BMCC-RG Members

Principal Investigators

  • Kerri Cavanaugh, MD MPH

    Kerri Cavanaugh, MD MPH, specializes in the care of patients with chronic kidney disease as a result of any cause and have specific expertise in caring for patients with kidney failure. This includes treating kidney failure with the best medical therapy, which may include options such as dialysis. She is passionate about delivering kidney disease care that fits with a patient’s and their family’s goals. This includes working with the other members of our kidney care team, nurses, dietitians and social workers as well as coordinating with the Vanderbilt palliative care providers to offer treatment in line with these goals. Our team specializes in this type of care for patients with kidney disease. Twitter: @KCavanaugh_MD

  • Ebele Mary-Anne Umeukeje, MD MPH

    Ebele Mary-Anne Umeukeje, MD MPH, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She completed Internal Medicine training, including a year as Chief Resident, at Meharry Medical College, and completed Nephrology training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She advanced her training in patient-oriented research through the Masters of Public Health Program at Vanderbilt University, in part supported by an NIDDK Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) individual post-doctoral fellowship award.

    Dr. Umeukeje’s research aims to reduce the high morbidity and mortality associated with kidney disease by improving self-care in vulnerable populations, addressing psychosocial determinants. Her research promotes health equity for patients of racial, ethnic and gender minorities as well as those with limited health literacy and lower socioeconomic resources. With previous funding support through a BIRCWH K12 award, and currently, an NIDDK K23 award, Dr. Umeukeje is examining novel patient and provider-specific psychosocial determinants of dialysis treatment adherence in African American patients with end-stage kidney disease. Her goal is to develop culturally-sensitive strategies to improve delivery of care and outcomes in advanced kidney disease.

    Dr. Umeukeje also has recognized expertise and experience in engaging the community to understand the needs and priorities for best kidney health. She conducted focus group sessions in African American churches in Nashville to determine barriers and facilitators to uptake of free kidney screening services, with findings published in a 2018 CJASN article selected as “Editor’s choice”. As a co-investigator in a multi-site study titled “Community-based Evaluation of APOL1 Genetic Testing in Kidney Disease”, she successfully co-facilitated community deliberative sessions with African Americans in Nashville, Seattle and Jackson. The findings were documented in a 2019 JASN article selected as one of the best of JASN publications highlighted at the 2019 American Society of Nephrology conference. Twitter: @EbeleUmeukeje

  • Devika Nair, MD MSCI

    Devika Nair, MD MSCI, is an Instructor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She completed a clinical and research fellowship in nephrology in 2019, during which time she earned a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation. Her research involves using qualitative and quantitative methods to improve patient-reported and clinical outcomes in older adults with advanced chronic kidney disease. She has a special interest in studying cognitive impairment, delivering supportive care, and engaging with patients as partners in research. Twitter: @devimol

  • Rachel Fissell, MD

    Rachel Fissell, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  She works to provide dialysis options and improve quality for end-stage kidney disease patients.  The overall goals are to prevent and manage peritoneal dialysis complications and drop out.

Research Coordinators

  • Sonya L Williams, MS

    Sonya L. Williams, MS, is currently a Clinical Translational Research Coordinator (CTRCII) for the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt.  She holds a Masters in Clinical Research Administration from Walden University and a Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy from Austin Peay State University.  Her role as CTRCII is to coordinate the approval processes and conduct of research protocols, assuring that the integrity and quality of the research is maintained and that the research is conducted in accordance with Good Clinical Practice Guidelines.

  • Taylor Perry, BS Perry, BS

    Taylor Perry, BS, is currently a Clinical Translational Research Coordinator (CTRC 1) for the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Lake Superior State University. Her role as a CTRC 1 is to coordinate various research operations such as the approval process, conducting study protocol, and maintaining research data while adhering to Good Clinical Practice Guidelines.

  • Aades K Saluja, BA

    Aades K. Saluja, BA, is currently working as a Clinical Trials Associate I (CTAI) for the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  She holds a BA in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Missour-Kansas City and is currently an MPH candiddate at George Washington University.  As a CTAI, Aades collects and documents research data and ensures guideline adherence for ongoing studies.  She also serves as a study liaison between the Priniciple Investigators and participating dialysis clinics.

  • Don Merrimon, BS

    Don Merrimon, BS, is currently a Clinical Trials Associate II for the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt.  He holds a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Tennessee State University. Don's role as CTA II is to support the activities of the Principle Investigator in accordance with the protocols and regulations. Don is involved with the collection, interpretation and documentation of data in support of clinical trials, conducts of site audits, initiates and develops process improvements and trains and mentors new staff members.

