Jessica Ancker, PhD, MPH, Vice Chair for Educational Affairs & Associate Professor in DBMI

Letter from the Vice Chair for Educational Affairs

Hi everyone, 
One of the goals for the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) over the next few years is to start to diversify sources of funding for PhD students and postdocs. We are incredibly fortunate to have the T15 training grant from the National Library of Medicine, which supports 9 PhD students and 6 postdocs at any given time. Typically, we use this funding to provide 5 years of support for each PhD student and 3 for each postdoc. However, if we could open up other sources of funding for selected students, we could free up some training slots more quickly and we would be able to recruit more trainees to the department. Here's how:
  1. A few selected students who have developed strong relationships with faculty mentors might be able to transition to faculty funding for the final years of their degree, after all coursework has been completed and the student is working full-time on research.
  2. A second possibility is that certain students would receive additional mentoring to apply for pre-doctoral grants such as those offered by several NIH institutes and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Winning a pre-doctoral grant as PI is a terrific CV booster and improves student chances of moving into a tenure-track research position.
As we explore these and other possibilities, we would like to encourage faculty to consider writing PhD student positions into their federal grants. In addition, we will set up educational sessions for students and faculty interested in learning about applying for pre-doctoral grants. Finally, I welcome DBMI faculty input and feedback as we develop deliberate and thoughtful policies to provide guidance, mentoring and protection for students who are not supported by the T15. We are committed to making sure that any change in our policies is beneficial to all our trainees. I’m looking forward to working with all of you on this and other initiatives! — Jessica 
As a reminder, please send your updates to and submit suggestions or feedback on the newsletter to!

Table of Contents

  1. Department News & Announcements
  2. DBMI Celebrates: Women's History Month
  3. Faculty News
  4. Educational Updates
  5. DBMI Spotlight: Bryson Chavis
  6. Quarterly Kudos
  7. MyVUMC + Statements from Jeff Balser & HAAPI
  8. Funding Opporunities 
  9. HR Updates
  10. Kevin's Korner
  11. Open Positions + Upcoming Events

Department News & Announcements

Daniel Fabbri, Cindy Gadd & Adam Wright Named to Hold Endowed Directorships

Eight leaders from across Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have been named as holders of endowed directorships. Three out of the eight recipients are faculty in DBMI. See details below:
Congratulations to Drs. Fabbri, Gadd and Wright! Read more in the VUMC Reporter here.

Discovery Lecture: "Next Steps in Health Care Transformation: The Moral Determinants of Health" by Donald Berwick — April 15

Donald Berwick, MD, MPP, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Health care Improvement, will be speaking about a variety of topics related to the future of health care during his lecture, "Next Steps in Health Care Transformation: The Moral Determinants of Health." This talk is part of The Discovery Lecture Series and sponsored by the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center (VCLIC).
Below is detailed information about the lecture:
Date: April 15, 2021 at 4:00 pm CT via Zoom
Please register for the lecture using the following link: The day before, all registered participants will be emailed the Zoom information. 

DBMI Celebrated Women's History Month

March was Women's History Month. To celebrate, we highlighted a few women in our department on Twitter. They shared their backgrounds, what Women's History Month means to them and who inspired them in their lives and careers. They also gave some words of advice for other women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Click the links below to read their Twitter features! 

Allison McCoy, PhD, FAMIA

Dr. McCoy, Assistant Professor in DBMI, reflected on her early interest in computers and why she pursued a career in informatics. She also shared who inspired her to improve electronic health records. Read more here.

Yaa Kumah-Crystal, MD, MPH, MS

Dr. Kumah-Crystal, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Pediatric Endocrinology, spoke about her work with voice assistant technology, how to rehumanize health care using computers and why her mother is her source of inspiration. Read more here.

Arianna Nimocks

Ms. Nimocks, Research Analyst in VCLIC, is a recent college grad and a new employee to DBMI. Even though this is her first job out of college, she has already been enamored by the department's faculty and their research. She comments on the importance of having both female and male mentors and shares some advice for women in STEM. Read more here.

Faculty News

REU-PATHI Program Receives 3-Year Grant Renewal from National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year grant renewal for VUMC's DBMI Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program for Access to Training in Health Informatics (REU-PATHI).
The grant was given to principal investigator (PI) Kim Unertl, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Director of Graduate Studies in DBMI. Brad Malin, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics and Computer Science, Vice Chair for Research Affairs in Biomedical Informatics and Affiliated Faculty in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, is co-PI for the REU-PATHI grant. The grant is in the amount is $405,000.

