A Letter from the Chair — Back to Office Guidance, COVID-19 Safety & Search for Chair Update

Hello team! And I DO mean TEAM! I want to start this issue of the Digest off with three points:

First, as you all likely know, our offices are now open for Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and VU faculty, staff and students* who wish to work in-person. We will work under a hybrid model for the time being as no one is required to return to the office at this time. However, this is an opportunity to mix up your work environment, chat with and work alongside your colleagues again (within whatever precautions are appropriate) and regain a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. Please direct any questions regarding the hoteling space in 2525 West End Avenue to Coda Davison at coda.davison@vum.org and any questions that cannot be answered by your immediate supervisor or center director to me or Elizabeth Brown. *In compliance with VU COVID testing requirements.

We have all learned how to work well from home this past year, but there are some repercussions of full-time remote work that I’d like you to consider. Since we began working remotely, our department culture has taken a hit. Remote work and constant Zoom meetings have led to a decline in creativity. You will find varying opinions about what has been observed and what is possible if you review the literature. However, what we’ve experienced (less interaction with students, less informal gatherings, fewer celebrations) are facts from the past 15 months. Changing out of our sweats and enduring Nashville traffic to visit the office has its downsides, but the payoff means you can see a coworker or student (and maybe get lunch)!
By the way, kudos to those groups who’ve been able to continue those departmental traditions. In the next year, while we adjust to a hybrid work environment, I hope we learn from what has gone well and begin adopting who we are to this new reality.
Second, I want us all to remember the reality of COVID-19 and children’s safety. Herd immunity is close, but children and adolescents are still vulnerable to COVID-19. The CDC recently reported that hospitalizations related to COVID-19 among adolescents aged 12-17 were three times greater than hospitalizations linked to influenza during the last three flu seasons. There are still variants out there that are more transmissible than the flu, so we should continue safety precautions, including washing our hands and wearing masks while traveling, to keep kids safe.
See the following resources:
To sum up: It’s time to live your life so consider traveling to visit family or the beach, drop by the office sometime, pay attention to the science and be respectful of those who decide to wear a mask, do not ask anyone why they have or haven’t been vaccinated and continue safety precautions if you have children and teens.  
Third, I’m sure there’s continued anxiety about the search for a new Chair. I am committed to doing whatever you all need me to do to alleviate that! I can tell you that the committee has been formed, the call for applicants has gone out (inter)nationally and I’ve met with both the search firm and the head of the search committee, Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhDI’m feeling great about the process so far. One other thing I can tell you: my colleagues around the country are incredibly impressed by DBMI, and that’s not because of me. 

You Are DBMI!

That won’t change, and so in my view, the heart and soul of DBMI isn’t going anywhere.
Stay safe and I hope to see you soon!  — Kevin  

Table of Contents

  1. Department News & Announcements
  2. Faculty News
  3. Educational Updates
  4. DBMI Spotlight: Coda Davison
  5. MyVUMC
  6. Funding Opporunities 
  7. HR Updates
  8. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

Department News & Announcements

Introducing the DBMI Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee

In its mission to support a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) environment for all its members, the DBMI is pleased to announce the creation of the DBMI DEI Committee. This committee is made up of students, staff and faculty who volunteered to serve in this role. A key initial activity of the committee will be to collect data and gather perspectives on how well the department is doing across various DEI domains, as well as to identify areas of improvement. This information will be used to inform subsequent activities around DEI.
If you have questions or suggestions, we encourage you to reach out to the DEI Committee by emailing the DBMI DEI Co-Chairs Martin Were and Mia Garchitorena
Please welcome our DEI Committee members (and a few of their pets!): Kevin JohnsonSarah BlandRobert Winter, Nancy LorenziToufeeq Ahmed, Kim UnertlAlex Becker and Leigh Anne Tang.

