A Letter from Kim Unertl, Director of the Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) 

Hi everyone,

The Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) welcomed its 14th group of summer interns on June 1, 2021. Like last summer, we’re operating in a virtual/remote mode.
This year’s group includes 14 students from a variety of backgrounds. They will be working on innovative research projects with faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI). In addition to their research projects, the VBISP students will be attending seminars presented by DBMI faculty and graduate students, working on a group design challenge focused on vaccine health literacy and participating in professional development activities. 
In this special edition of our DBMI newsletter, we are sharing brief profiles of each student throughout the entirety of their internship. We hope this provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to get to know the students despite not meeting in person. Read our first set of student profiles below!
The 2021 VBISP students are funded through DBMI’s National Library of Medicine T15 grant and our National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates site award. The culmination of the summer program will be group design challenge presentations (taking place on July 30) and individual research presentations (taking place August 3-5).
Over the last 14 years, Vanderbilt’s DBMI has been a leader in developing new pathways into informatics, including introducing more than 150 students to biomedical informatics research through VBISP.  While we look forward to returning to an in-person VBISP in summer 2022, lessons learned from our summer 2020 program (and the rapid pivot to a virtual/remote format) are helping to inform new strategies for summer 2021.
The program relies on a stellar group of DBMI staff, students and faculty who have helped provide a welcoming and interesting experience for students. This includes administrative support from Rischelle Jenkins and Wil Comstock, graduate student assistance from Michelle Gomez and Alex Becker, faculty who volunteered to present seminar sessions and provide group design challenge feedback, and faculty mentors. 
Thanks to everyone involved in the program! Please welcome our VBISP students to DBMI! 
– Kim Unertl, PhD, MS, FACMI, Director of the VBISP and Graduate Studies, Associate Professor in DBMI

Table of Contents

  1. VBISP Announcements
  2. DBMI Spotlight: Evelyn Kriter, Stuart Waller, Kyla Gabriel

VBISP Announcements – Save the Date

VBISP Group Design Challenge 

Final Presentations – July 30

Groups of students will be presenting their solution for the 2021 VBISP Design Challenge: Technology to Enhance Vaccine Literacy.
Throughout the summer, the students will be working in groups to identify ways to improve vaccine literacy, empower individuals and families to make informed decisions on vaccines and/or augment and complement public health recommendations. In this session, the groups will present their work to an expert feedback panel and others in DBMI. 
The final presentations will take place on Friday, July 30 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm CT.

VBISP Student Presentations – August 3-5

Each student will present their research project to attendees from DBMI and beyond, providing an overview of the research they’ve been working on with DBMI faculty this summer. Presentation titles and a list of presenters for each day will be sent out the week before these sessions. 

The student presentations will take place from Tuesday, August 3 to Thursday, August 5 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm CT.
Email Rischelle Jenkins at rischelle.jenkins@vanderbilt.edu if you have questions.

VBISP Spotlight: Evelyn Kriter

Evelyn Kriter was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She currently attends Middlebury College (located in Vermont) and is working remotely from South Carolina. She is majoring in computer science and minoring in Mandarin. She competes on the women’s golf team and is a Royal Conservatory pianist.
While growing up, Evelyn wanted to be a physician because she is driven to help people. In high school, she happened to join the robotics club, and a passion for science and technology took hold. As the only girl in the club, she wanted to show she could not only compete, but she could also be the best.
“I knew nothing about coding or computers going in,” she explains. “I pushed myself to learn everything I could, perhaps out of spite to show the guys, that I could rise to the challenge!” Pictured below: Evelyn with her women's golf team and playing golf.
When told by a peer that she could not build a computer from scratch, she did just that. “Naturally, it would have to be better, faster and cheaper than any other, and it was,” she says.
Pictured right: Evelyn's homemade computer.
This passion for technology led her to a realization: As a doctor, she might one day save hundreds of lives. However, medicine combined with technology, data analytics and machine learning might enable thousands of doctors to save millions of lives.
Evelyn strongly believes in the use of technology to help others. She envisions a future in which health care institutions use technology as a liaison between people and computer systems.
This interest led her to apply to the VBISP, where she can use her background in computer science to discover ways in which biomedical software can make an impact on patients’ well-being.
During her internship, she will work with Alex Cheng, PhD, Research Assistant Professor in DBMI, taking participant perception data from hospitals on the East Coast and creating a dashboard to manipulate, visualize and analyze the data. 
Pictured left: Evelyn at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, 2019; Pictured below: Dr. Cheng.
“I am excited to have Evelyn join us this summer to help build a program dashboard for the research participant perception survey," says Dr. Cheng. "Her prior experience working with R Shiny stood out to us and will be valuable in this high impact project.”
“I’m excited to work with the data,” she says. “I want to see what we can gather from it and how it will affect people, and hopefully our research can help patients get more efficient service.”
Evelyn plans to go to graduate school or medical school after graduating college.