Brad Malin Appointed to CDC's Board of Scientific Counselors, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Dr. Malin was appointed to the 2021 NCHS Board of Scientific Counselors. His term takes place from December 2020 to December 2024. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Board of Scientific Counselors is a committee charged with providing advice and making recommendations to the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services; the Director, CDC; and the Director, NCHS, regarding the scientific and technical program goals and objectives, strategies, and priorities of the NCHS. Visit here for more info.

Trent Rosenbloom Appointed to NLM's Biomedical Informatics, Library and Data Sciences Review Committee

Trent Rosenbloom, MD, MPH, FACMI, FAMIA, Professor and Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs in Biomedical Informatics; professor of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and the School of Nursing; Director of My Health at Vanderbilt and Clinical Effectiveness Research for VHAN; and Associate Director of the Medical Innovators Development Program, was appointed to the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Biomedical Informatics, Library and Data Sciences Review Committee. His term will take place from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2025. 

Educational Updates

Graduate & Professional Student Appreciation Week — April 5-9

To show appreciation for students at Vanderbilt University during Graduate & Professional Student Appreciation Week, the Office for Inclusive Excellence asked faculty, staff and postdocs to participate in a social media and recognition campaign. Employees and postdocs were asked to submit a 30-second video or brief quote about a student, which will be featured on Instagram. Students that are highlighted will receive prize giveaways all week long.
Look out for the social media posts on Instagram @inclusive_vandy, @vugradschool & @vanderbilt_careercenter & Twitter @vumcDBMI

Techquity Design Challenge Final Presentations — April 7

The VCLIC Techquity Design Challenge is an eight week program that invited teams of students, clinicians, faculty and staff from different scientific disciplines and of various backgrounds to propose novel solutions to problems related to health care equity and technology. Teams will present their solutions during their final presentations on Wednesday, April 7, at 12:00 pm CT during the DBMI Seminar. Please join the VCLIC Techquity Design Challenge by using this Zoom link*.
*DBMI Faculty and Staff: Please note that this is the link for the Wednesday seminars on your calendar as sent by Rischelle Jenkins.

Student Spotlight: Bryson Chavis

Each month, we will feature one member of our DBMI faculty, staff, student 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!  
Bryson Chavis has already had an epic informatics career despite not graduating from college yet.

In May 2019, Bryson came to VUMC DBMI as a summer intern for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program for Access to Training in Health Informatics (REU-PATHI). His work on antimicrobial stewardship, which he conducted alongside his DBMI mentors Shilo Anders, PhD, and Michael Ward, MD, PhD, MBA, was recently published in Applied Clinical Informatics

“I was ecstatic!” Bryson said after the study was published. “I’m so grateful that DBMI gave me this chance as I didn’t have internship experiences before this. This was the first time I did something this large of a scale.”

According to Bryson, Drs. Anders and Ward and the other researchers, the amount of over-prescribing of antibiotics in ambulatory care settings is increasing. Unnecessary prescribing can harm patients because it can cause antibiotic resistance and drug-related toxicities. Their study, “User-Centered Design in Pediatric Acute Care Settings Antimicrobial Stewardship,” aimed to incorporate user-centered design (or including clinicians in the design process of a project) to improve clinicians’ prescribing habits using positive and impactful feedback.

“Bryson was thrown into health care, human factors and the informatics world with virtually no training, but he was a quick learner who was eager to participate where, and however he could,” said Dr. Anders, Associate Research Professor in DBMI, Anesthesiology, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety.

“Quite the challenge for an undergraduate student with no clinical training and yet, it is a testament to Bryson and his work ethic!” added Dr. Ward, Associate Professor in DBMI and the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Bryson is currently majoring in computer science and minoring in mathematics at Clemson University in South Carolina. He will graduate in May 2021, then go on to work for Epic Systems as a Software Developer. “Even though I’m going into the workforce, I can say that I had the opportunity to publish papers through Vanderbilt, which is huge,” Bryson said.

A Change of Heart

Bryson was born and raised in South Carolina. He spent a majority of his childhood moving around various parts of South Carolina while his father, a minister, found work at different churches. 

At a young age, Bryson realized he was skilled in math and science and had an affinity for caring for others. He eventually chose to pursue a nursing degree his freshman year of college, but he soon realized that he wanted to serve clinicians and patients behind the frontlines. With his newfound direction, Bryson changed his major from nursing to computer science and transferred from the University of South Carolina Lancaster to Clemson University in SC. 