AMIA 2021 ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM: HILTON SAN DIEGO BAYFRONT
October 30 – November 3, 2021

It's official! AMIA 2021 will safely convene in San Diego! AMIA will also offer a live streaming track to enable virtual attendance. Registration will open in a few weeks. See here for more info
Below are some other AMIA news: 
  • AMIA 2021 Seeking Late-Breaking Submissions for: 1) Informatics response to COVID-19; 2) DEI and the role of informatics and 3) Organizational and informatics workforce transformation. Submissions due July 27. See here for more info
  • Nominate Yourself for a Working Group Leader Position – Apply by JUNE 30. Working groups offer great opportunities for young informatics professionals to gain early career leadership experience. See here for more info

June is PRIDE MONTH

Twitter Profiles — Call for Submissions: 
In recognition of Pride Month, we would like to feature the stories of a few faculty, staff, students or postdocs on Twitter. If you identify as a member or ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, or if you have conducted research on the LGBTQIA+ community, please email Mia Garchitorena at mia.garchitorena@vumc.org!

Celebrate Pride Month with the VUMC P.R.I.D.E. Resource Group

CURED Documentary Online Screening: June 17th, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

VUMC/VU JUNETEENTH Events

Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day – is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.
  • In recognition of Juneteenth, VUMC will be hosting a discussion and artistic performances on Saturday, June 19 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm CT. See here for more information.
  • VU's Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center is hosting various events this week. See here for details.
Below are some events taking place at VUMC and VU on Saturday, June 19 from 12:00 – 5:00 pm: 

Free Virtual Conference from Fidelity: How to Close the Racial Wealth Gap — June 19

Employees are invited to a free, virtual financial conference to learn how to close the racial wealth gap. The #OneTransaction conference — sponsored by Fidelity Investments, administrators of the VUMC retirement plan; OneUnited Bank, the largest Black owned bank in America and first Black owned digital bank; and Visa — will focus on the “one transaction” that can help close the racial wealth gap and create generational wealth for you and your family.
Special guest presenters, including Tiffany Haddish, Daymond John, Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, will discuss the “one transaction” that made the difference for them.

Nashville Jazz Workshop & Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy to Host Juneteenth Jazz + Art Live Experience — June 19

The Nashville Jazz Workshop and the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt will participate in the Juneteenth Jazz and Art Live Experience. The event, which will feature a community art exhibit and children’s interactive art zone, will be held at 1012 Buchanan St., Nashville, 37208. See here for more details

Faculty News

Kevin Johnson & Stephany Duda Named Fellows of the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics (FIAHSI)

Among the 26 new fellows of the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics are two VUMC faculty members — Dr. Johnson and Stephany Duda, PhD, FIAHSI, Associate Professor in DBMI. The International Medical Informatics Association announced the 2021 electees on May 28.
Previously elected fellows from VUMC include Paul Harris, Nancy Lorenzi, Randolph Miller, William Stead, Adam Wright, Steven Brown, Bradley Malin and Martin Were.

Douglas Ruderfer, Lisa Bastarache & Colleagues Created Predictive Model to Identify Patients for Genetic Testing

Patients who, perhaps unbeknownst to their health care providers, are in need of genetic testing for rare undiagnosed diseases can be identified en masse based on routine information in electronic health records (EHRs), a research team reported June 3 in the journal Nature Medicine.
Douglas Ruderfer, PhD, Associate Professor of General Medicine and Biomedical Informatics, was lead author on the study. Lisa Bastarache, MS, Research Assistant Professor in DBMI and Scientific Director of the PheWAS Core in the Center for Precision Medicine (CPM), was co-author. Among close observers of the study was Josh Peterson, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA, Director of CPM. Read more in the VUMC Reporter here.

Joshua Denny Featured in NYTimes: "Scientists Report Earliest Known Coronavirus Infections in Five U.S. States"

The first infection was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, in a resident of Washington State who had recently returned from Wuhan, China. Soon after, experts concluded that the virus had been in the country for weeks.
A study published on Tuesday, June 15 offers new evidence: Based on an analysis of blood tests, scientists identified seven people in five states who may have been infected well before the first confirmed cases in those states. The results suggest that the virus may have been circulating in Illinois, for example, as early as Dec. 24, 2019, although the first case in that state was confirmed a month later. Joshua Denny, MD, MS, FACMI, CEO of the NIH All of Us Research Program, was featured. Read more here.

