VUMC Infection Prevention Team

IP 2023

  

Table

Chief Hospital Epidemiologist: Thomas R. Talbot, MD MPH

Dr. Talbot graduated from Duke University in 1992 and from Vanderbilt Medical School in 1996. Following training in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins, he returned to Vanderbilt to complete a fellowship in Infectious Diseases. He joined the faculty in July 2003, and his primary research focus involves the prevention of nosocomial infections and healthcare worker vaccination. Research activities have focused on occupational infection control, including the use of healthcare personnel (HCP) immunization as a means to reduce patient and HCP morbidity, secondary transmission from vaccinations, and management of HCP exposed to contagious infectious diseases. He became the Chief Hospital Epidemiologist at VUMC in July 2006. He has served as a member of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Board of Trustees and is currently the President (2024) and will be the Past-President (2025) in the coming years. He also served as a member of the CDC's Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) from 2011-2016 and is on the editorial board of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Senior Director of Department of Infection Prevention: Lori Paden RN MSN CPPS

Lori is a Registered Nurse who began her clinical health career caring for postoperative patients.  After that she transitioned into a Quality and Patient Safety role supporting improvement of surgical patient care.  Over the past 13 years she has lead Quality, Patient Safety, and Infection Prevention Departments at several facilities within the Southeast.  Her current areas of leadership include Infection Prevention, HLD/SPD, Hand Hygiene, Adult Patient Safety, Medication Safety, Safety Analytics, and VPH Quality and Safety.  Lori received her MSN, with a focus in Teaching and Learning, from the University of North Alabama in 2010 and her Certified Professional Patient Safety (CPPS) Certification in 2022.  She joined the VUMC team in 2021.  Away from work, Lori enjoys reading, crafting, spending time with her rescue cats and dogs, as well as being a supporter of Nashville sports, including hockey and soccer. 

MCJCHV Hospital Epidemiologist: Greg Wilson, MD

Dr. Wilson graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1982 and from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1987. He completed residency training in Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and fellowship training in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. He joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1996. As the hospital epidemiologist for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, he works closely with the rest of the VUMC Infection Control team in prevention and control of nosocomial infections in pediatric patients.

Infection Prevention Manager: Tanya Boswell RN MSN CIC

Tanya received her BSN from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. After working for 3 years in psychiatric nursing, she began working in Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt inpatient medical/surgical units. Tanya completed her MSN degree in 1993 from Vanderbilt University. Primarily, Tanya has worked in the pediatric critical care unit; she called the PCCU home for fifteen years. Her roles in the PCCU included bedside nurse, nurse educator, and clinical nurse specialist. In addition to working at Vanderbilt, she works part-time as adjunct faculty for a local school of nursing. Tanya joined the Infection Prevention team in the spring of 2010 as the second IP for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and in 2024 was selected as Manager for the Department.rtment.

Associate Hospital Epidemiologists

Bryan Harris, MD MPH

Dr. Harris graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2009. He completed internal medicine residency, chief residency, and infectious diseases fellowship at Vanderbilt. He received his MPH during his ID fellowship and joined the faculty in 2016. He served as the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship for the Tennessee Valley VA Healthcare System until 2021. He currently serves as an Associate Hospital Epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital and the Executive Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Medicine. His research interests are healthcare-associated infection prevention and health policy. 

Adult Ambulatory Epidemiologist: Rebecca Stern, MD

Dr. Stern is an infectious disease specialist in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). She completed her undergraduate training in Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her medical degree at the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health, and completed her Internal Medicine Residency at UW Hospitals and Clinics. She did fellowship in Infectious Diseases at VUMC, where she served as chief fellow. Dr. Stern is the Chief Hospital Epidemiologist for Williamson Medical Center and serves as the Adult Ambulatory Healthcare Epidemiologist for VUMC. Her research and clinical interests include infection prevention, COVID-19 epidemiology, and medical education.

William Schaffner, MD

Dr. William Schaffner is Professor of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. After graduation from Yale in 1957, he attended the University of Freiburg, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1962, and did his internship, residency training and a Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt. He then fulfilled his selective service obligation in the U.S. Public Health Service as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for two years (1966-1968). He returned to Vanderbilt after that tour of duty, joined the faculty and established the beginning of a 30-year close collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Health.

Dr. Schaffner is a member of numerous professional societies and has been elected to leadership positions in several. He has served as the President of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) in 1983. He recently completed a term on the elected Council of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He has written over 300 scientific articles and textbook chapters. He is a consultant in public health policy and communicable disease control for numerous national and local institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Tennessee Department of Health, the American Hospital Association, and the American College of Physicians, among others. He served as Hospital Epidemiologist at Vanderbilt for over 35 years, where under his direction, the Department became a major influence in the prevention of nosocomial infections at Vanderbilt. In 2006, he swapped roles with his mentee, Dr. Talbot, and became the Associate Hospital Epidemiologist.