  • Kendra K Phillips, BS

    Kendra K. Phillips, BS, is currently a Clinical Trials Associate I (CTAI) for the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Her role as a CTAI is to adhere to Good Clinical Practice Guidelines while assisting with the collection and documentation of clinical research data.

VA Coordinator

  • Audrey M Tesi, BS

    Research Assistant

    Audrey M. Tesi is currently working as a research assistant under Dr. Kerri Cavanaugh at the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System- Nashville Campus. She is involved in a study that examines the renal and pulmonary effects of embedded metal fragments and blast injuries among veterans who were stationed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. She was born and raised in Murfreesboro, Tennessee but attended Syracuse University in New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.  She is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Psychology at Lipscomb University and hopes to continue her studies by pursuing a doctorate in Counseling Psychology.

Affiliated Members

  • Ken Wallston, Ph.D.

    Ken Wallston, Ph.D., is an emeritus professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University and a staff scientist with the Institute of Medicine and Public Health at VUMC. He received his PhD in social psychology in 1969 from the University of Connecticut. Ken has done extensive research on adaptation to chronic illness, studying patients with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, as well as cardiovascular and kidney disease. Among the founders of the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine (in the late 1970s), Ken is most well known as one of the developers of the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control scales which are used by researchers all over the world. In addition, he has developed and validated dozens of other health-related belief scales, including measures of perceived competence, health literacy and numeracy.

  • Marcus G Wild, MS

    Marcus G. Wild, MS, is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, specializing in Clinical Psychology. Marcus’s research interests center on the ways in which people vary in their social skills, and how that affects their health and ability to cope with chronic illness. His prior work includes studies of psychosocial determinants of health in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), diabetes, and dialysis; development and validation of scales for self-efficacy and social ability; and the cognitive, affective, and physiological correlates of social ability. Marcus has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a M.S. from Vanderbilt University in Clinical Psychology. He has had the distinct pleasure of working with the Behavioral Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group since the fall of 2013. Twitter: @marcusgwild

  • Lauren Beach, Ph.D., JD

    Lauren Beach, Ph.D., JD, is a Research Assistant Professor within the Department of Medical Social Sciences in the Feinberg School of Medicine. She is also Associate Director of the EDIT Program within the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University. Dr. Beach is a sexual and gender minority health researcher who aspires to advance health equity through collaborative scholarship, community engagement, and advocacy while applying an intersectional social justice based lens. Dr. Beach completed her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology & Genetics in 2014. In December 2012, she received her law degree magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. Dr. Beach is supported by a K12 award from the Third Coast HIV-related Cardiovascular (CV) and Sleep Disorders K12 Career Development Program (K12HL143959). For her K12 project CADENCES HIV, she investigates social and biological mechanisms that contribute to heart failure in people living with HIV. Dr. Beach is a well-recognized LGBTQIA and bisexual community leader. Among other accolades, she has been named a Point Foundation scholar and one of Advocate Magazine's 40 Under 40 LGBT activists in the United States. Twitter @laurenbbeach

  • Deniz Gungor

    Deniz Gungor is currently a medical student at Louisiana State University Health - Shreveport. She recently obtained her BA in Medicine, Health, & Society with minors in French and Chemistry from Vanderbilt University (2020). While at Vanderbilt she had the opportunity to join the BMCC-RG as an undergraduate research intern where she assisted with various research tasks such as reviewing literature, collecting data, attending and presenting at group meetings, and learning from the expertise of the incredible BMCC-RG colleagues. Specifically, she contributed to a longitudinal cohort survey study examining the impact of stigma on individuals living with Type 2 Diabetes. Her research interests include the intersection of lifestyle and health, and is grateful for her experience with the BMCC-RG for giving her a foundation of research skills to help further her career.

Alumni

  • Julien Tremblay, BS

    Clinical Trials Associate I

    Julien Tremblay is currently working as a Clinical Trials Associate (CTA 1) for the Behavior Medicine in Chronic Conditions Research Group (BMCC-RG) in the Department of Nephrology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Biology, and Health: Science, Society, and Policy from Brandeis University. In his role as a CTA 1, Julien helps with various tasks related to initiating future projects and managing ongoing studies. His specific interests lie in studying the paradigm of physician-patient interactions as it relates to chronic conditions and how to better improve those relations.