Read the May issue of the DBMI Digest.
Read the May issue of the DBMI Digest.

A Letter from Kim Unertl:

2022 Summer Program Began May 31

The Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) got off to a great start this week!
Our 16 summer students arrived on Tuesday morning for a full day of orientation to kick off their summer experience in DBMI. We had a great interactive presentation from Alvin Jeffery on networking, did some speed networking activities to get to know each other, reviewed communication in professional settings, and talked about what to do when you feel overwhelmed.
On Wednesday, we started off our professional development activities by discussing scientific publishing and learning more from each other about how to read biomedical informatics research articles. Thursday was the kick off for our graduate student-led VBISP Design Challenge, which this year will focus on communicating biomedical informatics concepts to younger students through videos and zines. Is TikTok the next frontier for informatics communication? We’ll learn more over the course of the summer! Today starts our summer seminar series, with Jessica Ancker providing an introduction to biomedical informatics (pictured below). 

It is a little strange to be back in person after running the program virtually for the last two summers, but it's also really nice to be together! One aspect that really strikes me is the energy and enthusiasm that our summer students bring to learning about informatics. That energy is echoed by our graduate student assistants this summer, Michelle Gomez and Alex Becker, by staff involved in the program, including Rischelle Jenkins and Wil Comstock, and by all of the mentors involved in the program.
This summer, we have several returning mentors (Shilo Anders, Yaa Kumah-Crystal, Allison McCoy, Brad Malin, Kim Unertl, You Chen) and several first-time mentors for the program (Bennett Landman, Xingyi Gun, Luca Bonomi, Alvin Jeffery, Martin Were). Welcome to our new mentors and welcome back to our returning mentors!

Keep your ears open for updates about the students and about their research, and mark your calendars for VBISP end of summer presentations on August 1, August 2, and August 3 from 1-3 pm each day.
— Kim Unertl, PhD, FACMI, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center 

Table of Contents

  1. COVID-19 Updates
  2. Department Announcements, HR Reminders
  3. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  4. Faculty News
  5. Education
  6. DBMI Spotlight: Alvin Jeffery
  7. MyVUMC
  8. Funding Opportunities
  9. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

COVID-19 Updates

REMINDER: Masking Now Required in All Public Indoor Areas of VUMC

VUMC recently reimplemented required masking in all indoor, non-clinical areas of VUMC regardless of vaccination status due to “rising COVID-19 infections in our community and medical center”. See the following detailed information below: 
  • As before, masking will be required at 2525 West End Avenue, as well as in all clinical areas and on shuttles. The reimplemented requirements apply to all employees, patients, trainees, and visitors.
  • Masks may be removed when alone in one’s office, in private workspaces separated by at least 6 feet or by physical partitions, and when eating or drinking. However, VUMC officials recommend refraining from eating together if unable to socially distance.
  • Masks are not required outdoors, and we encourage using outdoor spaces to eat and drink.
  • There is no restriction on size of indoor or outdoor gatherings. So, we will continue to have in-person professional gatherings (conferences, meetings, etc.) for those who are able to do so, but recognize that in-person conferences and meetings must again include mask-wearing for our collective safety.
  • Students should stay tuned for any additional guidance from VU that would affect them on other parts of campus. Meanwhile, the VUMC masking guidance applies to everyone in the 2525 building.
  • NOTE: The 14th floor cubicles are not considered private offices, so masking is required while working in cubicles.
Remember to get your second booster shot, if eligible, at VUMC or another location near you and order free rapid tests here from the US Postal Service. 

DBMI Announcements, HR Reminders

Welcoming New DBMI Staff

The following new staff will be joining DBMI in the coming weeks. See the names, titles and start dates below:
  • Jessica Deere – Nurse Informatics Data Analyst (CIPHI team, reporting to Robert Winter) — 6/6/22
  • Sander Su – Application Developer (reporting to Wei-Qi Wei) — 6/13/22
  • Chris Guardo – Associate Statistical Analyst (reporting to Wei-Qi Wei) — 6/13/22
  • Jennifer Martellotti – Program Manager (Administrative team/HR, reporting to Elizabeth Brown) — 7/11/22
Be sure to welcome them upon their start dates! 


Elizabeth Brown sent two important reminders about completing the Annual Compliance Traning, as well as a new Workplace Violence Training for DBMI staff, by June 15, 2022. Email Elizabeth at if you have questions about either or both trainings. See details below:

Annual Compliance Trainings 

If you have not already done so, please complete VUMC's required Annual Compliance Trainings before June 15, 2022.
Please note that you may be disqualified from any potential annual increase if the items are not completed in the Compliance Portal by June 15
The training can be found by logging onto the VUMC Learning Exchange and select "My Courses" to view a listing of non-complete items. 

