Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Jennifer Morse

Next up in the series is one of our wonderful staff biostatisticians, Jennifer Morse, who shares more about her interests in the field and admits her guilty pleasure for Candy Crush Saga!  Read on to learn more . . .

What is your research focused on and what have been the major findings so far?
My interests include health policy, survival analysis and reproducible research. I currently have 2 collaborations: The Vanderbilt Center for Kidney Disease and Anesthesiology. In my collaboration with Nephrology, we are interested in looking at what leads to long term kidney disease. We’ve produced several abstracts and papers looking at the effects of factors such as medication use, exercise, and other demographic factors and patient history. In Anesthesiology, I’ve worked on several projects focused on inflammation and oxygen use during surgery and how those factors can have short-term and long-term outcomes that affect patient’s health.

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt and what has served as the  pathway to your current position? 
I was always interested in the intersection of math and medicine. In addition to my statistics degree, I also have a biomedical engineering undergraduate degree and a masters in informatics. Prior to joining this department, I was part of the Department of Anesthesiology, where I assisted in generating and analyzing data for clinical studies. I felt myself reaching the limits of my knowledge and pursued my masters degree at Texas A&M online while working full-time. I love being a biostatistician in this department.

What lessons have you learned from being a biostatistician?
One of the lessons I’ve learned so far is the importance of working with investigators to teach them that statisticians are more than just data analyzers at the end of a project but rather we should be viewed as a resource throughout the project. One of the most important roles of the statistician is to tease out the exact research question the investigator is interested in before rushing in to collect data.

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others? What are your thoughts on controversial statistical topics such as the role of data science in the future, adjusting the p-value for multiple comparison, the choice between Bayesian, likelihood, or frequentists, ethical issues, etc.?
I love the collaborative environment and the opportunities for continuous education. I love hearing about what other collaborators are working on and the exciting research being produced by our teams. There is so much potential for data science to be used to advance medical research and make an impact in a variety of areas. In our department, there are many well-researched and passionate individuals who have strong opinions on controversial topics like those mentioned and I enjoy the rich discussions between those teaching and learning.

Tell us about your family and your life outside of Vanderbilt.
My husband and I are fully engrossed in all things Vanderbilt. We met as undergrads in the marching band. We are not only employees but alumni as well, and fans of all the sports programs. We have two young children, Carter and Ellie, who keep us busy and a puppy named Mango.

We love traveling! We make annual trips to visit our families in Hawaii and Florida and love exploring new places in the US and abroad. Our kids had passports before they were 1 and are already more well-traveled than many adults. Coming up this year, we have family trips planned to Hawaii, Japan, Jamaica and Greece! Always busy, but always having fun!

When in town, one my hobbies is trivia. Every year, I take the online jeopardy test to try and gain a spot on the show but haven’t yet been successful. We’ve also been going to weekly bar trivia for over 10 years now. Lately, you can find our team “Toddlers in a Tavern” at Edley’s or Crow’s Nest around Nashville. My 3 year old recently got to contribute an answer for the first time and was so excited!

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you? (Until now, of course!)
I have a small (not really that small) addiction to the phone game, Candy Crush Saga, and have been playing for over 5 years. I’ve recently passed level 4000 and don’t anticipate stopping until they kill the game.

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Yu Wang

This week we are excited to feature one of our postdoctoral fellows from the Center for Quantitative Sciences within the Department of Biostatistics.  Dr. Yu Wang has had experience in both bioinformatics and biostatistics and is involved in some fascinating research.  Read on to learn more...

Tell us about your current research focus. 
By developing and adopting relevant bioinformatical and biostatistical methods on NGS and clinical data, my work is mainly focused on parsing genetic, transcriptomic, and immunogenetic features associated with response to anti-PD-1 and/or anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy in patients with malignancies, and developing biomarkers by combining different features to help discriminate patients for choosing more reasonable therapy strategy.  

It’s a very challenging and hot topic with significant breakthrough in cancer therapy. I feel excited and lucky to be involved. I set up pipelines for immunogenetic signature evaluation, immune cell composition and neoantigen prediction by integrating WES, RNAseq and SWATH-MS proteomical data. By cooperating with our collaborators, we combine multidimensional data from the somatic mutation and expression profiles, to immunogenetic features in TILs, to depict the key players associated with the response to immune checkpoint blockade therapy and clinical outcomes. 