“One of my greatest goals through the VBISP internship is to get exposure to the medical field and the Vanderbilt facilities and meet the great mentors who are leaders in their field,” she says.
Welcome, Evelyn! Contact Information: evelyn.x.kriter@vumc.org; evelyn.kriter@verizon.net.

VBISP Spotlight: Stuart Waller

Stuart Waller was born and raised in Seattle. He is currently studying mathematics and cognitive studies at Vanderbilt University (VU).
Stuart worked as a children’s tutor throughout high school and began his college career as an education major. He decided to switch to math after discovering the wide range of opportunities that a mathematical background could unlock.
“I could still end up teaching math, but this will hopefully allow me to thoroughly explore my interests,” he says. Pictured above: Stuart, 2021; Stuart exploring the Skykomish River, WA, 2021.
“Math is something that is challenging for me – I am not naturally good at it,” he continues. “But the problem-solving aspect of it is satisfying and I never find myself bored. I realized later that math was in everything.”
A few months ago, Stuart began searching for research opportunities at his institution. He came upon the VBISP, which interested him because there were no informatics courses available to undergraduates. He applied shortly after.
During his internship, Stuart will work with Cosmin "Adi" Bejan, PhD, Assistant Professor in DBMI, on developing natural language processing (NLP) methods to identify substance abuse cases in electronic health records.
Pictured left: Stuart with his brother and grandmother.
“I’m excited to learn from his unique understanding of the intersections of NLP and biomedical informatics and gain real experiences in these domains, which I haven’t gotten from YouTube or books in school,” Stuart explains. “It’ll give me a strong sense of direction in terms of navigating a career.”
Pictured right: Dr. Bejan.
"Stuart is very dedicated and enthusiastic about learning how to implement NLP  methodologies to capture social determinants of health in clinical notes," says Dr. Bejan. "He already showed great programming skills and a good understanding of machine learning techniques. I am excited to mentor Stuart this summer and I look forward to seeing his accomplishments."
Stuart is excited to be working with Dr. Bejan and to virtually meeting DBMI faculty, staff and other students. “It will definitely be nice to meet new people, which I haven’t been able to do much because of COVID,” he says.
After graduating college, he intends to get a master’s degree in the sciences. For now, he’s looking forward to studying abroad in Europe in spring 2022.  
His hobbies include exercising, playing basketball, hiking and hanging out with his pet Toucan, Luther (pictured left with young Stuart, 2008).
Welcome, Stuart! Contact Information: stuart.waller@vumc.org; stuart.j.waller@vanderbilt.edu. 

VBISP Spotlight: Kyla Gabriel

Kyla Gabriel is a biomedical engineering major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
From a young age, Kyla was interested in science and learning about the human body. She thought about becoming an astronaut, but her parents’ careers in the medical industry and engineering, as well as her science teachers, influenced her desire to study biomedical engineering and pursue a career as a physician.
During college, she immersed herself in medical projects and opportunities. For example, she created a neurosurgery simulator for the medical students and shadowed a cardiologist. “It was amazing to see a human heart beating in front of me!” she recalls.
Some fun facts about Kyla: She loves to swim and play the drums. She also enjoys cooking with her family as a way to celebrate her Indian, Jamaican, Scottish and Puerto Rican heritage.
“I am a part of a group of people with diverse, vibrant cultures and, most importantly, a shared love for spicy food!”

Her favorite dishes are curry chicken and dumplings, which she cooks with her family every Christmas. “We make them different by blending flavors of Indian and Caribbean food,” she says. 
Kyla says she’s been looking forward to joining the VBISP since she came upon the program about a year ago. “I found the VBISP to be really interesting – you can use biomedical research to help health care and patients,” she says.
She will be working with Yaa Kumah-Crystal, MD, MPH, MS, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Pediatric Endocrinology, to create a Siri-type tool for electronic health records.
"Kyla is a bright promising researcher and very proactive," says Dr. Kumah-Crystal. "I am looking forward to working together with her to define the future of voice workflows in health." 
After completing her degree at UAB, she plans on attending medical school to become a neurosurgeon and conduct research on Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological conditions.
Welcome, Kyla! Contact Information: kgabriel910@gmail.com. 

Have questions about the summer program or the VBISP students? Let us know by emailing Kim Unertl at kim.unertl@vanderbilt.edu and Rischelle Jenkins at rischelle.jenkins@vanderbilt.edu.

Suggestions? Email dbmicomms@vumc.org.