DBMI STAFF: Workplace Violence Training

The Joint Commission has noted that workplace violence rates are on the rise nationally and has made changes to their education requirements on this topic.
To meet these requirements, all VUMC employees and providers were assigned the training “Workplace Violence Prevention Overview” in the Learning Exchange on May 2nd. The training due date is June 15, 2022. Please be sure to complete the training by June 15

REMINDER: Parking Instructions for 2525 West End & Kensington Garage

As a reminder, parking changes for the 2525 West End Ave. and Kensington garages were instituted in early May. Barbara Payne hosted a Zoom meeting to discuss the changes and address any questions that employees had. Watch the recording here and see the information. 
Here is a list of the nearby parking garages monthly rates for Vanderbilt:
Kensington Garage-2525 West End Avenue: $55.00 /month
N-Lot Natchez & Blakemore (shuttle lot across from the stadium): $28.00 /month
25th Garage 25th Avenue, levels 3-10: $49.00 /month

Daily Rates (New rates TBD) 2525 Garage-adjacent/attached to 2525 building
0-10 minutes: FREE
Each additional 20 minutes: $1.00
Daily Maximum: $20.00
Lost Ticket: $35.00
Email Barbara Payne at if you have questions.   

Fun Times in DBMI

Matthew Weinger Got Married

Matthew Weinger, MD, married his partner Lisa Price in April 2022!
Dr. Weinger is Ty Smith Chair in Patient Safety and Medical Simulation; Director of the Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety (CRISS); and Professor of Anesthesiology, Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education. Lisa Price worked at VICTR for many years but has been retired for about two years. She now teaches English as a second language to immigrants.
The two first met at a meeting in CRISS about the PREDICT UI, but they didn't connect until they met again via about a year later. They have been together for more than eight years. Congratulations!!

Laurie Novak's Son Graduated High School 

Laurie Novak, PhD, MHSA, FAMIA, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Director of the Center of Excellence in Applied AI, and her family celebrated her son Wilson's graduation from Brentwood High School last Saturday. 
"In the fall, he is headed to Auburn University to study Industrial Engineering!" Congrats to Wilson!

Leigh Anne Tang Completed Tour de Nash

Leigh Anne Tang, PhD student in DBMI, participated in the Walk Bike Nashville's 18th annual Tour de Nash on May 21! Tour de Dash is Nashville's largest urban bike ride.
Josh Peterson will be participating in 2023!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

A Celebration of Juneteenth

The Office of Diversity & Inclusion, in collaboration with members from the Diversity Liaison Council and our Employee Resource Group leaders and communities, invite you to join a celebration of Juneteenth.  
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth, held on June 19 annually, commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. 
"Juneteenth is Joy" is an interactive event will feature both Nashville & VUMC talent and highlight the importance of Juneteenth. Be sure to wear your Juneteenth colors and apparel – there will be prizes! See Zoom details below: 
Juneteenth is Joy: June 20 at 12:00 pm CT. Zoom link here.  

P.R.I.D.E. Employee Resource Group Supports Thursday “Wear Your Pride” Days in June

June is Pride Month and VUMC employees will have an opportunity to show their support for the LGTBQ+ community in June with the colors of their work clothes.
The P.R.I.D.E. Employee Resource Group at VUMC announced that Wear Your Pride will be held every Thursday throughout June.
LGBTQ+ members and allies at VUMC on Wear Your Pride days are encouraged to wear to work an item of clothing that is the color from a Pride flag they identify with. There are dozens of Pride flags associated with specific groups within the LGBTQ+ community as well as LGBTQ+ ally flag.

Individuals are encouraged to research to find the Pride flag that best represents them and then wear a color from that flag each Thursday. Clothing items for Wear Your Pride should also adhere to VUMC dress code. Read more here!

Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month Comes to a Close

May was Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. To celebrate, VUMC highlighted AANHPI employees on Twitter throughout the month, starting with our colleague Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, Director of the Centers for Health Services Research and Clinical Quality and Implementation Research and Professor of Medicine. See the entire Twitter thread here

Faculty News

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

Trent Rosenbloom, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA, Interim Chair, 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

Thomas Reese & DBMI Colleagues Published Paper on "Conceptualizing Clinical Decision Support as Complex Interventions"

Thomas Reese, PharmD, PhD, Assistant Professor in DBMI, and others in DBMI published a paper in JAMIA titled "Conceptualizing clinical decision support as complex interventions: a meta-analysis of comparative effectiveness trials." Co-authors include Siru LiuBryan SteitzAllison McCoyElise RussoBrian KohJessica Ancker and Adam Wright. Click to read more

Brad Malin Discusses Privacy Concerns if Roe v. Wade is Overturned

Brad Malin, PhD, FAIMBE, FACMI, FIAHSI, Accenture Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics, and Computer Science and Vice Chair for Research Affairs in DBMI, discussed the right to privacy in a WebMD article "Roe v. Wade’s Pending Fall Raises Privacy Concerns". Click to read more.