​What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt? 
Even though I am working with a lot of biological and clinical data daily, I am still a beginner in biostatistics. I really appreciate the environment provided by our department. I can learn a lot of statistics from our colleagues, courses, workshops, etc. I realize that not only the concepts and methods but also the way of thinking in biostatistics is critical for data science. I cherish the opportunities of being surrounded by the experts, and I hope I can add the cannon into my armory.

Tell us about your publications and research findings.
My most recent first author manuscript was sent out for reviewing and in that manuscript we show that rare mutations in antigen processing machinery are associated with high mutational burden and an enhancement of predicted neoantigens, providing insights into the mechanisms of high mutation burden in some patients.  I had previously published about 20 papers in plant science before I joined VUMC. After I transferred to the biomedical research field, I participated as a co-author in several publications in biomedical/clinical journals, like Nature Genetics, NPJ Breast Cancer, JCI Insight, bioRXiv etc.  

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others? 
It’s actually my favorite part about working in CQS/Biostatistics/VUMC. With Dr. Xu's help, I am able to be focused on a specific and challenging topic with many active collaborators who work in cancer cell biology, cancer immunology and in the clinic at VUMC. They are all immunotherapeutic experts and can provide valuable data and suggestions. I can always count on help from my colleagues in many ways and know who to turn to for help with questions I have pertaining to NGS data analysis, cloud computing, REDCap and many other areas.  The atmosphere of collaborating is critical for personal development as a researcher in interdisciplinary fields, like bioinformatics, and for trying to make efforts to study complex diseases. 

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. Do you have a significant other? Children? Pets? What about your hobbies? What are your goals for the future? 
Music, cuisine and basketball feed my body and soul. The Spurs with Tim Duncan is my favorite team. I have been married to my wife for eight years. She was my classmate in college and is currently pursuing a MS’s degree in Biostatistics. We really hope to add new members to our home soon; I had a German shepherd when I was in high school and we plan to adopt a puppy next year.  

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you? (Until now, of course!) 
Well, this is a good opportunity to explain how to pronounce my first name “Yu”. It’s totally fine for me if you say it as ‘/ju:/’, like in “Thank you”.  But if you want to know something about Chinese language or just for fun, here are tips. Some of you may know that there are many Chinese characters. Each character has a sound (some have multiple). And for each sound, there are four tones. The “u” here is a vowel which is not exist in English (that is why it’s difficult for native English speakers  and it is actually written as “ü”).  Here is a link of explaining how to pronounce it. Here is an example on YouTube.  My name is the fourth tones. Try it! 


Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Ahra Kim

This week's Spotlight features one of our newer staff biostatisticians, Ahra Kim.  Learn how this Southern California native ventured East to Nashville for a great opportunity in research and is now learning to brave the winters, all while providing statistical support to her collaborators here at Vanderbilt.

Tell us about the research you are involved in.
I am involved with three collaborations here at Vanderbilt. Half of my time is spent working on projects with the Caribbean, Central and South America network (CCASAnet) for HIV epidemiology. It consists of HIV clinical sites from seven countries in Latin America, and is also a member of a larger consortium, International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA). In one study, we are comparing outcomes such as mortality, retention in care, and timing of antiretroviral therapy initiation in HIV infected adults with and without tuberculosis. We have recently submitted several abstracts to a conference and are currently working on additional analyses for manuscripts.

My two other collaborations are with the Department of Psychiatry and Center for Biomedical Ethics. For one project in Psychiatry, we are interested in assessing how catatonia and delirium affect survival in critically-ill patients. For Biomedical Ethics, we have been trying to better understand characteristics of patients needing ethical consults for controversial topics like organ donation or treatment decision making, as well as practice patterns of clinicians when it comes to these issues. I am grateful to be working on such a wide range of interesting projects.

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt? 
I was drawn to statistics in a non-traditional way since I have a social science background. I enjoyed doing research, but many of my classes as an undergraduate involved secondary research and I wanted to do something more hands-on. I was fascinated when I took a course in biostatistics, which was my first exposure to learning R programming. This encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree in biostatistics. Joining the Department at Vanderbilt was an amazing opportunity for me as a new graduate, so I relocated from California.

