Jessica Ancker and Adam Wright are part of a collaboration that received an R01 grant from the National Institute of Aging. In partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, this mixed methods study will develop GEMRA - a machine-learning model designed to identify acute post-ED risk in older adults - into accurate, realtime, EHR-based clinical decision support. The goal is for GEMRA to inform ED-based risk reduction strategies for older adult diseases and vulnerabilities that can be under-recognized in conventional clinical practice. 
  • Jessica Ancker's editorial on "An Urgent Need for Guidelines for Telemedicine Use" was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
  • Peter Embi co-authored a paper titled "Harnessing the Promise of Artificial Intelligence Responsibly" published in JAMA Network
  • You Chen, Shilo Anders, Laurie Novak, Brad Malin and Ellen Wright Clayton published a paper "Human-Centered Design to Address Biases in Artificial Intelligence" in JMIR Publications
  • Brett Heimlich, fellow in VGM and Cardiology and Vanderbilt Physician-Scientist Training Program
    Harrison Scholar, received an EvansMDS Young Investigator Award from The Edward P. Evans Foundation. 


Clinical Informatics Students Visit VUMC Inpatient Pharmacy

Pictured: The last field trip that the Clinical Informatics students took was to visit VUMC's 
inpatient pharmacy! "Always a great opportunity to see where the EHR is used to keep our patients safe in the medication process," Allison McCoy posted on Twitter.

FHIR Workshop with Russell Leftwich & Alex Cheng

DBMI's Alex Cheng and Russ Leftwich, an adjunct DBMI Professor as well as Senior Clinical Advisor for Interoperability for InterSystems, has traveled the world (and to other academic medical centers/universities) offering this workshop.
Learning Objectives:
  1. Explore FHIR as a key healthcare data standard and data mode
  2. Explain FHIR Profiles, Resources, and FHIR Extension
  3. Build your own FHIR Profil
  4. entatively: REDCap on FHIR / FHIR questionnaires