Megan Lancaster Published Study on Arrhythmias as Presentation of Genetic Cardiomyopathy

Megan Lancaster, MD, PhD, Clinical Fellow in the Vanderbilt Genomic Medicine Training Program within the Center for Precision Medicine, and colleagues published a review in Circulation Research titled "Arrhythmias as Presentation of Genetic Cardiomyopathy". Click to read more

Drew Wilimitis-Led Study on Suicide Risk Featured in Health IT Analytics

What happens when you combine automated risk models with face-to-face screening by clinicians for suicide prevention? An article in Health IT Analytics covers the study "Integration of Face-to-Face Screening With Real-time Machine Learning to Predict Risk of Suicide Among Adults". The study was led by Drew Wilimitis, Statistical Analyst in DBMI. Authors include Allison McCoy, Rob Turer, Michael Ripperger, Elliot Fielstein, Troy Kurz and Colin Walsh. Click to read more.


Welcoming the 2022 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) Students 

The 2022 Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Summer Program (VBISP) started on Tuesday, May 31. This summer, three high school students11 undergraduate students and two graduate students will participating in the program. Be sure to say hi and introduce yourselves!
  • High School Students: Adonaye WoldegebrielJacqueline AlvaradoCaleb Donaldson
  • Undergraduate Students: Rachel CurciKate PhillipsTooba HarrisNicholas JacksonMoria HulbertKassandra Jutis, Marilyn LiontsCharlie SeiglerJasmine LeNicholas Skoufis, Mihir Kulkarni
  • Graduate Students: Rachael Miller (PharmD) and Nora Scheer (Industrial Engineering PhD)
Special thanks to Kim Unertl and Rischelle Jenkins for their yearly efforts in recruiting and supporting the VBISP students. Finally, thank you to Daniel Fabbri, who made it possible for us to resume sponsoring high school students for the VBISP this year. Learn more about that effort in the VUMC Reporter here