Enthralled with Informatics

As soon as Bryson began his sophomore year at Clemson University, he immediately dove into classes like programming and calculus. “With computer science, I like that I can sit down today and build something that can be used tomorrow,” he said.

While studying at Clemson, he met with the director of a new biomedical data science master’s program at the university, who suggested that he apply to REU programs. He applied to several programs, including VUMC DBMI. Bryson reached out to leaders of VUMC DBMI’s REU program, who said they were interested in him and offered to set up meetings with potential faculty mentors. After meeting with several faculty, he chose Drs. Anders and Ward as his mentors and he began assisting with their project on antimicrobial stewardship in pediatrics acute care settings.

Making a Difference 

Bryson moved to Nashville and completed his summer internship from May to August 2019. He met with Drs. Anders and Ward on a weekly basis and during Bryson’s time away from his mentors, he met with clinicians and developed tools to help improve their antibiotic prescribing habits.

“Bryson led design sessions and conducted interviews with clinicians, finding no challenge was too difficult for him to overcome,” Dr. Anders explained. “Working with our team, he refined a feedback system design using a user-centered design approach, which is novel in this domain."

At one of Bryson's user-design meetings, a clinician told him that he “didn’t want a screen full of ‘feel bads,’” or negative feedback. “We’re trying to tell clinicians in the nicest way possible that what they’re doing is potentially hurting or helping people,” Bryson explained. “One of the challenges was how can we make this tool as friendly, appealing, and meaningful as possible without overly criticizing the provider?”

By the time Bryson had completed his research and began writing the study with Drs. Anders, Ward, and colleagues, his summer internship had ended. He then moved back to South Carolina and started his final four semesters at Clemson University. Bryson stayed connected with his DBMI mentors occasionally, who finalized and published the study. 

“With mentoring from his team, he was able to develop a wireframe that was both simple and elegant, addressing the clinical problem that these clinicians face,” said Dr. Ward.

“Bryson was a joy to work with during the internship; his curiosity, genuine desire to learn, and always sporting the Clemson orange brought an energy to this team,” said Dr. Anders. 

In May 2021, Bryson will begin his new job at Epic Systems, where he will hopefully be working on nursing applications. Congratulations to Bryson on this incredible accomplishment, and good luck to him in his future endeavors!
Email Bryson at & follow him on Twitter @ChavisBryson!

Quarterly Kudos

Congratulations to Rischelle Jenkins, Program Manager for the Masters/PhD Program in DBMI, who won the Quarterly Kudos drawing and a $100 Amazon gift card during this week's meeting!
Rischelle as nominated by Patrick Wu, who said: "In response to the pandemic, the Graduate School changed the process to document successful defense of the PhD degree. The changes were made over time, so I was uncertain whether I had met all the requirements for degree conferral. Rischelle went above and beyond to confirm that I met all the requirements, kept me in the loop, allowing me to meet the submission deadline."
Here are the other nominations for staff who were recognized this quarter:
Joyce Green, nominated by Paul Harris: "Extremely professional, always helpful, and very responsive. I love working with Joyce any time I have an opportunity." 
Elise Russo, nominated by Adam Wright: "Elise has taken ownership of VCLIC's Design Challenge in a really impressive way. It's a complicated event with distributed teams across VUMC, and Elise has coordinated all the teams, kept them on schedule, brought in resources from across VUMC to assist and delivered consistently high customer service. Thanks, Elise!"
Be sure to submit your nominations next quarter! 

UPDATE: Meeting & Screening Guidelines for VUMC Employees

VUMC will allow group gatherings for training, education and operational meetings with updated guidelines. Screening guidelines for fully vaccinated VUMC employees have also been updated along with the list of common questions and answers for vaccinated individuals. Read more here.

Consuelo Wilkins Outlines COVID-19 Health Equity Lessons to US Senate

Using insights from the COVID-19 response, Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Vice President for Health Equity at VUMC, outlined to the U.S. Senate a three-pronged plan to increase health equity by prioritizing trust in communities.
“To be successful we must prioritize trust. We must prepare for the long haul of COVID-19. They need care, we need research and, of course, long-term we need solutions that will address the underlying structural racism that impedes equitable access to care,” said Dr. Wilkins. Read more in the VUMC Reporter here

VIDEO: VUMC President & CEO Jeff Balser on Violence Related to Racism

Following the recent and tragic mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Dr. Jeff Balser spoke about what violence related to racism looks like — at VUMC and health care centers everywhere — and the need for increasing efforts to counter these behaviors in and outside the workplace. Watch here

A Statement from the VUMC Healthcare Alliance of Asian-Americans & Pacific Islanders (HAAPI) Employee Resource Group:

According to the Asian Leaders Alliance, 3,795 hate incidents and crimes against Asians were reported between March 2020 and February 2021. The HAAPI Employee Resource Group extends its deepest sympathies for all those who have been impacted by anti-Asian racism. 
Click here to read HAAPI's full statement on anti-Asian bias and violence.
Over the next few weeks, HAAPI will be hosting several sessions and forums surrounding this topic. Please visit their website for relevant resources, actions you can take, membership and event announcements.

