Click the link to read the feature in the January 14 VUMC Reporter.
Happy 2022, y'all! At the end of 2021, members of the Vanderbilt ACTIV-6 and IVY teams gathered online to celebrate the work they've collectively achieved in collaboration. Department members in the below gallery include Chris Lindsell, Wu Gong, Samuel Nwosu, Matt Shotwell, Yuwei Zhu, Zhouwen Liu, Dean Gibson, and Kim Hart.
You can see most of the attendees wearing a t-shirt with a logo symbolizing the integration of the teams' expertise and dedication. The logo was designed by program manager Meghan Vance.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center houses the Data Coordinating Center for the national ACTIV-6 drug repurposing trials. Dr. Lindsell heads the DCC as its principal investigator, with department members Frank Harrell and Tom Stewart among its co-investigators. For more about the medical center's role with ACTIV-6, see this November VUMC Reporter feature.
The Influenza and Other Viruses in the Acutely Ill (IVY) Network has more than 11,000 critically ill people enrolled in its COVID-19 surveillance studies to date. Recent publications include "Association Between mRNA Vaccination and COVID-19 Hospitalization and Disease Severity," presented in the November 4 issue of JAMA.
Department chair Yu Shyr and vice chair of informatics and collaborative programs Lynne D. Berry are on a team newly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to combat infectious threats throughout the world. Read more about the Medical Center's role with the Global Action in Healthcare Network in the December 7 VUMC Reporter.
Shyr and Berry are also directors of Vanderbilt's Center for Quantitative Sciences, which provides biostatistical support, expertise, and training to researchers both in Nashville and around the world. Visit the CQS Statistical Data Centers page for some of the collaborations CQS members have helped facilitate and implement.
The current issue of Vestigo, the Vanderbilt Basic Sciences magazine, includes a feature on human cell atlases being created by VUMC researchers, including associate professor Qi Liu and department chair Yu Shyr. Read about these ambitious projects via the web version of the feature or one of Vestigo's other formats (accessible screen-reader-friendly PDF or ISSUU).
Left to right: Qi Liu, Lori Coburn, Gregor Neuert, Keith T. Wilson, Ken Lau, and Bennett Landman. Photo by Joe Howell/Vanderbilt University.
We have good news to share! We are pleased about the recognition of and support for these Department of Biostatistics members:
Associate professor Dandan Liu will be sharing principal investigator (PI) responsibilities with Alan Storrow and Sunil Kripalani on “Tailored dissemination and implementation of emergency care clinical decision support to improve emergency department disposition,” a study that just received R01 funding from the NIH. Their work will enhance our understanding of how to implement real-time predictive analytics in acute care settings.
Assistant professor Shilin Zhao is the recipient of the 2021-2022 Faculty Development Award, to support work in the coming year on “Improving Cancer Histopathological Deep Learning Models by Integrating Omics Data.” Please see our Awards page for a list of past winners and projects.
Associate professor Qi Liu, who also serves as technical director of VANGARD and director of the CQS Omics Coordinating Center, has been selected for the School of Medicine’s 2022 Mid-Career Leadership Development Program. Participants in this highly regarded professional development program include associate professor Fei Ye, who was chosen for the 2021 cohort.
The Vanderbilt Center for Health Services Research has begun awarding Health Equity Research Grants to address “the use of race in diagnostic tests and clinical algorithms for risk assessment, diagnosis or treatment.” One of the two inaugural awards went to associate professor Rameela Raman, whose team will be looking closely at cognitive tests in relation to ICU diagnoses and treatment.
Dr. Raman also recently received a Southeastern Conference Faculty Travel Grant, which will support her collaboration with researchers at the University of Alabama.
Application development manager Dale Plummer is celebrating his 40th year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. What is he most proud of? Read about it at VUMC HR’s profile of 2021 Service Award Honorees.
The Linda Stewart Applied Analysis Report Award recognizes an exceptional applied analysis report written by a staff biostatistician in our department. The 2020 award was presented to Josh DeClercq for "Healthcare Costs and Utilization Project."
The IT Innovation Award recognizes exceptional work from a member or members of our IT team and potentially the team they work with. It celebrates the creative and crucial contribution that IT members make to department operations, and to the research program within the department, across the medical center, and more broadly. The 2020 award was presented to Cole Beck, Leena Choi, Elizabeth McNeer, Nathan James, Hannah Weeks, and Michael Williams, for the dose-building EHR (electronic health record) R package they authored.
The Patrick G. Arbogast Collaborative Publication Award recognizes an exceptional collaborative publication from a biostatistician or team of biostatisticians in our department. The 2020 award was presented to William D. Dupont and Dale Plummer for "8q24 Genetic Variation and Comprehensive Haplotypes Altering Familial Risk of Prostate Cancer," which was published in Nature Communications.