Melissa McPheeters Featured in The Verge

Melissa McPheeters, PhD, MPH, Research Professor in Health Policy and Co-Director of the Center for Improving the Public's Health Through Informatics (CIPHI), was recently featured in an article in The Verge, a technology news website operated by Vox Media, titled "The Pandemic Showed that Big Tech Isn't a Public Health Savior." Dr. McPheeters says it's important for tech companies to put as much importance into understanding social environments/how people are behaving & why in public health as they do into fixing data issues in health care. Read more here.

Daniel Fabbri's Company Maize Analytics Acquired by SecureLink

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2013, Daniel Fabbri, PhD, FAMIA, Assistant Professor in DBMI and Computer Science, started a company called Maize Analytics, which provides security and privacy software to healthcare organizations based on the technology from Dr. Fabbri's PhD research.
On May 11, Maize Analytics was acquired by SecureLink, a leader in third-party remote access and security. This deal is backed by some of the largest private equity firms in the country, Dr. Fabbri says. Read more hereCongratulations, Dr. Fabbri!

Paul Harris Featured in Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine: "Next Level Data Delivery"

From "Vanderbilt Medicine" magazine: In the course of delivering an online seminar sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Paul Harris, PhD, FACMI, FIAHSI, Professor in DBMI, Biomedical Engineering and Biostatistics, casually included this aspiration. His talk was part of a series of NIH webinars examining how to involve more hospitals and health systems in clinical trials. Read more here.

Educational Updates

Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) Began June 1 — Read the Student Profiles!

The Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) welcomed its 14th group of summer interns on June 1, 2021. This year’s group includes 14 students from a variety of backgrounds. 
In a special edition of the DBMI Digest, we are sharing brief profiles of each student throughout the entirety of their internship. Please welcome the DBMI VBISP students: Evelyn Kriter, Stuart Waller, Kyla Gabriel, Eli Bradley, Clara GimenezAbinitha Gourabathina, Coda Johnson, Olivia Lindberg, Natalie Thomas, Ananda TurnerLiane Vásquez-Weber, Eve Vazquez, Emily Warren and Sarah Saif

2020 VBISP Student Megan Canavarros Presenting Summer Research at 2021 CMD-IT/ACM Tapia Conference

Congratulations to VBISP 2020 student, Megan Canavarros, on having two abstracts based on her summer 2020 project accepted for presentation at the 2021 Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT)/ Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference! The conference will be held virtually in September 2021. 
Megan's project focused on women's health and data sharing. The abstract titles are: "My Phone, My Health App, My Data: Do Menstrual Tracking Apps Support Data Autonomy?" and "Assessing Current Representation of Women’s Health Needs in EHR Apps.” 
"I had such a great experience participating in VBISP and I'm very excited to present my work!" she says.

DBMI Spotlight: Coda Davison

Each month, we will feature one member of our DBMI faculty, staff, student, postdoc 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 mia.garchitorena@vumc.org!  
On May 31, the U.S. celebrated Memorial Day in honor of military personnel who have fallen in active duty. In recognition of the national holiday, we are highlighting Coda Davison, FACHE, PMP, MPA, BBA, a veteran and Director of the Project Management Office in the Department of Biomedical Informatics. Below, he shares his experience in the Air Force and how he came to DBMI.

Coda was born in San Diego, California. Six weeks after Coda was born, his father, who was in the Navy, was transferred to Rhode Island. The Davison family moved to the East Coast, and then to Toledo, Ohio, where they resided until Coda completed graduate school.

Coda knew from a young age that he wanted to become a psychologist. “I was really good at talking with people and I have a strong desire to help people,” he says.

He studied psychology and majored in human resources at the University of Toledo, but he realized that if he wanted to become a professional psychologist, he would need to obtain a doctorate, which he couldn’t afford. He transferred to the business school to study health care administration and worked at a hospital, which allowed him to pay his way through school and see first-hand how health care administration could change policies that benefit patients.

After graduating, he obtained a master’s degree in public health administration. At the time, his program only a offered few courses related to health care. Coda took all of those courses to supplement his business courses. The program leaders took notice of Coda’s interests and decided to offer health care as one of the core curriculums. Coda was the first to graduate from the program with a public health administration degree with a focus on health care.
“That was neat because they saw that there was a need for that work,” says Coda.