What lessons have you learned from being a biostatistician?
Though I haven’t been a biostatistician for very long now, I’ve learned that being organized and transparent is key. Sometimes projects pause and resume months or even years later, so it’s helpful to clearly document everything and practice reproducibility to avoid confusion and save time in the long run.

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others?
The collaboration opportunities here have been wonderful. Everybody has been very kind and respectful, and view statisticians as valuable team members. I also appreciate the diverse resources and how there are so many experts in various fields that you can learn from, especially if you encounter a difficult problem in an area you may not be familiar with.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. Do you have a significant other? What about your hobbies?
I have been engaged to my fiancé for almost a year now and will be getting married next spring. We both moved here from California. Outside of work, I enjoy a variety of hobbies including hiking, playing tennis, and practicing yoga. I also like to see live music performances, visit cool galleries or exhibits, and occasionally attend sporting events.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you?
Prior to moving to Nashville, I lived in an inland region of Southern California (Inland Empire) where summer temperatures can reach highs of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters are usually mild with highs in the 60s. Coming to Nashville, I was shocked to see temperatures drop to single digits last winter. Though I’ve been here for a year and half now, I still haven’t acclimated fully to the cold!

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Samuel Nwosu

This week's spotlight features one of our amazing staff biostatisticians, Samuel Nwosu.  Read on to learn more about his work and contributions to medical research through biostatistics . . . 

What is your research focus and what have been the major findings so far in your research? 
My main research collaboration has been working with the International Study of Comparative Health Effectiveness with Medical and Invasive Approaches (ISCHEMIA) clinical trial group.  This has been a 6 year ongoing NIH grant funded study, with a primary goal of determining whether an invasive (INV) strategy of routine early cardiac catheterization will reduce the incidence of major adverse cardiovascular death as compared to an initial conservative (CON) medical therapy approach.  The study spans across 38 countries with over 300 sites enrolling patients.  This is a great team to be part of, there are seven principle collaborators and 16 collaborating research institutes, all having vast knowledge and experience in cardiovascular research. 

The study is scheduled to be completed towards the end of 2019 and we are currently working to finalize the main manuscripts.  In July of this past year, while outlining the methods and procedures of the trial, our study group did publish the ISCHEMIA Design Paper in the American Heart Journal (AHJ) which was a great accomplishment.  

Our group is also working on a ancillary ISCHEMIA trial called the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) trial.  The primary objective of this trial is to determine whether an invasive strategy of cardiac catheterization will reduce the composite endpoint of death or nonfatal myocardial infarction in patients with stable ischemic heart disease and advanced chronic kidney disease.  This study is also a multinational trial including 30 countries and over 100 sites.
With ischemia being one of the leading causes in heart disease, its great knowing that this research can change how they diagnose and treat this condition as we move into the future.

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt?
It was almost serendipitous how I got into the field of biostatistics.  I have somewhat always had an affinity for math and how it relates to everyday life.  I graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics, uncertain which career field I should pursue with my degree.  I researched different fields from accounting to economics, then by chance one of my undergraduate professors asked me if I liked statistics and suggested I look into the field of biostatistics.  As I researched the more about biostatistics I saw how I could bridge my background in mathematics with statistics and apply it to the field of health research.  Upon finishing my last semester in graduate school, my advisor forwarded me the job opening for a biostatistician II position within Vanderbilt's biostatistics department, I applied and I was able to start my career as a biostatistician.

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others?
What I enjoy about my job is the opportunity to work with so many talented people and the ability to be involved in cutting edge research.  I've been able to work on a variety of different collaborations from PTSD research to multinational clinical trials.  I like the fact that knowing the research I am involved with can enrich the scientific world and benefit people at the same time.  Plus, it is also gratifying that I work in a department that fosters growth and high importance on continuing education.  I've been able to grow as a biostatistician due to working in such a great environment.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
I am married to Brionni Nwosu, a professor at the Relay Graduate School of Education.  We have two beautiful girls named Kanaya (4 years old) and Kalia (15 months old) who keep our lives filled with joy and excitement.  As a family we enjoy spending time playing at the park, visiting the animals at the zoo, or viewing all the sea and water creatures at the aquarium.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you?
I enjoy the occasional adventurous/extreme activity from time to time- whether it is zip lining, scuba diving, bungee jumping, high speed Go-Karting, or off-roading on dune buggies, I'm game.

