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

A Letter from the Chair:

Looking Ahead to 2023

Dear DBMI family,

I hope this message finds you all healthy, warm, and enjoying the remaining days of this holiday season. As we look to ring in the new year this weekend, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on the year that has passed, including our many achievements and successes, lessons learned, and looking ahead to even greater things we can accomplish in 2023. 

For me, this year was particularly momentous as it marked my first year as Chair of DBMI, and I can hardly believe a whole year has passed so quickly. As with recent years, 2022 was marked by great accomplishments, successes, and gains, as well as losses, challenges and even tragedies across our world. Most importantly, I’m impressed by the impacts made by all of you that have improved health and health care, continuing a strong tradition that dates back to the start of DBMI. As we look to the new year and the implementation of our new strategic plan, I know that we will rise to even greater heights and successes, and I look forward to doing that doing that together!

It is my sincere hope that all of you and your loved ones remain healthy, successfully avoid any of the multiple viral diseases circulating right now, and have a happy start to the new year. I could not be more enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead for our department and our institution, and I know that together we will make 2023 our most successful year yet!

Happy New Year!
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. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, A Message from DEI Co-Chair, ST Bland
  4. Faculty News, Education
  5. DBMI Spotlight: Laurie Novak
  6. MyVUMC
  7. Funding Opportunities
  8. 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
Employees can drop by the VUMC Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) to receive the COVID-19 bivalent booster. 

HR Updates & Reminders

REMINDER: Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Become Official VUMC Holiday in 2023

Advancing VUMC’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be recognized as an official institutional holiday beginning Monday, January 16, 2023.

REMINDER: Update Your Vehicle's License Plates in Metropolis

For all those who park in the Kensington Garage: please update your vehicle's license plates in Metropolis. You can add three different vehicles that you drive to your account. This will avoid having to pay a huge fee in the future. If you have questions, please email 

Complete the DBMI "Who's Who" Brochure!

We'd love to get to know you better!
Complete this REDCap survey for the DBMI “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:
Questions include: What are your current research/work interests? What is a fun fact about you (either personal or professional)? 
Please fill out the form when you can – or if you’d prefer, email your responses/pictures to Mia at

Microsoft Teams Trainings Available

If you 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)

A Message from the DBMI DEI Committee Co-Chair:

DEI Overview of 2022, Looking Ahead to 2023

I hope that the last weeks of 2022 have brought you much needed rest and reflection to prepare for the upcoming year. In 2023, I hope that our DBMI DEI Committee can continue to discuss how to incorporate DEI initiatives in our recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students. 
Many changes have occurred as a result of the pandemic. We think twice about a restaurant salad bar or eating cake after watching someone blow the candles out. Many households nowadays have a dedicated cabinet or drawer for masks and COVID-19 tests. Remote work has also changed how we socialize and collaborate with our teams.
Remote and hybrid work will continue for the time being, and we need to think about how we work and collaborate from a DEI lens. I encourage us all to ask ourselves: What new approaches can we take when it comes to recruitment and retention—approaches that were not possible before the pandemic? How can we make our department support DEI initiatives? How can we make collaboration more accessible for everyone? 
Just as each new year brings opportunities for progress, as colleagues, we have the same opportunity.  Your DEI Committee looks forward to being a part of our progress in 2023.
ST Bland, MPH, MBA
Pronouns: any/all (why I have this)
Sr. Project Manager, Center for Precision Medicine, Department of Biomedical Informatics

DBMI DEI Committee Invitation: Join in 2023!

The Department of Biomedical Informatics Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee aims to:
  • Cultivate and promote an inclusive, equitable, culturally competent, and supportive environment;
  • Regularly assess the DEI-related needs of the department;
  • Provide advisement to and hold DBMI accountable for DEI-related integration efforts; and
  • Liaise with VU and VUMC offices and groups involved with DEI efforts to align and communicate institutional DEI efforts.
We invite any of you to become members of this important committee for the new year. If you are interested in joining, please email Thank you in advance for supporting DBMI’s mission.