DBMI Spotlight: Alvin Jeffery

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!  
Alvin Jeffery, PhD, RN-BC, CCRN-K, FNP-BC, Assistant Professor with the School of Nursing and the Department of Biomedical Informatics, has a unique passion for combining nursing and informatics that is evident among the nursing community. In fact, his hard work and research recently earned him the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship! This fellowship recognizes early- to mid-career nursing scholars and innovators with high potential to accelerate leadership in nursing research, practice, education, policy and entrepreneurship. Read more about him in this Q&A below!
Where were you born and raised? 
I was born and mostly raised in rural North Central Arkansas (Melbourne to be exact), but I went to high school in the North East Arkansas town of Jonesboro. 
What did your family do for work? Do you have any siblings?
I come from a long line of postal workers: both of my grandfathers, my father, and my mother all worked for the USPS, but only my mom still does (she’s now a postmaster!). After mail delivery, my dad ended up working for McDonell Douglas, which then became Boeing where he did plane assembly. I have two youngers brothers, one of whom is the parent of my six-year-old niece, whom I adore! 
Pictured below: 1. Alvin (L) with his baby brother, Bill (R). "Our younger brother didn’t come into our lives until much later!"; 2. Alvin with his six-year-old niece, Eleanor. "We were 'digging' for gem stones in a rock block. She made me do most of the rock breaking/digging, and she just wanted to play with the gems."
What subjects were you interested in as a kid?
Math and chemistry were my favorites! I also really enjoyed learning languages – I tried learning Latin and Italian (but never got very far), but Spanish really clicked with me. A little-known fact about me is that I ended up taking Koine Greek in college.
What made you decide to pursue the sciences?
Although I always liked the basic sciences (biology, physiology, chemistry, etc.) during high school, I wanted to apply those things to improve the human condition, so I pursued a career in nursing. While I completed my undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees, I HATED the research and statistics courses – they were dry, boring, and I couldn’t see their application. However, at the end of my Master’s degree, I had used my thesis to ask an important clinical question and then start to answer it, and I fell in love with research. That’s what set me on the path to pursuing a PhD and a research career.
What moments from growing up and/or going to school put you on the path to your current career? 
An ah-ha moment for me was during my PhD program where I was encouraged to essentially “combine all the things you love”. When I combined nursing, programming, math, discovery, leadership, and teaching/mentoring to focus on improving health and the healthcare system, I guess you get, well, ME! 😊
Pictured left:
"One of the prior presidents of the American Assembly of Men in Nursing worked with me at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He organized a campaign to increase the visibility of men in nursing for promoting at high schools, job fairs, etc. I would’ve been about 22 or 23, so this picture would’ve been taken around 2009. I’m told they even made some life-size posters of some of the photos that they took to events!"
Describe your path into nursing and how nursing inspired you.
I did several mission/humanitarian trips to Central and South America where I served as a translator during summer breaks in high school. While I originally wanted to be a physician as I was growing up, these trips showed me that being a nurse (and nurse practitioner) has much more flexibility. I was also amazed to learn that nurses focus on more than just individual health. On these trips, I saw nurses focused on families, communities, education, environment, etc., and I was hooked! Nursing has been so much greater than I could have ever imagined, and I try to encourage all my students, RAs (and peers!) to consider acquiring a nursing degree during their training. 
How did you discover informatics? What is it about informatics that interested you?
I always liked technology, and I taught myself some programming to make my life easier along the way. But it wasn’t until my PhD program taking electives in DBMI, and also meeting Laurie Novak at a VUMC working group, that I realized informatics had the people and tools that clicked with me. (That working group was for the for the Cornelius Project that focused on building and implementing predictive models). As I met more informaticists and attended more conferences, it’s like I finally found my people. (Thanks to Laurie Novak, Cindy Gadd, Josh Peterson and Cathy Ivory for being the first to welcome me into the family!) 
Tell me the story of how you and your husband, Jamey, met. When did you get married?
We got married in 2014 in Chicago, Illinois (it didn’t use to be legal everywhere). We met in 2009 at King’s Island, the amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was Pride Night, and some of my friends knew some of Jamey’s friends, and we instantly hit it off. While everyone else in our friend circles wanted to talk, we wanted to take advantage of the really short lines at the rides.
Not surprisingly, Pride Night in Cincinnati isn’t the most populated event (haha!), so for many of the rides, we could just stay put and keep riding them because there was no one else waiting. I’m sure that created the right opportunity (and time) for us to get to determine we wanted to try getting to know each other better.
Pictured right: (L-R): Taylor (sister-in-law), Bill (brother), David (uncle), Peanut (step-father), Jamey (husband), Alvin (middle), Melony (mom), Robin (aunt), Susan (aunt).
When and how did you come to join DBMI?
I formally joined DBMI as a postdoc fellow in 2017. I had a bit of an identity crisis as I was looking for a postdoc fellowship because nursing schools said, “You look too much like an informaticist,” and Departments of Biomedical Informatics said, “You look too much like a nurse” – fortunately, Kevin Johnson and Michael Matheny saw an opportunity to support someone who could bridge those worlds.
What are you currently working on?
I’m excited to get started on my Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Innovators & Leaders! I’ll be hiring a programmer to help me develop a software system that helps us randomize decision support tool design elements and have users select their preferences (kinda like when you go to the optometrist and say whether you can see the left side or right side better). This will hopefully initiate a new framework for empirical evaluation of user interfaces. (We’re also planning to add an ongoing Bayesian analysis that allows us to remove non-ideal elements as we go).
I also went into Just-in-Time on a big grant focused on probabilistic phenotyping of substance use disorders. If everything goes well there, I’ll be hiring more people and really growing my lab. I’m really thrilled to be getting to the point where I get to make some of my ideas a reality, and if anybody wants to join me in this work, please reach out! 
Pictured left: Alvin with DBMI's Patty Sengstack and Patti Brennan, Director of the NLM. "
We were in DC at the Friends of the National Library of Medicine 2019 Annual Awards Dinner where Betsy Weiner was receiving the Nursing Informatics Award."
Any words of advice or things you’d like to share with members of DBMI?
My mantra over the past couple years has been: “If it doesn’t bring me joy, it needs to go.” Of course, that can’t apply to everything, but it has really helped me say “no” to some opportunities and keep me focused on the things I’m passionate about.
What do you like to do for fun outside of work? 
I love to travel, and I’m so excited I’m getting to do that more now. Lately, it’s been less about the destination and more about the journey for me. What are the experiences I can acquire and the memories I can make? Who are the people I can meet? Now that so many groups have learned how to work remotely, I can keep moving my lab’s progress forward while also filling my personal life with fun experiences!

What to Know if You Have COVID Now

Quick testing is key to getting best treatment. 
Get tested as soon as you feel sick. These medicines work best in the first few days that you have symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and others. Click to read more in My Southern Health

VUMC My Southern Health: "Processing Trauma, and Your Body’s Response to It"

Learn how you can process trauma — and how working through your feelings helps you move forward after a stressful event.

Funding 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
Vanderbilt Center for Effective Health Communication (CEHC) Health Communication Grant — SUBMISSION DEADLINE: JUNE 20, 2022. The CEHC Health Communication Research Grant Program will support the development, implementation, and evaluation of research projects or training activities that involve health communication. The goal of these pilot grants is to foster additional health communication research at VUMC that will ultimately benefit patient management and outcomes. This program will support up to 2 research projects with up to $7,500 each. Click here for more information
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.

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 the previous/recorded DBMI webinars from January to April 2022.
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