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Elizabeth McNeer

We have a new staff member onboard!  Elizabeth McNeer recently joined our group as a Biostatistician II.  Read on to learn more about her studies and interests here:

What is your area of focus?
I’m just starting out as a biostatistician, so I don’t have much research experience yet. My master’s thesis work under the direction of Dr. Dandan Liu focused on evaluating the impact of various chart review strategies using electronic health record data in the context of risk prediction modeling. I currently work with researchers in the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy where I’m involved with various projects that focus on improving the well-being of children. I have ongoing projects dealing with topics such as hepatitis C testing in infants and mechanical ventilation in the neonatal intensive care unit.

What was your draw to statistics and/or Vanderbilt? What has served as the pathway to your position?
As an undergraduate, I majored in math and biology, so I wanted to find a career that would combine both of my interests. I also had an interest in the medical field, so the biology courses that I chose to take were the same courses that the pre-med majors took. During the summer after my junior year of college, I attended a Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics program at Emory University. After this program, I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in biostatistics. I came to Vanderbilt in 2016 after graduating from Mississippi College, and I earned an MS in Biostatistics in the summer of 2018. Because of my interest in the medical field, I knew that I wanted to work at a medical center like Vanderbilt, so I’m excited to now be working in the same department where I spent two years as a student!

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others?
I’ve found that my collaborators treat me like a valuable part of the group and want me involved in the entire project, not just the parts involving statistical analysis. My collaborators value the work that I do, which makes coming to work enjoyable. I’ve also been encouraged to continually learn and apply new skills to the projects that I work on.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
After being in school most of my life, I’m really enjoying not having constant homework and studying to do! I enjoy reading, watching Netflix, playing board games, and hiking every once in a while. I attend The Church at Avenue South, and I also tutor math on the weekends. Also, I very much enjoy Jeni’s ice cream.

Finally, what is something that most people at Vanderbilt still don’t know about you?
Long before I took my first statistics class or knew I would have a career in statistics, my dad bought me a baseball score book and showed me how to keep baseball statistics. In elementary and middle school, I would keep stats for my brother’s Little League teams just for fun. Keeping stats helped me understand and appreciate baseball, and I still enjoy going to an occasional baseball game.

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: David Biagi

Next up in the spotlight is one of our Senior Project Managers in the Center for Quantitative Sciences, Mr. David Biagi .  Learn more about his role on the team and how he may find favor with a four-legged creature in the coming year . . .

Tell us about your group and role within the CQS IT team.
Our team in the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center provides database and development support to a wide range of research projects. Our goal is to remove technological barriers for our collaborators. Currently we maintain a wide variety of projects for international research groups, including virtual bio-repositories, clinical trial management systems, and outcome aggregation systems. We hope to continue to enable science-at-scale by helping researchers pool their data, resources, and efforts.

What drew you to Vanderbilt and what has been your experience working in a collaborative environment such as this?
I was attracted to Vanderbilt by the personal recommendation of several colleagues. That trust was not misplaced, as it has been a great place to build a career over the last ten years. I have always felt like my input was valued and appreciated the way I have been enabled to pursue and achieve goals I've suggested in support of the department's efforts.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. Do you have a significant other? Children? Pets? 
I'm married to my high school sweetheart and we have four daughters ages six months to seven years old. There's a long standing family debate raging over whether or not we should get a dog. I stand alone in opposition and I plan to lose this debate sometime next year.

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Simon Vandekar

Meet one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Simon Vandekar, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics.  He is a great addition to our group and it's a pleasure to get to know him.


What are your research interests and what is the focus of your research? What have been the major findings so far?  
My statistical research develops inference procedures for high-dimensional data with a particular focus on neuroimaging data. This research has been published in Biostatistics, Neuroimage, and JASA. My collaborative research studies how the brain changes through development and how it is affected in psychiatric disorders. This work has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Communications, and Science. My research has relied on family-wise error rate, spatial extent inference, and semiparametric procedures and I would like to begin to develop nonparametric procedures that control the false discovery rate. I am also interested in high-dimensional measures of replicability and the stability of findings across varying preprocessing parameters.