Adult Inpatient Infection Preventionists

Kathie Wilkerson, RN CIC

Kathie Wilkerson graduated from Ball State University with a BSN. She came to Vanderbilt in 1978, working in a Neurosurgery and Orthopedics unit. After positions in Intravenous Therapy and Home Infusion Pharmacy, she joined the Infection Prevention team in 1992. She has been certified in Infection Control since 1995. Her current areas of focus include the central line-associated bloodstream infection reduction program in ICUs throughout the medical center and surveillance activities in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and various general care units.

Timothy Munyao Kitonyi, MPH MT(ASCP) CIC

Timothy is a certified Infection Preventionist who began his clinical health career as a board-certified medical technologist specializing in microbiology. After working for 12 years in microbiology, he transitioned to infection prevention and has worked in several facilities across the US since 2012 both as a lone IP and in team settings. His current areas of assignment include the surgical/ procedural services areas and surgical inpatient locations. Timothy received his MPH in Epidemiology from IUPUI in 2004 after having completed his bachelor’s in Natural Science from Taylor University, Upland Indiana, and Medical Technology certification from Clarian Health Services. He joined the VUMC team in 2023. Away from work, Timothy enjoys welding, working on old diesel engines, farming, leisure running and soccer.

Maitri Shah, BDS MHA CIC 

Maitri is an accomplished Infection Preventionist with three years of comprehensive experience overseeing Infection Prevention programs across a network of over 20 community hospitals in the Southern California region. While collaborating with community hospitals, she developed a passion for serving the underserved, reducing HAIs and enhancing patient safety. This passion led her to pursue Certification in Infection Control (CIC). In the winter of 2023, Maitri relocated to Nashville with her husband and joined Vanderbilt's robust Infection Prevention team. Currently, she oversees the emergency services, neurosurgery, and oncology departments. Her academic background is distinctive, combining a Bachelor's in Dental Surgery from India with a Master's in Health Administration from the University of Scranton. Beyond work, Maitri enjoys hiking, cooking her favorite delicacies, and spending time with her family.

Carlo Gentleman, RN BSN

Carlo’s career in healthcare began in the U.S. Army Reserves as a Combat Medic, earning a national EMT certification.  He worked for EMS and an Emergency Department in his home state of Florida while working on his nursing degree.  After receiving his ASN, he served as a Rural Health Medical Missionary assigned to the Copper River Valley of interior Alaska.  As his missionary assignment ended, he set his sights on the opportunity to provide care in a teaching hospital setting.  In 2007 Carlo began working at Vanderbilt Adult Hospital and has remained committed to serving the patients and families of Nashville for the past 16 years.  During this time, he has provided care for critically ill patients.  First starting in Vanderbilt’s Adult Emergency Department for two years, then Cardiovascular Intensive Care (CVICU) eight years, and for the past six years he has worked in the Adult Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).  Carlo completed his BSN degree from Liberty University in 2022.  His roles at Vanderbilt, have been as preceptor for training critical care nurses, unit board chair, and as an agent of change by introducing evidence-based initiatives to improve patient care safe practices.  He has also served as part of leadership in both CVICU and PACU.  Carlo joined Vanderbilt’s Department of Quality, Safety, and Risk Prevention as an Infection Preventionist September 2023 with the hopes of applying his years of experience within a broader scope.

Helena Cantrell RN, BSN, CIC

Helena's healthcare career began in 2000 as an EMT-B in Stony Creek, VA while in school to obtain her Bachelor of Science in biology from Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA. After graduating in 2004, she worked at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, AL as a telemetry technician, department secretary and then a sleep clinic assistant before attending nursing school at Calhoun Community College. Upon graduating in 2015 with an Associates of Applied Science in nursing, Helena started her career in the cardiac ICU stepdown unit. From there, she transitioned to Neuro ICU working with neuro spine trauma and stroke patients. Helena completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of AL in Huntsville in 2018. She then worked in the Medical ICU at Providence St. Mary's Medical Center in Walla Walla, WA. Upon returning home to the Southeast in 2020, Helena worked in long term acute care and HLD at Huntsville Hospital, Helena obtained her CIC in December 2023. Helena is looking forward to applying the knowledge and skills she has learned to her new role at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

 

 

Pediatric Infection Preventionists

Shannon Ligon, RN MSN CIC

Shannon received her AS in Nursing from Aquinas Junior College in 1993.  She completed her BSN from University of Phoenix in 2008 and received her MSN from Vanderbilt University in 2011.  Shannon has worked in Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital  at Vanderbilt in various inpatient and outpatient settings as a staff nurse and in supervisory roles.  Shannon began her Infection Prevention work in Honolulu Hawaii at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children with the Safety and Quality department in 2013.  She is currently working in the Monroe Carell Jr. Hospital as one of two Infection Preventionists assigned to our Children’s Hospital.