The Methods Publication Award recognizes an exceptional methodological publication from a biostatistician or team of biostatisticians in our department. The 2020 award was presented to Ran Tao for "Optimal Designs of Two-Phase Studies," which was published in Journal of the American Statistical Association.
The Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award, recognizing excellence in teaching and a dedication to peer education, was presented to Yan Yan.
The W. S. Gosset Award for Exceptional Research, recognizing exemplary work that will advance the field and impact of biostatistics, was presented to Yuqi Tian.
The Commodore Award in Biostatistics was presented to Coleman Harris in recognition of his altruistic dedication to enriching the department and graduate program.
The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, recognizing excellence in dedicated mentoring, with an altruistic commitment to student learning beyond the classroom, was presented to Simon Vandekar.
The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Andrew Spieker in recognition of his altruistic commitment to student classroom learning.
There were many outstanding nominees, and we thank the judges: Dan Ayers, Svetlana Eden, Shawn Garbett, Robert Greevy, Frank Harrell, Bob Johnson, Orun Onur, Dale Plummer, Jonathan Schildcrout, and Matt Shotwell.
We will be sharing news of more awards in a few days. Stay tuned . . .
The fall semester has begun, and these ten brilliant, engaging individuals are the newest students in our graduate program. Here are a few details about their studies, careers, and interests. We are very much looking forward to learning and working with them!
BS, Biology, Colby College (statistics minor)
After graduating from Colby, Nate worked as a data analyst intern at GlaxoSmithKline, where he developed statistical models for analyzing consumer healthcare data. Some of his interests outside of the classroom include tennis, fantasy sports, traveling, and cooking.
BS, Statistics, University of Michigan
Yeji (rhymes with "veggie") grew up in Seoul, Korea. In Ann Arbor, she became interested in biostatistics and learned how to survive in cold weather. In her spare time, she loves traveling, exploring new places, and having great conversations over delicious meals.
MS, Applied Statistics, University of Michigan
BS, Statistical Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Lan's research interest lies mainly in the application of machine learning to biomedical imaging data and wearable health device data analysis. She enjoys travel, hiking, music and, during the pandemic, easy dance workouts at home.
MS, Applied Economics, Johns Hopkins University
BA, Modern Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Joshua is originally from Tampa, Florida. His path to biostatistics began in 2016 when he joined an expert witness group quantifying healthcare fraud at the US Department of Justice (DOJ). He worked on matters ranging from over-prescribing to unnecessary hospice services. For such cases, he designed statistical samples and analyzes/merges claims data, electronic health records (EHRs), and internal company sources. Joshua is eager to transition from retrospectively analyzing the worst of healthcare to building predictive models to improve human health.
BS, Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jared is originally from Minnesota. After graduating from Wisconsin, Jared spent a few years studying adherens junctions in C. elegans and then joined the lab management team at Exact Sciences, where he became deeply interested in the statistical methods that led to the development of Cologuard and other cancer screening technologies. His main interest is in statistical genetics, with an emphasis on biomarker discovery. Outside of work, he enjoys playing volleyball, board games, and hiking with my dog, Cooper.
BPH, Public Health, University of Kentucky (mathematics minor)
During college, Megan worked for the Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System as a data abstractor, constructing case narratives for homicides, suicides, and undetermined deaths. She is passionate about data-driven public health improvements and mental health, which she would love to incorporate into her work. In her personal life, she is an avid board game fan, reader, and geocacher.
MS, Epidemiology, Imperial College London
MA, University of St. Andrews
Julia's career in public health research started at Imperial College London, where she focused on chronic disease and cancer epidemiology. During her studies, she also edited regional HIV prevention proposals in Eastern Europe and the Balkans for the United Nations Development Program. She has since worked an intern at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, clinical trials coordinator in the gastrointestinal oncology department at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and data manager and clinical research analyst for UCSF’s Center for Neuroendocrine Tumors, where she enjoyed collaborating with an interdisciplinary team to answer questions in areas ranging from genomic medicine and survival analysis to in-clinic quality improvement.
Bailu (Lucy) Yan
MS, Applied Statistics and Data Analytics, Southern Methodist University
BS, Finance, Central University of Finance and Economics (Beijing)
Lucy most recently worked as a research assistant in the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt University, focusing on data-driven methodologies for biomolecular discovery. Before coming to Nashville, she worked in industry as a data analyst for two years, where she developed competency in both statistical research and real-world applications. Knowing the huge potential of statistical solutions in biomedicine and biological research, she's enthusiastic about embarking on an academic path toward solving open challenges in human health and diseases treatments.
BS, Data Science and Mathematical Statistics, Purdue University
While studying data science, Lydia developed an interest in statistical methods and modeling within health and medicine. She grew up in Indiana and enjoys playing piano, guitar, and clarinet. Competitive swimming has been a big part of her life, and she still occasionally swims for exercise. She enjoys solving sudoku puzzles and cooking different cuisines.