Tell us about any honors you have received, awards you have won or any significant publications you've had.
I was awarded the Saul Winegrad Oustanding Dissertation in my graduate group when I graduated in May 2018. My most recent first author publications were in JASA, Biostatistics, and the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

What was your draw to statistics and what are some of your goals?
I realized I loved statistics after working in a neuroimaging lab after graduation with a BS in psychology. The goal of my research is to develop statistical tools that can be immediately applied to real world problems. I am most interested in semiparametric methods to do this.

Can you share the status of any of your past students?  What is your philosophy about teaching or research?
I haven’t mentored any students, but I look forward to the opportunity! I personally learn mathematical or statistical tools best when I use them to solve problems in my research. I think statistical methods should try to make realistic assumptions about the data and that the analysis approach should be determined by particular questions or hypotheses.

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others? What are your thoughts on controversial statistical topics such as adjusting the p-value for multiple comparison, the choice between Bayesian, likelihood, or frequentists, ethical issues, etc.?
The collaborators I’ve worked with here seem extremely focused on the wellbeing of their patients, which makes working with them more rewarding. My work is in multiple comparisons adjustment and I see it as a way for understanding the amount of bias induced by looking at hundreds of thousands of variables, but I don’t think that we should use hard thresholds to decide about the unknown state of the world. Two studies that presents results with and without adjustment are equally valid, but the first provides more evidence against the null hypothesis. I am interested in learning more about semiparametric likelihood and Bayesian methods. I like the probabilistic statements the Bayesian philosophy affords but have an aversion to priors or heavily parametric models because I’m not sure how assumption violations affect the bias and interpretation.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. Do you have a significant other? What about your hobbies? 
My spouse currently lives in Houston with our two dogs (a dachshund and a basset-lab mix), where she is doing an internship, but she will get to move here soon! I like hiking, camping, running and visiting the many delicious breweries we have in Nashville. I also like foraging for mushrooms.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you? (Until now, of course!)
My wife and I dabble in extreme sports. My favorite was hang gliding, but we also tried sky diving and go scuba diving not too infrequently.


Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Cathy Jenkins

This week we are excited to feature Cathy Jenkins, a Biostatistician IV, in the Vanderbilt Department of Biostatistics. Read on to learn more about her work and interests here at Vanderbilt:

What has been the focus of your research during your time in the Department?
For most of my time at Vanderbilt, I have split my time evenly between the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Emergency Medicine.  My work with Infectious Diseases has been all HIV research using data collected locally, as well as from larger regional cohorts such as North America or Central and South America.  In one study, we saw that obesity is an increasing problem among persons living with HIV. The investigator I worked with on this project is interested in understanding HIV in the context of this obesity problem along with HIV in the context of the co-morbid conditions that come along with obesity.

My work with Emergency Medicine has largely focused on the management of heart failure in an acute care setting.  As the population ages, the number of people showing up to ERs with signs and symptoms of acute heart failure is increasing.  While it is clear who the sickest of the sick are and should be admitted, there is a large gray area where it is unclear how best to help patients manage their disease.  In one particular study using data from a large national emergency department database, we saw that on average about 80% of patients coming to the ER with acute heart failure were admitted.  This leads to huge costs both for the patient and the hospital.  Our goal is to be able to identify those who are safe for discharge from the ER to reduce the burden on both the patients and the hospitals.

How did you become a biostatistician?
I came to statistics by a very circuitous route.  I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a masters in applied math. I always enjoyed applications in the chemical/biological realms and found the teaching aspects that come along with working as a statistician appealing.  Just like with teaching, communication is key in my job. The investigators with whom I work have varying levels of statistical backgrounds so being able to adapt to their comfort level is a necessity.

What makes your role within Vanderbilt special? 
I have greatly appreciated all of the opportunities I have had here at Vanderbilt.  I started here in 2005, not too long after the department was started.  From the beginning, we have always been encouraged to be 'life-long learners' and given resources to help us with that.  I am grateful to be able to be a part of interesting research that is looking at current problems in need of sustainable solutions.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. 
When I am not at work, I am typically doing something outside.  I have friends from my days at Auburn with whom I vacation every year.  We have hiked in many beautiful places including the Grand Canyon, Alaska, Olympic National Park, Maine, and the Canadian Rockies.  For the last several years, I've also done a few sprint triathlons.  I don't burn up the course by any means; my goal is to have fun and simply to finish!  And oh yeah, I am an Auburn football fan -- War Eagle!

