Russell Rothman, MD, MPP

Greetings from the Institute for Medicine and Public Health!

IMPH is off to a very busy and impactful year as we continue our efforts to translate knowledge into better health at the local, national, and global levels.  This quarter’s newsletter highlights the commitment of faculty, staff, and students affiliated with IMPH on efforts to improve the public’s health. Many of our recent efforts have focused on addressing COVID-19, health disparities and health equity, and other key health issues that impact us locally, nationally, and globally. In April, from April 20-22, Earth Day will take place. This annual event is an important time to consider how climate change and other environmental factors impact the health of individuals, families, and communities. Please consider participating with us in our Earth Day clean-up event (see below) or participate in other activities that help improve the health of our communities.

Best Wishes,


Russell Rothman, MD, MPP
Senior Vice President, Population and Public Health
Director, Institute for Medicine and Public Health

NIH grant bolsters childhood status epilepticus and epilepsy research in Nigeria

The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) has received a new research grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and Fogarty International Center of the NIH to establish a large childhood status epilepticus (SE) cohort in northern Nigeria with key partners Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and Bayero University, and with the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in South Africa.

Ed Trevathan, MD, MPH
Carolyn Audet, PhD

VUMC investigator expands HIV research into South Africa
Carolyn Audet, PhD, assistant professor of Health Policy in the Department of Health Policy and Institute for Global Health, has partnered with Ryan Wagner, PhD, a research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, to develop a novel HIV testing strategy for individuals living in rural communities.

Vanderbilt, Zambia researchers find delirium in hospitalized patients linked to mortality, disability in Sub-Saharan Africa

“There is a driving unmet need to understand what happens with people’s brains in critical illness in low- and middle-income countries as well as with HIV in all settings. The necessity is now urgent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Delirium has become the epidemic within the pandemic — and it’s the strongest predictor of long-term acquired cognitive impairment after critical illness. These are bread and butter issues people care about: will I live or die and if I live, what will I be like as a person?” said Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, co-director of the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship Center at VUMC and senior author.

E Wesley Ely, MD.
Wei Zheng, MD, PhD

Study incorporates genetics with smoking history to identify high-risk smokers for lung cancer screening
Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, the Anne Potter Wilson Professor of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, and colleagues incorporated a polygenic risk score they developed using GWAS-identified risk variants for lung cancer in the analysis of data from the UK Biobank, which collected data and biospecimens from approximately 500,000 people aged 40-69 from England, Scotland and Wales.

The Stakeholders, Technology And Research Clinical Research Network (STAR CRN) includes: (1) Vanderbilt Health System (2) the Vanderbilt Healthcare Affiliated Network (3) Meharry Medical College, (4) UNC Health Care System, (5) Duke Health Care System, (6) Health Sciences of South Carolina, (7) Wake Forest Health Care, and (8) Mayo Clinic. These systems comprise scores of academic and community hospitals, hundreds of practices and over 12 million patients nationally. The populations cared for by STAR members are diverse in age, race, ethnicity and urban/rural status. The objective of our CRN is to robustly support projects in comparative effectiveness research, pragmatic clinical trials, and other key research areas.  This network can provide access to a broad array of clinical data, patients, providers, and systems to address an array of research questions. 

VUMC is a founding member of the HOMERuN collaborative, which engages hospitalists, researchers, and hospital medicine groups at leading medical centers nationwide, accelerating the discovery and swift implementation of quality care improvements. Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, and Eduard Vasilevskis, MD, MPH, lead VUMC’s participation.

Projects include multi-site studies on the preventability of hospital readmissions; incidence, causes, and risk factors for diagnostic error in hospital settings (UPSIDE); and a large clinical collaborative on COVID-19. HOMERuN maintains an active Patient & Family Advisory Council, established under a Eugene Washington Award from PCORI.

Study to evaluate effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing hospitalization

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved adding a third COVID-19 vaccine to the rollout, a multicenter study led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center will evaluate how effective the vaccines are in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19. In 2020, clinical trial data showed that the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines were effective at preventing infections and severe illness from COVID-19 in the clinical trial setting.

 Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI
Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, SFHM, FACP

Organizing Health Systems to Address COVID-19 Health Inequities

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, vice president for Health Equity for VUMC, associate dean for Health Equity at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and Sunil Kripalani, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, Director for Center for Health Services Research, and a co-author of the new report, use systems approach to offer practical solutions to address COVID-19 health inequities.