DBMI Spotlight: Lisa Bastarache

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!  
Lisa Bastarache, MS, is Research Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics. She is a powerhouse in the world of informatics and data science. Just look at her citations! 
In fact, she received the DBMI Outstanding Researcher Award in 2021 for all of the COVID-19 EHR research she published, which led to high-impact precision medicine studies. She published 25+ studies in 2021 alone!
Lisa has training in computer science and computational linguistics with more than a decade of programming experience, and a degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @lisa_bastarache!
Lisa shares her story with us for Women's History Month: 
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Turners Falls, a small town in western Massachusetts. 
Tell us about your family!
I’m from a big family with five sisters: Julie, Karen, Andrea, Michelle, and Elizabeth. My father worked as an insurance agent and my mother was a stay-at-home parent. All four of my grandparents lived very closeby so they helped raise all of us as well. My sisters are all great in their own way, but since there are five of them and they are all different, it would take a lot of words to back up this statement, so I’ll leave it at that.
Pictured right: (Left to right) Joe Bastarache (my Dad), Elizabeth (baby hanging on), Andrea (green shirt), Julie (striped shirt), Karen (on the hood being dramatic), Michelle (peace sign), an exchange student (white t-shirt; I don’t remember her name! Started with an “R”), and me (shoulder out of shirt).
What kind of career did you envision yourself in while you were growing up? When did you become interested in STEM?
As a kid, I didn’t have a strong vision of what my future would be like. When people asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, I would say that I was going to work in a lab because my initials are L.A.B. Although I majored in math in college, this was not because I had any particular aptitude for the subject. On the contrary, math was really hard for me. I decided to study math because I was not very good at it, and there was a lot of room for improvement.
Pictured: Top right: Ricky (my best friend), Behind him is Mike. Bottom right is Jim’s little brother (forgot his name!), I am in the middle (bowl cut), Jim is in front right (blurry), and Chan is behind him.
You went to school for mathematics but ended up in informatics. How did that happen?
I learned to code in college, which was fantastic because that skill enabled me to work in labs doing interesting research. After I finished a master’s degree, I was looking for a new job. Karen, who works at Vanderbilt, told me about a position with Josh Denny doing natural language processing on medical records. That sounded interesting, so I accepted the job.  Since I was Josh’s only full-time employee, I needed to work on many different projects, all of them in topic areas that were completely new to me. This was in the early days of BioVU, so I got to work on the early studies using medical records to replicate genetic associations.
What moments from your early career impacted you?
The Undiagnosed Disease Network (UDN) was pivotal for me. Up to that point, I was working on genetic studies based on large populations, looking for common genetic variants that were statistically associated with disease.
Methods like the genome-wide association catalog have generated enormous catalogs of common variant associations, but they are not as strong at establishing mechanism and cause.
The study of Mendelian disease, on the other hand, is all about trying to find the cause of a single person’s ailments. I found this idea so compelling and started thinking about how population-based techniques could help interpret the genome for a unique individual patient.
The UDN gave me an opportunity to test out new methods and receive feedback at weekly case reviews. I am so grateful that Dr. Newman who invited me to this group. In my first meeting, it was like a hidden door popped open and there was an entire new terrain for me to explore.
Pictured above: Me on the left, my mom, Elizabeth is the baby. That’s Julie at the top right and Michelle at the bottom.
Pictured above: Lisa presenting "EHR Data Quality in Genetic Research: Why You Should Worry & What You Can Do About It" for our DBMI Seminar in October 2022. WATCH HERE!
When you think of Women’s History Month, what or who comes to mind? Why?
I feel grateful for all the beautiful souls who fought for the rights of women because these rights are a precondition for my career and the way I live my life. As a scientist, I am also grateful for the women who have, through overt struggle or by example, demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that women have the intellectual capacity to be great scientists and produce brilliant work.
If there is one informatics person you could meet but haven’t, who would it be?
My absolute favorite scientist is Victor McKusick (1921-2008). He was not technically an informatician, but he created a resource called the Mendelian Inheritance of Man that is most certainly one of the most important informatics resources in genetics. I am inspired by how much McKusick and his colleagues were able to learn through careful observation and logic, and I admire his foresight in creating a publicly available resource that catalogs these findings.
Pictured above: Lisa's sister, Julie Bastarache, MD, was recently appointed Assistant Vice President for Clinical & Translational Scientist Development at VUMC. Read more!
You have two sisters at VUMC. One is a physician scientist, the other is a lawyer. If you had to switch jobs with one of them, who would it be?
Sorry Karen, I would choose to be a physician-scientist like my sister, Julie! No doubt the law is important, but I am just so happy and grateful to be a scientist. Having an MD on top of things would be great, too, because I think a major hazard of the work I do is that it is totally based in data. Working with data all day, it's easy for me to lose touch with the real world, and all the complexity that comes with it.
What’s one problem in health care we haven’t started to solve (or are far away from solving) but informatics could help with? How can informatics be used to facilitate genuinely personalized medicine?
Although personalized medicine is a buzzword, a lot of medical research is inherently depersonalized because the subject of study is the population, not the individual. Everything from clinical trials to observational studies are based on large datasets, wherein each person becomes highly abstract and, in some ways, artificial. While population based-methods are incredibly useful, I wonder how our reliance on populations distorts our understanding of health. Can we create different informatics methods and modalities that focus more on individual people? And if so, how might that evidence be used to balance and compensate for population-based approaches?
Pictured below: Lisa (middle) with Travis Osterman (right) presenting on a panel about EHRs, health equity, and moving genomic medicine from exceptional available to some to routine care available to all at the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics Annual Meeting in March 2022.
What is a skill you’re still developing or learning for yourself? 
I am always learning and re-learning the skill of open-mindedness. Now that I’ve been studying in one field for over a decade, I’ve developed a lot of opinions, or what you might call “expertise.” While I value the knowledge I’ve accumulated thus far, I am wary of becoming overly certain and intellectually complacent. To cultivate open-mindedness, I try to write code every day, an exercise that invariably demonstrates my fallibility and proves to me that, even after all these years, I am still more often wrong than right.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment? My entire career is a delightful surprise. I can hardly believe it sometimes.
Who do you enjoy collaborating with? I’ve worked with so many amazing people that it would be impossible to list them all. There is a type of person I love collaborating with. I call this type “the fellow traveler,” an open-minded person who enjoys following a thought where ever it takes them. I’ve been fortunate to meet many, many such people during my career.
You’ve gone from PheWAS (Phenome-Wide Association Studies) to PheRS (Phenotype Risk Scores). What’s next in that world?
What’s next is to go beyond knowledge generation to helping real people. My lab is working on tools that can help diagnose people with treatable genetic conditions in a timely manner. It seems like every other month a new targeted therapy for a genetic disease is discovered. But these new treatments cannot help the people who don’t know they have a genetic disease. We hope to design algorithms that can find undiagnosed people, not just in research medical centers, but in community healthcare clinics as well.
Below: In VUMC's DNA Podcast, Lisa explained that EHRs are “very noisy, messy” documents and need really big populations to study genetic associations. She loves when people opt-in to BioView and says it’s necessary for science. READ/LISTEN HERE!

Fun Times with DBMI

Pictured (left to right): Adam and Aileen Wright brought a few VCLIC and DBMI members to ChangHong Spicy Hot Pot (长虹麻辣烫) for lunch this week!; Trent Rosenbloom with the #PinkSocks crew at the Parthenon following the ViVE 2023 conference; Jessica Ancker with some Columbia University colleauges.

Jodi Dedeyan Goes to Venice!

Pictured: Jodi with her husband on a gondola. 
Jodi and her family are currently abroad, visiting Italy, France and more! She and her husband visited St. Mark's Basilica and rode the gondolas in Venice, and celebrated their anniversary in Versailles!

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