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still do not know about you? (Until now, of course!)
When I was in junior high, my entire class had to enter an oratorical contest sponsored by our local Optimist Club.  Shockingly, this introvert made it all the way to AL/MS districts!  You never know what you can do until you try!

Meet the New Faces of the Vanderbilt Biostatistics Master's and PhD Programs!

The Vanderbilt Department of Biostatistics proudly welcomes its newest students into the Master's and PhD programs for the 2018-2019 academic year!

In our Master's program, we have Ryan Moore joining us from the College of Wooster, Yan Yan from Middle Tennessee State University, and Yue Gao who recently received her master's degree from Peabody at Vanderbilt.

In our PhD program, Rebecca Irlmeier joins us from the University of Missouri, Julia Thome from Cornell College, Chiara Di Gravio has arrived from the University of Southampton where she was working as a Statistician, and Yi Zuo from University of Boston School of Medicine where she was working as a Lead Statistician.

We are so grateful to have these new faces here on campus. Here's a big congrats to an exciting new chapter in your life!

Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Dan Byrne

This week we are featuring Dan Byrne, Senior Associate in Biostatistics and Director of Quality Improvement & Program Evaluation in the Vanderbilt Department of Biostatistics.  Read on to learn more about his work and interests here at Vanderbilt.

What is your area of focus and what have been the major findings so far in your research?
My research focuses on how we can use biostatistics, predictive models, and artificial intelligence to improve health outcomes.  In our Learning Healthcare System Platform, we have created a "Dream Team," which is working on conducting large pragmatic trials during routine clinical care.  Recently, we published two papers in The New England Journal of Medicine showing that balanced IV fluids are superior to saline.  We estimated that these findings could save thousands of lives per year.  The next step in this research is to ensure that these safer fluids are ordered in the hospital and assess the impact on mortality.  In other words, have we completed the last mile of work in biostatistics to make sure our results are implemented in a sustainable way?

Tell us about your publications.
I have published more than 130 papers and one book, “Publishing Your Medical Research”; 18 years ago, I was recruited to Vanderbilt based on this book.

What is your current research interest and what do you hope to see come from it in the future?
My current interest is in testing with randomized controlled trials how artificial intelligence methods can be used to improve patient outcomes.  Our Cornelius team has created a large number of real-time predictive models, for example for readmissions and pressure ulcers, and tested these in randomized controlled trials.  We are now exploring Deep Learning methods and working to create the Vanderbilt Artificial Intelligence Lab (VAIL).  The current challenge is how to integrate predictive models and AI tools into hospital operations while conducting a randomized controlled trial.  This will be the area in which Vanderbilt can become a leader in this exploding field.

What is your best advice for aspiring statisticians?
My advice is to be relentlessly helpful and positive in teaching biostatistics and supporting physician-scientists so that they can become successful researchers.  Also, I would advise aspiring statisticians to become leaders at making forward progress in improving health outcomes and avoid the Brownian motion of academic medicine. Over the past 35 years, I have trained hundreds of physician-scientists, mostly in the MSCI program; and this approach has worked for me.

In your experience, what makes Vanderbilt special?
The research that we are doing in the Learning Healthcare System and artificial intelligence requires an enormous amount of collaboration and respect for the scientific method.  Vanderbilt is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this area based on our culture of collegiality and our strength in medical research.  It has been an honor to work with so many amazing people at Vanderbilt and see all of these programs that we created flourish and help others, for example: the Department of Biostatistics, The Biostatistics Graduate Program, Biostatistics Clinics, Clinical and Translational Research Studios, Go for the Gold employee wellness program, Flulapalooza, CRC Research Skills Workshops, the Learning Healthcare System Platform, The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program, and the Cornelius predictive modeling project.  Before coming to Vanderbilt, I was a self-employed statistical consultant for 10 years.  Hopefully, based on this experience and our culture, we can be as nimble as entrepreneurs and as rigorous as academics to develop and test artificial intelligence methods in a way that impacts health outcomes.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt.
I have a wonderful wife, Loretta, and two great children, Michael and Virginia; and I enjoy taking adventurous vacations with my family.  I just returned from a 4-day sailing trip with my son Michael.