BA, Chemistry and Psychology, Washington & Jefferson College (mathematics minor)
Elisa is originally from North Carolina. Over the course of three internships - one at Vanderbilt and two at Duke - she worked on a variety of projects, studying neurodevelopment in animals, cognitive diseases, electrophysiology, and the impacts of drugs. “Paternal THC Exposure in Rats Causes Long-Lasting Neurobehavioral Effects in the Offspring,” a paper on one of her projects at Duke, was published in the Neurotoxicology & Teratology Journal. Her interests include pharmacokinetics, electrophysiology, cognitive disorders, and clinical trials. In her free time, she enjoys watching classic movies, sports, working out, and cooking.
This week’s spotlight series features Dr. Pei-Ying (Emily) Lin, a visiting scholar from the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei City, Taiwan. She is a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine, focusing on thoracic oncology. Her research interests include translational cancer research, data science, and precision medicine in cancer treatment.
What have been the major findings so far in your research? What could be the impact?
My major research field is lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. The driving force of lung cancer oncogenesis varies over different subtypes. My research topics primarily focus on dissecting mechanisms in order to develop therapeutics for current unmet needs. For example, CNS penetration, drug resistance, and poor response to immune checkpoint blockades in driver mutation positive cases.
What lessons have you learned throughout your career? How have these lessons drawn you to Vanderbilt?
After years of training in many topics, from clinical medicine to translational cancer research, I am a strong proponent for the importance of data science in this new era of medicine. High-dimensional data - whether structural or non-structural, genomics, proteomics, radiomics, or medical records - are becoming the core of modern medical research. Data integration and elaboration based on solidified analytical and verification processes and clinical experiences are now common practice. These are the reasons I am here at Vanderbilt – to further develop my understanding of data science and precision medicine.
What is your philosophy about research?
My philosophy about research is to discover the undiscovered etiology and/or mechanism of an unsolved problem, which can be a biological phenomenon or a disease, and to be honest and respectful to the data and findings. One should always integrate and interpret data properly, so that the research findings can make good to what inspires us to initiate the research project in the first place.
What are your thoughts on the debate between modern data science and traditional statistical practices?
The increasing importance of data science in the biomedical field is clear. Its application is most successful with strong teamwork and collaboration between data scientists and other researchers. Working to incorporate new techniques will only improve health and research outcomes.
Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
While my professional life keeps me very busy, I try to maintain my hobbies in music and arts. I enjoy listening to music and exercising to stay healthy and balance my work and life.
This week we've put the Spotlight on one of our newest staff biostatisticians, Heather Prigmore. Heather's research here in the Department is focused on Global Health (specifically HIV research). She works with both the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and Friends in Global Health. Read on to learn more about Heather and her interest in statistics!
What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt?
For as long as I can remember, my fields of interest have been math and medicine, so as I went into college I knew that those were the two areas where I wanted to focus on. Although I changed my mind (and major) several times, I always stayed true to one of those interests. I actually did not discover the field of biostatistics/epidemiology until towards the very end of my undergraduate education when I was searching for a graduate program to attend…and I thought, what a perfect way to combine my two interests! After I finished my master’s at Texas A&M University, I moved across country to start my career as a Biostatistician.
I was drawn to Vanderbilt because of their reputation in research and their concentrated focus on continuing education. The field of statistics is developing quite rapidly, so being able to be a part of a department that highlights and emphasizes learning is incredible. I also liked that there are a large number of statisticians and opportunities for discussion.
What lessons have you learned from being a biostatistician?
Although I have only been a biostatistician for a little over two years, I have learned that communication is key. With clinical collaborators, fellow statisticians, or anyone else in between, being transparent and honest is the best way to go. I have also learned that the interaction and discussion with fellow statisticians provides a much more valuable learning experience.
What is your best advice for aspiring statisticians?
My advice for aspiring statisticians is to keep an open mind and take any opportunity to learn. Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know” or ask questions. Knowledge will come with experience and what better way to learn than to dive into a topic you are not familiar with? The best statisticians are not necessarily those with the most knowledge of statistical methods; they are those that can communicate effectively and have a desire to learn.
Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
Outside of Vanderbilt, you can find me outdoors most of the time. I have a 7-year-old lab mix dog, Sadie, who keeps me active and busy. She loves being outside too, so she will go on any adventure with me (hiking, swimming, camping, jogging…you name it). I really enjoy interior design and am a little obsessed with the show "Fixer Upper" and Joanna and Chip Gaines’s brand Magnolia (the picture is at the Magnolia Silos – their store in Waco, TX). I also love to bake, play sports, try new foods and travel.
Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you?
I have won call-in radio contests several times. Some of which have included tickets to a few different concerts, plus meet and greets with stars like Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles (from the duo, Sugarland) and Jason Derulo. I have also won Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo tickets and small cash prizes.