Faculty News

Daniel Byrne Published Second Book

Dan Byrne’s second book has been published by Wolters Kluwer Health (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). The eBook is available now; the print edition will be available in a few months. The title is: “Artificial Intelligence for Improved Patient Outcomes - Principles for Moving Forward with Rigorous Science”. Order on Amazon here!

Colin Walsh Published Study on Time-Dependent Suicide rates among Army Soldiers Returning from an Afghanistan/Iraq Deployment 

Colin Walsh was a co-author on a study published in Injury Epidemiology titled "Time-dependent suicide rates among Army soldiers returning from an Afghanistan/Iraq deployment, by military rank and component". Click to read more.

Cosmin Adi Bejan Published Study on Association Between Contraceptive Exposure and Urinary Tract Infection Risk

Although non-barrier contraception is commonly prescribed, the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) with contraceptive exposure is unclear. Using data from VUMC’s deidentified electronic health record (EHR), women ages 18–52 were randomly sampled and matched based on age and length of EHR. This case-control analysis tested for association between contraception exposure and outcome using UTI-positive (UTI+) as cases and upper respiratory infection+ (URI+) as controls. Click to read more.

More News:


A Letter from the Director of Graduate Studies:

Congrats to Michelle Gomez & Alex Becker

Closing out 2022 with congratulations to Michelle Gomez and Alex Becker, who both defended their MS theses in December! The best part about being involved in informatics education is having the opportunity to engage with students as they develop from talented people new to the field into confident researchers doing high-impact work. I can't think of a better way to conclude the year than by celebrating their achievement!

Kudos and thank you as well to their mentors and committee members:
Colin Walsh has been Alex's primary mentor, and his committee included Cosmin "Adi" Bejan, Kirsty Clark and Allison McCoy.

I've been Michelle's primary mentor, and greatly appreciate thoughtful guidance and feedback from her other committee members, Colin Walsh and Ellen Clayton.
On a personal note, as someone who is both a practitioner of and an advocate for qualitative methods in biomedical informatics, I am so proud of the time and effort that Michelle put into developing her skills and knowledge about rigorous qualitative methods. In her essays "Studying Those Who Study Us" and "Ethnography as Invisible Work," Diana Forsythe challenged medical informatics researchers to engage with ethnography on a deeper level - a challenge that was pivotal to me as a graduate student. Michelle's approach to these topics was thoughtful, serious, and exemplifies the best of what Diana Forsythe challenged informatics researchers to do.
— Kim Unertl, PhD, ACHIP, FACMI, FAMIA
Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Director of Graduate Studies, DBMI
Below are some reminders:
The Office of Medical Student Research at Vanderbilt is hosting a Research Connections event on January 9, 2023 (12pm noon to 1pm) to link medical students to potential mentors for their 3- to 6-month research immersion. Before then, if you’d like to welcome a medical student to your lab group, please fill out this REDCap form with information about your research:
Jessica Ancker will attend the in-person event to represent our department. Email if you have any questions.
January 15, 2023 is the final application deadline for the MS/PhD Program in Biomedical Informatics. Please share with students and colleagues who may be interested in applying, or know someone who may be interested, and have them reach out to Rischelle Jenkins at
Lina Sulieman is still looking for speakers for our Spring DBMI Seminar Series, which will resume in January 2023. If you would like to give a talk or if you would like to provide possible speaker names, please email
The DBMI Research Colloquiums will resume on January 19, 2023. If you have research in progress that you’d like to present, informatics hot topics that you want to engage DBMI in conversation about, opportunities related to recently-awarded grants that you’d like to discuss, or suggestions for presenters, please email Rischelle Jenkins for available dates. Students are also invited to present their work or other discussion topics. The format will change to a Zoom meeting for the spring semester to allow more active discussions. You will be required to register once to attend then a link is provided for the semester. 