VUMC Office of Diversity Affairs Introduces "Ask Me About My Pronouns" Buttons for Employees & Students

The VUMC Office of Diversity Affairs recently created buttons that employees and students can wear telling what pronouns the wearer uses, or, in one case, a conversation starter that simply says, “Ask me about my pronouns!” Other buttons available read “She/Her,” “He/Him,” “They/Them,” “She/They,” and He/They.”
Del Ray Zimmerman (he/him/his), director of the Office for Diversity Affairs and LGBTQ Health, said, “We hope these new pronoun buttons will help create a greater sense of belonging and provide a simple way to teach others how to treat us.” He encourages employees to consider adding pronouns to email signatures, Zoom profiles and other applicable places. Read more in the VUMC Reporter here
Visit here for more information about the importance of pronoun usage in creating an inclusive work, learning and patient care environment.

Funding Opportunities

Request for Proposals: VUSM Faculty Advancing Medical Education (FAME) Fellowship — APPLY BY APRIL 5. This opportunity will provide two selected faculty members or teams with $12,500 per year for two years to develop and implement new programs, take existing programs to the next level or scale up programs that they already have piloted successfully. Priority will be given to proposals that align with Vanderbilt’s vision of creating a “health care system of learning” and can focus on any phase of physician educationRead more here.
Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core Community Scholars Awards APPLY BY APRIL 23. The Community Scholars Award provides support for two graduate or post graduate trainees to perform a community engaged research project collaboratively with a community-based organization during the academic school year. Each Scholar will receive a scholarship of $5,000 to integrate community-engaged research principles and approaches into their studies, and participate in a community-engaged research project. 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

DBMI Welcomes Katey Worley

Katie Worley recently joined DBMI as Senior IT Project Manager on Melissa McPheeters’s team. Previously, she worked as an IT Project Manager for the All of Us Program and for the STAR Clinical Research Network. She holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Denver, has a PMP certification, and she received her bachelor’s degree in art history at the University of Arizona. Be sure to give her a warm welcome!

Health Plus Lifestyle Coaches Available to Help You Meet Your Fitness Goals 

Health Plus provides personal lifestyle coaching as a benefit for Vanderbilt faculty/staff and spouses. Lifestyle coaching can help you find the motivation and tools to reach your goals. Goals might include losing weight, being more physically active, eating better, quitting smoking or lowering stress. Your coach will offer guidance, support, and accountability along the way. Begin the process by completing your annual Health Assessment​. Coaching is available by telephone or video call. Complete this short form to make an appointment with a Lifestyle Coach. Click here for more information.

Small Changes, Better Sleep: A Healthier You Presentation

Madeleine Hallum, Registered Dietitian and Clinical Nutrition Coordinator, shares a key to better health that might surprise you coming from a dietitian. Learn small, practical changes you can make to get a better night’s sleep. Watch here.

Got the Vaccine? 

Appointment slots for the COVID-19 vaccine are still open to employees. If you would like to receive the vaccine and have not already done so, please click the button below to email Elizabeth Brown, Chief Business Officer, who can schedule your two-dose appointments.
Email Elizabeth

Kevin's Korner

Informatics in the Round, Season 2, Ep. 2

What do phenotypes, COVID, cancer, Spiderman and Jurassic Park have in common? Are we creating methods to discover cures for rare diseases, or are we unintentionally accelerating the capabilities of bad actors (or both)?
Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, FAAP, FAMIA, FACMI, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor & Chair of DBMI, is joined by Shannon Rich, a regular on the show and a constant boost of energy and cynicism. Jane Bach also returns for this episode, with a great song that hints at the subtext of the conversation. Dr. Johnson is also joined by Wei-Qi Wei, PhD, Assistant Professor in DBMI and national expert in phenotyping—the science of using analytics and natural language processing to uniquely identify subgroups of people in a medical record system who have specific defining characteristics. Listen here

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

Upcoming Events

Visit here for more details on the upcoming DBMI webinars and research colloquiums in April 2021.
Suggestions? Email