Program Directors

Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine
Dr. Shu received her M.D. from Fudan University Shanghai Medical College in 1984 and her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1993. Her research focuses mainly on the assessment of independent and/or interactive effects of environmental exposures (e.g., radiation, occupational exposure), lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, drinking and diet), and host susceptibility in the development of cancers, diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Dr. Shu also investigates lifestyle and genetic determinants for breast cancer survival and quality of life among cancer survivors. She has published more than 380 papers or book chapters, including several important papers on soy food intake in relation to women’s health, including risk of cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease, bone fracture, and hypertension, as well as breast cancer outcomes and menopausal symptoms. She has been the Principal Investigator for five NIH-funded epidemiological studies, including two cohort studies, the Shanghai Men’s Health Study and Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, and a training grant, the Vanderbilt-Shanghai Chronic Disease Research Program. She is also a co-investigator for 10 other NIH-funded epidemiological studies of breast cancer and women’s health. She has served as a member of the NIH Study Section for Cancer Epidemiology and an ad hoc review panel member for the DOD Breast Cancer and Prostate Research Programs. She is a faculty member of the NIH College of Central Scientific Review. She has mentored over 40 M.P.H. and doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty, many of whom now hold faculty positions at major universities or research institutes. Currently, she is the primary mentor for 4 postdoctoral fellows and 4 junior faculty members. 

Dr. Douglas Heimburger, MD, MS, Professor of Medicine
Dr. Heimburger received his M.D. degree from Vanderbilt University in 1978, completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Louis University and a fellowship and Master’s degree in clinical nutrition at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He is a Physician Nutrition Specialist, board-certified in internal medicine and clinical nutrition. During a Fulbright Scholar award-supported sabbatical in Zambia in 2006-7, he initiated nutrition research in a population of Zambians starting antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Fogarty International Center at National Institutes of Health, the governing Council of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Initial Review Group Subcommittee G for the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. FDA’s Food Advisory Committee and a Test Materials Development Committee for the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Dr. Heimburger’s principal research and publication interests are nutritional influences on responses to treatment for HIV/AIDS in developing countries, nutritional factors associated with cancer prevention, nutritional support of hospitalized patients and medical nutrition education. He oversees the global health tracks of the Emphasis and Medical Scholars Programs and the Graduate Certificate Course in Global Health.

Program Faculty

Dr. Ann Richmond, PhD, Professor of Cancer Biology
Dr. Richmond received her Ph.D. in developmental biology from Emory University in 1979. Her research interests include transcriptional regulation of chemokines, the role of chemokines in chronic inflammatory conditions and tumor progression, as well as signal transduction mechanisms involved in chemokine mediated chemotaxis. Work from the Richmond lab has shown that ligand mediated receptor internalization is associated with oscillations of intracellular signaling required for continuous response to a chemokine. Mutation of the receptor such that ligand no longer mediates internalization of the receptor is accompanied by prolonged response to ligand. However, loss of receptor internalization is often accompanied by a loss of chemotactic response, even though there is an increased length and strength of intracellular signals. Current work is directed toward elucidating the specific CXCR2 protein/protein interactions over a time course after ligand stimulation to characterize the “chemosynapse.” Proteomics and two hybrid screen methodologies have been utilized to identify many of these protein/protein interaction and the functional significance of these interactions is being characterized in regard to effects on the organization of the actin cytoskeleton to mediate chemotactic responses. In addition the mechanism by which receptor internalization facilitates the establishment of an intracellular gradient of signals to establish polarity oscillations required for response to a chemotactic gradient is being characterized. State of the art techniques intravital confocal imaging, time lapse videomicroscopy, microfluidic gradient devices, transgenic and knock out animal models are being used to explore the significance of these chemokine receptor/protein interactions in breast cancer. Other projects in the laboratory are focused on the disregulation of NF-kB and its link between inflammation and cancer. Constitutive activation of NF-kB is characteristic of many cancers and this is associated with over-expression of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines which set up a microenvironment that facilitates tumor progression. Translational studies are ongoing to determine how disruption of NF-kB or specific chemokine receptors affects the leukocytic infiltrate of the tumor microenvironment, tumor progression and metastisis.

Dr. Todd Edwards, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Dr. Edwards received his PhD in Human Genetics from Vanderbilt University in 2008. His research focuses on studying the heritable factors that modulate the risk of diseases and developing statistical methods and software that make these investigations more efficient. He uses a combination of statistical techniques to test hypotheses in large-scale genetic data from populations of persons at risk for traits such as obesity, hypertension, blood pressure, body mass index, colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps, and endometrial cancer. He works with genetic data from several populations, including African Americans, Chinese from Shanghai, and communities in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Additionally, he employs high-performance computational resources at Vanderbilt to simulate genetic data from human populations to model disease genes and evaluate novel statistical techniques. Currently, he is developing procedures and statistical techniques to design efficient next-generation sequencing experiments to follow-up or augment discoveries from genome-wide association studies.