DBMI Spotlight: Laurie Novak

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!  
Laurie Novak, PhD, MHSA, FAMIA, is Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Director of the Center of Excellence in Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI). 
She is an anthropologist specializing in the cultural intersection of technology with everyday life and work. Her projects currently focus on the implementation of artificial intelligence in medicine, including human-centered design, worker competencies, and organizational capabilities required to deploy and manage AI tools. Another major area of inquiry is health equity and the related health care organizational capabilities, data resources, and practices. She also works on the structure and practice of biobanking, situational analytics and contextual analysis of technology use, and the experience of chronic illness and caregiving in everyday life. In the biomedical informatics training program, she teaches social science methods in multiple courses. She received a BA in finance from Murray State University, MHSA in health management and policy from the University of Michigan, and PhD in medical and organizational anthropology from Wayne State University. Below, Laurie shares her story: 
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Murray, Kentucky, about two hours northwest of Nashville.
Tell us about your family!
My parents were also born and raised in western Kentucky. My father, Lamon, owned a Gulf service station with his brother and my mother, Sue, helped them run it.
My father is going to celebrate his 90th birthday on January 1, 2023!! I have one sister, Gena Ryan, who lives in Franklin with her husband. Her sons and their families also live in the Nashville area.
Pictured right: Laurie with her father, Lamon. 
What memories from growing up stand out to you? 
When I was young, we spent quite a bit of time at my grandparents’ farm. I loved playing there, eating strawberries from the garden, and hiding under the massive concord grapevines that grew in their backyard. They had a large porch with a swing on each end, and that is why I now have a large porch with two swings!
When did you become interested in the sciences? Were you interested in STEM from an early age?
I was not interested in STEM! I have always enjoyed swapping stories, and my colleagues will attest that remains true. However, I am the daughter of a mechanic and have always been interested in how things work. I believe this is why I am interested in the intersection between technology, technology development, organizational forms, and workers/everyday work.
It is also why I am still married to my engineer husband who continually destroys and recreates our home.
Pictured: Laurie with her husband, Bill Novak, a utility scale solar engineer, at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. They roadtripped to Wyoming during the pandemic.
Tell us about your early career path.
In undergrad, I studied finance at Murray State. In my first job as a health care marketing representative at IBM (in Detroit, Michigan), I realized I was interested in organizations and how they worked.
Later, I earned a masters degree from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan and worked at the Detroit Medical Center. We tried to assess patients’ ideas about how to improve services through a survey in the waiting rooms called “Your Opinion Counts!”
After watching three to five of those surveys trickling in each month, I realized the patients’ opinions didn’t really count. I thought that I could learn more in one hour sitting in a waiting room and chatting with people than we learned in a year from those surveys. So I decided to get a PhD in Anthropology at Wayne State and become a qualitative researcher!
Pictured above: Laurie in a NASA Space Camp outfit, 2012. "My family went to Family Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville one year over New Year’s. We trained and flew a mission with our kids, and on New Year’s Eve, we had a giant game of hide and seek in their museum. It was a blast. We did it with friends whose kids were the same age as ours."
Pictured above: Laurie with her Abbey Road face mask at the 2022 DBMI Annual Retreat!
How and when did you become interested in informatics and artifical intelligence?
As an IBM marketing representative, I worked closely with IT managers, understanding the challenges they faced. As a representative of an elite company, I had access to senior management, and met regularly with them. In those early days (mid 1990s), healthcare organizations were trying to automate various aspects of clinical care and, not surprisingly, it was very hard. In one memorable meeting with a Senior Vice President (a physician), I brought up the idea of an “electronic medical record.” He said, “I’ll be dead, and you’ll be on estrogen before this medical center has an electronic medical record.” This comment stuck with me for three reasons: 1) getting clinical work automated was and remains very difficult for reasons that an outsider doesn’t well appreciate, 2) he was wrong on both counts, and 3) powerful people can get away with saying very inappropriate things!
When and how did you come to Vanderbilt’s DBMI?
My dissertation research explored physician involvement in the customization of a commercial EHR. I was interested in coming to Nashville to be near my family. I was directed to Bob Dittus, who suggested I talk to DBMI about a postdoc position. I was brought on as a postdoc working with Nancy Lorenzi in July of 2006. Since that time, I have also been on the faculty of the Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety, and am indebted to Matt Weinger for great advice over the years. 