Joining the Air Force

By the time Coda graduated, the economy was suffering and there weren’t many jobs in his field. He decided to join the Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot.

Similar to his childhood, Coda was able to move all across the world while he was in the military. He moved six times under 10 years: He was stationed in Germany, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., before settling in Tennessee.

His first assignment was in Germany, where he spent one year helping a hospital pass its drug management, medical equipment and safety inspections. Pictured above: Coda (33) in Zweibrücken, Germany, 1988.

“It was exciting because German culture is quite different,” he explains, adding that he had to adjust to German employees taking mandatory spa days every 30 days and a month-long vacation each year. “I always had to find backups for people when they were out.” After one year, Coda and his team helped the hospital pass inspections with excellent ratings.

Coda wasn’t able to fly, but his adept skills at project management in health care made him the go-to problem solver in the military. It was common for Coda to be called upon to assist with medical facility closures and preparation on military bases. His practices became a standard in the Air Force.  

“Everywhere I’ve gone, people found things that needed to be improved, and they would say, ‘Tell Coda to fix that,’” he says. Coda served a total of nine years and three months in the Air Force (1985-1994). During that time, he got married to the love of his life, Carol, and received several medals for distinction in service.

Coda & Carol

Coda recently celebrated his 35th anniversary with his wife, Carol, whom he met in the military when Carol was onboarding people who just joined the Air Force. “She caught my attention,” Coda says with a laugh, adding that the two kept their relationship secret. They married in a quick ceremony before they flew to Germany for Coda’s first assignment.

A Fateful Meeting


Coda and Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, FAAP, FACMI, FAMIA, FIAHSI, Chair of DBMI, have been longtime friends and colleagues. But their relationship didn’t begin by the water cooler.

“Kevin was my next-door neighbor,” Coda says with a laugh. “He and I would sit on my back porch, have a beer and talk about health care and how the world was going.”
Pictured: Coda with Rischelle Jenkins and Dr. Johnson with his husband, Rob.
Dr. Johnson, who was working at Johns Hopkins, needed assistance with managing a project that he created so physicians could use proper dosing with medications for children. He asked Coda if he could help out. Coda, who owned a health care consulting business, agreed to work on a temporary basis. He ended up staying at Johns Hopkins, working as a Department Administrator and then as a research manager in pediatric oncology.

“Every project I worked on was innovative in a way that it gave people a better quality of life or it was designed to find cures for critical medical conditions,” he says. Coda recalls a close relationship he had with a young female cancer patient, whom he read to and played with while he was at work. “One day, she said, ‘I wish you were my dad,’” Coda says. That memory has stuck with him to this day.

In 2008, Carol retired from the federal government and the two moved to Tennessee, which they liked because of the affordable lifestyle. Coda told Dr. Johnson, who had joined DBMI at VUMC, that he had moved close to Nashville and proceeded to apply for jobs at Vanderbilt. After applying for 300 positions, Dr. Johnson hired Coda as a Project Manager in DBMI.
“It just proves that fate had it in mind that Kevin and I needed to be working together,” Coda says.
“It’s hard to express how much Coda’s life experience has impacted my lab and, ultimately, DBMI and VUMC," says Dr. Johnson. "To use baseball jargon, Coda is the consummate utility player. He’s a kind man, a great listener and a person who's incredibly willing to do things below his paygrade and level of experience. Most of our faculty and staff don’t know a quarter of what he does to keep us operationally excellent. We’re so lucky to have him in DBMI.”
Advice for Veterans
Coda has fond memories of being in the Air Force and encourages other veterans to find a community to engage with. 

“I definitely advise anyone in the military to get in contact with a veteran support group,” including at Vanderbilt and local communities, Coda says. “If you’re a veteran and don’t speak up about your service, you’re closing an opportunity to let people know that you did something important in your life and you want to help others.”