Targeted enrollment to determine PET’s value in highest-risk groups

“We need to understand and address not only Alzheimer’s in general but these disparities more specifically, to avoid seeing our health care system overwhelmed, not to mention the devastation for individuals and families,” said Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI.

Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Improving Health Equity and Outcomes by Addressing Health Disparities
Dr. Consuelo Wilkins testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Improving Health Equity and Outcomes by Addressing Health Disparities. To watch the hearing, please click here

James Jackson, PsyD

Some people suffer from vaccine guilt
"It’s not just about you, it’s about a larger culture. It’s about the society. It’s about public health," said Dr. Jim Jackson, psychologist and the assistant director of the ICU Recovery Center at VUMC. "So if you can get vaccinated, take that opportunity and in so doing, you become part of the solution."

Melinda Aldrich, PhD, MPH

Vanderbilt research played key role in new lung screen guidelines
“The recommendations put forth by the USPSTF are a step forward in the right direction to improve lung cancer screening eligibility criteria for those at high risk; however, more work is needed to address disparities that still likely exist,” said the study’s lead author, Melinda Aldrich, PhD, MPH, associate professor of Medicine, Thoracic Surgery and Biomedical Informatics.

Stephen Patrick, MD

Preterm births in Tennessee decreased during pandemic
“Our study, coupled with similar studies from Europe, provide initial evidence that COVID-19 stay at home orders were associated with reductions in spontaneous preterm birth. While encouraging, we need to ensure other pregnancy complications, like stillbirth, did not increase during this time period,” said Stephen Patrick, MD, a neonatologist and director of The Center for Child Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

2020 Tennessee Men’s Health Report Card: Overall improvement, work to be done
“Men’s health seems to be hidden in plain sight. We’ve known for more than 100 years that men have a shorter life span than women, but men’s health tends not to get the attention that the health profile suggests it deserves,” Derek Griffith, professor of medicine, health and society and founder and director of the CRMH, said. “This is not to take resources away from women’s health or maternal child health but to recognize that men’s health also is important to our families, communities and state.” 

Derek Griffith, PhD

Engaging ecology and health in our Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, and Middle Tennessee communities

The Rooted Community Health is committed to facilitating trans-institutional transformation at Vanderbilt and enhancing our community’s health through community engagement, scholarship, and research in ecology, health, and sustainability.

Public Health Graduate Programs Videos

Hear from faculty leadership, students and alumni of IMPH-supported Vanderbilt Graduate Programs in Health Policy, Global Health and Epidemiology. The video series covers Vanderbilt University's Health Policy PhD Program, Epidemiology PhD Program, and the Master of Public Health Program.
Peter Rebeiro, PhD, MHS
We had a very successful 2020 recruitment and admissions cycle with several outstanding interviewees from around the world. We are thrilled to announce that we will have 7 students joining 6 research teams and matriculating in the Epi PhD Program for the fall 2021 cohort.

We have also had 2 students successfully defend their dissertations so far in 2021. Congratulations to Dr. Jaimie Shing (Hall/Sudenga team) and Dr. Lauren Peetluk (Sterling team). We have one more scheduled for April 21st!

Finally, we’re beyond excited (as I’m sure the entire IMPH community is) to welcome Dr. Fauci as he delivers the Graduates Day address and receives the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal at Vanderbilt’s Commencement this spring. Having this pre-eminent infectious disease epidemiologist and public health official, who’s leading our nation’s charge against COVID-19, speak with our own epidemiology/public health community is an honor.
Peter Rebeiro, PhD, MHS
Director of Graduate Studies, Epidemiology, Department of Medicine  

Masks and Social Distancing will be required per VUMC guidance.

Tuesday, April  20| 12 PM -1 PM
The Center for Health Services Research Works in Progress:
"Sociodemographic Characteristics and their Association with SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Disease Severity"
Shannon Markus, MD   
Zoom details will be emailed to Vanderbilt community on Fridays; contact

Tuesday, April  27| 12 PM -1 PM
The Center for Health Services Research Works in Progress:
CHSR Biostatistics Seminar   
Zoom details will be emailed to Vanderbilt community on Fridays; contact
Tuesday, April  27| 12 PM -1 PM
Health Equity Seminar Series/Vanderbilt Edipemiology Center:
Jan Marie Eberth, PhD
Thursday, May 27 | 5 PM 
The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society:
Food Insecurity and Health CME Seminar
Register here

Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
2525 West End Ave | Suite 1200 | Nashville, TN 37203

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