Alexis Brinsko, RN BSN CPN

Alexis is a native Tennessean who graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For the last five years, she has been on the frontlines serving the pediatric population at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as a staff leader partnering with the Leadership team on her Pediatric Medicine unit ensuring quality care, and safety standards are fortified. In 2019 she became a board-certified pediatric nurse. From a young age, Alexis has been following the Infection Prevention team through the undulating hallways and tunnels of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and learning the world of infections, isolation, and hand hygiene.  Her passion for infection prevention grew as the pandemic continued to surge and has ultimately guided her to the doors of Infection Prevention to serve not only the patients here at Vanderbilt but every staff member. She joined the Infection Prevention team in Winter of 2022 and is currently embarking on becoming certified in infection control.

HLD and Sterilization Quality Program

Tanya Stellges, BS CRCST, Program Director, Patient Safety, High-Level Disinfection and Sterilization

Tanya received her bachelors in health care administration from the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, FL. After graduating from UCF in 2007, she moved to Nashville, TN to pursue her career in healthcare. Tanya began working in the sterile processing department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2008. Her passion for quality improvement initiatives for sterile processing in turned inspired her to pursue additional educational certificates in the sterile processing field. Tanya has since worked in the sterile processing department at Vanderbilt for eleven and half years; her roles in sterile processing included working as a sterile processing technician, managing the endosurgery suite in the perioperative area, and director of both pediatric and adult perioperative sterile processing departments. Tanya has come to the infection prevention team in December 2019 to utilize her expertise in perioperative service, sterile processing and high-level disinfection to drive organizational improvements and standardization of processes

 

Morgan Lancaster, Sr. Project Manager, HLD and Sterilization Quality Program

Morgan is originally from Austin, Texas and has a Bachelor of Science in healthcare administration. She brings 18 years of clinical experience to the High-level disinfection/ sterilization team. She has worked in multiple preoperative areas including, preop, PACU, and sterile processing. She spent most of her time in Endoscopy, as a procedural technician and trainer. She applied her extensive knowledge of endoscopy operations, high-level disinfection, and quality excellence to develop standards and procedures for the opening of a new endoscopy center.

Ambulatory Infection Prevention

Katie Bashaw, MHA LPN CPHQ

After working as a clinical nurse in the outpatient setting for over seven years, Katie started working in Healthcare Quality in 2012. She has years of experience in Healthcare Quality and The Joint Commission’s continuous compliance readiness. Her expertise includes Infection Prevention in the outpatient setting.   Katie received her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration in 2017.  She joined Vanderbilt in 2018, after moving to Nashville from Ohio. Her passion for performance improvement and experience in Patient Safety Initiatives have led her down the path to pursue her recent Certification Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ).  She received her Master in Healthcare Administration in 2023 and is preparing for CIC. 

Amb IP Team

Regional Infection Prevention Program

Jennifer Cihlar, DO, Regional Hospitals Hospital Epidemiologist

Dr. Cihlar graduated from Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2017 and completed her internal medicine residency at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in 2020. She continued southbound to complete her infectious diseases fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she joined as faculty thereafter in 2022.  She currently serves as Medical Director for Infection Prevention at the regional hospitals, Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital, Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital, and Vanderbilt Bedford Hospitals.  Her research interest is in healthcare-associated infection prevention.”

  • Vanderbilt Bedford County Hospital

Angel Whitaker BSN, RN, Employee Health Nurse and Infection Preventionist:

Angel Whitaker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Middle Tennessee State University in 2006.  She started her nursing career in the medical-surgical unit at Bedford County Hospital in Shelbyville, Tennessee.  About 6 years later she decided to expand her patient care experience by working in the surgery department as the Pre-admission testing nurse for 9 years. She worked PRN in a GI clinic, Nephrology clinic, and a Pediatric Clinic as well over that period of time.  She has also worked as an elementary school teacher with her first bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies prior to nursing.  In 2021, she accepted the roles of the Employee Health nurse and Infection Preventionist for Vanderbilt Bedford County Hospital.  She has been a member of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) since 2021. 

  • Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital

Katrina Jackson BSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist

Katrina Jackson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Alabama Huntsville in 2012.  She started her nursing career in a medical-surgical unit.  Then proceeded to expand her patient care experience by working in intensive care, same-day surgery, emergency department, and house supervision.  She has also worked as an employee health nurse.  In 2018, she accepted the role of Infection Preventionist.  She became certified in infection prevention, passing the CBIC exam in 2022.  She has been a member of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) since 2018.  She is a voting member of the South-Central Regional Healthcare Coalition. She is currently enrolled and pursuing an MSN in Healthcare Quality and Safety.

  • Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital

Tippy Epps BSN, RN, Infection Preventionist

Tippy Epps graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from South Dakota State University in 2003.  She started her nursing career in 1999 in Long Term Care and went to Hospital nursing in fall of 2003.  She worked her early years at Lookout Memorial Hospital starting on Med/Surg doing rotations in ICU, PACU, ER, Labor & Delivery and Night Charge Nurse (House Supervisor).  She spent 12 years dedicated to Emergency Medicine and moved back to NICU/Nursery in 2019.  In April of 2020, her family moved to Nashville, and she moved away from bedside nursing and became a Case Manager, finally moving to Quality, Risk and Prevention at Wilson County Hospital in December of 2021.  She accepted the Role of Infection Preventionist in December 2022.  Prior to Nursing, Ms. Epps was in the United States Air Force in Combat Communications and is a Gulf War Veteran with 7 years spent overseas.

 

Hand Hygiene Program

LaKita Buchanan, VUMC Hand Hygiene Program Manager

LaKita graduated from Tennessee State University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology/Social Work. She has begun coursework for the Master's degree program at Trevecca Nazarene University. LaKita started working at Vanderbilt in January 2010, beginning with the Human Resource Department and later in Otolaryngology as an Office Assistant IV then Interim Program Coordinator for Cochlear Implants and most recently assisting the Communication team with special events. She joined the Infection Prevention team in April 2015 and serves as the Department's Program Manager.

Trenita Fulcher, Associate Program Manager

Trenita graduated from Tennessee Technological University in 1996 with Bachelor of Science degree in Human Ecology and minor in Business Management.   She continues to take courses to obtain a Master’s degree from Devry Keller program in Human Resource Management.  Trenita began working at Vanderbilt August 2021. Trenita has 20 years of business experience in data analysis, strategic planning, and implementing new training processes.  She is currently the Associate Program Manager for the VUMC Hand Hygiene Program.

Ashlee James, Associate Program Manager

Ashlee James will be graduating from the University of Alabama in 2023 with her BA in Business Leadership with additional course work in Organized Leadership. She’s also working on her certification in Project Management.  Throughout her professional experience, Ashlee has maintained her focus on serving others with rigor and courtesy. She joined the Infection Prevention team as its Associate Program Manager for Hand Hygiene February of 2022. In addition to her work at Vanderbilt, Ashlee serves as principle and founder of a growing financial services company. With a heart for the community Ashlee has leveraged that success to give-back and provide annual groceries for the community during the holidays. Ashlee looks forward to continuing her growing career in hospital administration and programming.

 

Data Analytic and Management Team

Jim Rickwa

Jim received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Boise State University in 1996. He came to Vanderbilt in 2016 after 19 years in the technology sector as a business data and financial analyst with an emphasis on program and process improvement. He now serves as a Business Intelligence Developer focused exclusively on the Vanderbilt Infection Prevention Program.

Shruti Singh

Shruti received her Master degree in Business Intelligence and Analytics from Middle Tennessee State University in 2018. After completion of her MBA from an Indian university in 2012, she started her career in data analytics and she now serves as Business Intelligence Developer focused exclusively on the Vanderbilt Infection Prevention Program.

Jonelle Williams RN

Jonelle graduated from a nursing school in Birmingham associated with the University of Alabama in 1971. She continued to take courses in health-related sciences at UAB, UAH, and TSU. She focused on the care of critical cardiac patients through 1978 when she moved to Nashville and worked at St. Thomas in the ICUs. Along with that, she has enjoyed supervising in a nursing home and doing telephone triage after MD office hours to educate and direct clients as to their optimal medical care. She worked in the perioperative area to develop and expand that department to centralize anesthesia preop education with lab, x-ray, EKG, and records from the PCP. She graduated from the Middle TN School of Anesthesia in 1986 as a nurse anesthetist and has worked in that field until 2010 when she joined the Infection Prevention Team where she reviews and abstracts data with the focus on SSIs.

Infection Prevention Committees

The VUMC Infection Prevention Regulatory Subcommittee, Sterilization and rePRocessing Quality Oversight Committee (SPRQOC), and Infection Prevention Executive Committees are comprised of representatives from specialty areas throughout the hospital.  The committees meet bimonthly to evaluate policies, review current infection prevention programs and HAI prevention performance, and discuss current infection prevention concerns.