VUMC Masking Guidance & "Vaccinated" ID Badge Stickers

Recently, VUMC released new COVID-19 guidance and the announcement that the Occupational Health Clinic began distributing "Vaccinated" ID badge stickers to workforce members. There is additional information about both topics. See here for more information

Supporting You Through the ExpeditionTech Transition

On April 20, VUMC IT announced ExpeditionTech, an ongoing multi-year effort pioneering a new path to more secure and modern technology environments built for VUMC. Eventually, this initiative will touch every VUMC device, tool and application, along with all VUMC’s data. Throughout 2021, you can expect to receive VUMC IT support to guide you through these changes, along with regular updates tailored to your specific department or user group.

Funding Opportunities

VICC Breast SPORE Career Enhancement Funding Opportunity — Application Deadline Extended to JUNE 18. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) SPORE in Breast Cancer is to conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary and mechanism-based translational research that will have the highest possible impact for women and men with or at risk for breast cancer. The goal of this funding is to support junior and established investigators who wish to enhance or refocus aspects of their research in breast cancer for the generation of preliminary data required for the submission of external, breast cancer-relevant grant applications (e.g. R type, DOD). The investigator must be within six years of their first independent research or faculty appointment and have a commitment from the institution for salary and space. Up to two $50,000 grants will be awarded for one-year projects beginning in August of 2021, with the possibility of renewal for a second year based on measurable progress of impact. Read more here
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

HR Updates

Compliance & Conflict of Interest Modules — Due TODAY, June 15

REMINDER: All staff must complete their compliance modules and Conflict of Interest (COI) by June 15, 2021 or merit increases could be affected.
Visit the Compliance Portal to see which items are still incomplete here: https://complianceportal.app.vumc.org/ or access the Learning Exchange at https://learningexchange.vumc.org/#/dashboard and look under “My Courses” to view incomplete courses.

DBMI Welcomes New Employees

Please welcome the following new employees, who recently joined DBMI!
  • Zhiyu Wan — Postdoctoral Fellow (Brad Malin)
  • Sara Lynn Block — Project Manager (Josh Peterson)
  • Erin Whiting Clinical Trials Associate (Josh Peterson)
  • David Foutch — Statistical Analyst (Michael Matheny)
  • Katherine Simone SQL/ETL Application Developer (Michael Matheny)
  • (Brian) Tae Ho Koh Research Analyst I (Adam Wright)

Prepare for Your Annual Discussion, 2021

VUMC will launch its annual performance evaluation process for the fiscal year 2021 cycle starting June 22. For this cycle, the following items remain the same as last year:
  • Overall structure of the performance evaluation process. Leaders will still evaluate their staff based upon Credo, goals and elements of performance.
  • Simplified evaluation form. The performance evaluation will use the simplified evaluation form provided last year. If you recall, the form has fewer ratings and text box requirements. This allows for a more focused conversation about success and areas of improvement for the entire fiscal year. Here is a guide that will provide step- by-step instructions on how to use the system.
  • Self-evaluations. The self-evaluation step is not required for non-nursing staff. Staff can enter comments as part of the process and can prepare for a conversation with their direct manager.
For this year’s annual discussion, managers will have a list of questions for conversation starters. Staff can prepare in advance for a dialogue with their one-up leader by reviewing the questions below. The conversation starters are:
  • What turned out to be your biggest challenge in fiscal year 2021? What did you learn?
  • What do you foresee as your most important challenge/goal in fiscal year 2022? What do you hope to learn through that experience?
  • What observations do you have about how we have worked together as a team, and how we might do it better in the coming year?
All staff hired before April 1, 2021 and those whose end-of-orientation falls between April 1 and June 22 will have an evaluation form in Performance Central for leaders to complete by Aug. 31. Leaders should use the end of orientation review for any staff hired after April 1. This is for both exempt (salaried) and non-exempt (hourly) staff. Elizabeth Brown and Belinda Ballard will communicate more detailed evaluation instructions to staff and supervisors later this week.

Open Positions

Visit here to view current open positions throughout DBMI and its Centers. If your team has an job opening, please email Mia Garchitorena at mia.garchitorena@vumc.org.

Upcoming Events

Visit here for more details on the upcoming DBMI webinars and research colloquiums in July 2021.
Suggestions? Email dbmicomms@vumc.org.