Pictured above (L to R): Bob Dittus, Director of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt; Nancy Lorenzi, Professor Emerita in DBMI; and Matt Weinger, Norman Ty Smith Chair in Patient Safety and Medical Simulation and Professor of Anesthesiology, Biomedical Informatics, and Medical Education at Vanderbilt. 
What are some moments from being in DBMI that stand out to you?
The conversations in my Technology & Society course affirm my confidence in the next generation of informaticists, specifically in their ability to appreciate and plan for complex sociotechnical problems. The day Dan Masys came back from his heart attack and addressed the department helped me see that we are a family, and I still feel that way even though there have been many new people since then. The times that my team members have come together to work through particularly long and difficult analytical exercises with our data reminds me that our staff are just as committed to our work as the students, postdocs, and faculty.
Pictured above: Laurie with Josh Smith, Allison McCoy, Sharidan Parr and Shardon Davis at a Vanderbilt Flulapalooza event.

Please describe your current research and any significant projects you’re working on. What is the impact of your work?
I’m spending a lot of time right now on AI consortium work, focusing on ethics and equity. I hope that we will be able to produce practical tools that organizations can use to become AI-capable, and that the general public can use to understand what AI in medicine means for them.
Pictured below: Laurie with Ellen Wright Clayton, Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics, Law, and Health Policy, in matching outfits. 
Please tell us about the Center of Excellence in Applied AI. When and why was the center established? What are some major projects that you and the Center have worked on?
The Center was established with seed money from VUMC’s partnership with IBM Watson Health. Numerous colleagues in DBMI, health services research, and medical education were involved in the projects. We studied competencies needed for safe and effective use of AI and identified the need for tools for provider-patient communication about AI. We studied medication information needs and the usability of the Micromedex tool. We also focused on equity, conducting research for and participating in the design of health equity metrics and a dashboard for healthcare organizations and organized a special issue on AI equity in the Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. The partnership with Watson Health also sponsored imaging research led by Jeff Carr and supported DBMI summer interns. The partnership ends with 2022, but we gained much clarity in our goals with its support.
You received the 2022 DBMI Outstanding Educator Award. What was your reaction when you received it? How does working with students impact you?
I was very surprised! The topics I teach have not traditionally been considered mainstream informatics. It is gratifying to know that the students enjoy my class, and I think that is more a reflection on them than on me. They are brilliant. As the Chair of the Curriculum Committee, I have been doing a lot of thinking about teaching and learning in informatics, and I look forward to more involvement and engagement in the future. 
Pictured: Laurie's reaction to receiving the 2022 Outstanding Educator Award.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals who are interested in informatics, AI, computer science and more?
My advice for future informaticists is to do what our students are doing right now in DBMI: focus on topics that move you, and the informatics will follow.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I hike the Ganier Ridge at Radnor Lake State Park several times every week and I also swim at the Maryland Farms YMCA. I hang out with my husband, making food and plans for travel to see our boys who are both in college. If anyone ever wants to meet with me, a hiking date is 90 minutes of great thinking and talking time!
Pictured right: Laurie and Bill with their kids, Connor Novak, a senior math major at University of Michigan, and Wilson Novak, a freshman Industrial Engineering major at Auburn University.
Anything else you’d like people in DBMI to know about you?
I’m still planning an 80s dance party for DBMI'ers and it will be more fun than you think!
If you're interested in learning more about Laurie's research, or if you'd be interested in joining her 80s dance party, email her at!

Nominations Open for 2023 School of Medicine Faculty Awards; Deadline is Jan. 31

Nominations are now open for the 2023 School of Medicine Faculty Awards. The School of Medicine Faculty Awards recognize excellence in teaching, clinical service, and research. Read more here.

Reminder: Wearing Your VUMC ID Badge is Integral to Workplace Safety

Incidents of violence against health care workers are on the rise across the U.S. The safety and well-being of VUMC’s people and patients is the institution’s first priority. However, personal safety and security is a shared responsibility for everyone. Going forward, wearing your VUMC-issued ID badge will be increasingly important. Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) will be increasing efforts to identify employees and visitors who are not displaying appropriate identification.
In accordance with VUMC’s policy, Dress Code, Identification Badges and Personal Appearance, identification badges must be worn above the waist with your name, title and photo clearly visible. Read more 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 (

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 2023 and previously recorded DBMI seminars.
Suggestions? Email