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Graduate Program in Biomedical Informatics

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Brochure (pdf file)     Executive Summary (pdf file)

Research and Teaching Synergies and Collaborations

A number of existing program and initiatives within the university have research foci and resources that complement the proposed program's aims. A partial listing of these includes: the Program in Human Genetics; the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Program in Cell Biology; the Program in Structural Biology; the School of Nursing; the School of Engineering; the School of Medicine's Deans' efforts in Medical Education; the Owen School of Management; the Department of Preventive Medicine; the program in Pharmacogenetics; the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation Program; Peabody College - including, among others, The Learning Technology Center (LTC) and The Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT); the Institute for Bio-Mathematics (in development); the Tennessee Mouse Consortium, and the Center for Molecular Neuroscience.

Collaborative advising of students from different departments and programs creates an important set of opportunities for collaborative projects and the creation of closer research ties among the different academic units.

Program in Human Genetics

The Program in Human Genetics conducts research in two major areas: Single gene (Mendelian) disorders (e.g., Carbamyl Phosphate Synthetase I Deficiency, Combined Pituitary Hormone Deficiency, Cystic Fibrosis, Duchenne Muscular, Dystrophy, Familial Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome), and Skeletal Dysplasias and complex genetic disorders (e.g., Alzheimer Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Autistic Disorder, Bone Marrow Transplant Related Morbidity, Breast Cancer). The program has several faculty members and staff divided in 4 core units (DNA Resource Core, Data Analysis Core, Family Ascertainment Core, Computing Core), and 2 laboratories (Dr. Haynes' Lab, and Dr. Moore's Lab).

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Program in Cell Biology

The Graduate Program in the Department of Cell Biology emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to biological research. The department supports strong, well-funded research programs with major emphasis in cancer biology, developmental biology, neurobiology, and reproductive biology. Research projects generally utilize a powerful combination of cellular, molecular, biochemical, ultrastructural, physiological, and/or genetic techniques. The department has excellent facilities for state-of-the-art biomedical research, including facilities for the production of transgenic mice, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and instrumentation for computer-aided morphometry. The laboratories for each of the thirty-six faculty members in the Department of Cell Biology offer stimulating opportunities in specific research problems, and an excellent air of cooperativeness and interaction between laboratories enhances the research environment.

Research interests in the department include: Growth factors and oncogenes in neoplasia, Signal transduction, Cell-cycle control, Cell and tissue-specific control of gene expression, Molecular control of embryonic development, Fertilization and implantation, Sexual differentiation, Organization and development of the nervous system, Molecular neurobiology of synaptogenesis. Didactic credits involve a minimal number of required courses, with the remaining credits derived from interdepartmental courses of particular interest to the student. Emphasis is placed on high quality research training, and thesis research generally results in several publications in quality journals. A training grant entitled "Multidisciplinary Basic Research Training in Cancer" is administered by the Department of Cell Biology. The training emphasis is on the cell and molecular biology of cancer, with particular strength in the areas of growth factor action and signal transduction, oncogene mechanism of action, and regulation of expression of specific genes related to cancer.

Structural Biology

The Program in Structural Biology was established in the Fall of 1999. The core faculty includes Professor Walter J. Chazin, Program Director, Jarrod A. Smith, Ph.D., Asst. Director (Computation and Molecular Graphics), Laura Mizoue, Ph.D., Asst. Director (Protein Expression and Purification), and Beverly McCauley, Administrative Officer. The Program focuses, among other areas, on EF-hand Calcium-Binding Proteins, Oligonucleotide Structures in Genetic Processes, and Interactions of Anticancer Ligands and DNA at the Molecular Level

School of Nursing

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has a national reputation for excellence in nursing education and attracts students from across the nation and from several foreign countries. The School of Nursing was founded in 1909 as the Training School for Nurses of Vanderbilt University Hospital, with a three-year program leading to eligibility for nurse licensure. Under University administration since 1930, the Nursing School became a part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1985. This relationship allows greater opportunity for nursing faculty and students to interact with nursing staff, medical faculty, and medical students in the areas of teaching, research, and practice.

The School offers a Master of Science in Nursing. The first-professional degree in nursing at Vanderbilt, the M.S.N., Students are prepared as nurse practitioners in a variety of clinical domains as administrators in at the health system management program. With the advent of the graduate program in biomedical informatics, students will have the opportunity to combine core courses in nursing with selected informatics courses to earn an M.S.N. in nursing informatics.

A Ph.D. in Nursing Science is also offered to highly qualified individuals who hold graduate degrees in nursing and who are interested in careers in nursing science. Areas of concentration in the doctoral program include the study of individual, family, and community responses to health and illness across the life span and the outcomes of care delivery practice. The Ph.D. in Nursing Science curriculum is organized into three broad areas: phenomena of concern in nursing science; scientific inquiry, including application, testing, and generation of theory; and a minor in an area of interest that supports the student's focus of study. We anticipate that the opportunity to pursue a minor in informatics will attract students who, for a variety of professional reasons, wish to earn the doctorate in their primary discipline, nursing.

Medical Education

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is committed to the education of physicians who are firmly grounded in basic medical science; who can recognize and treat disorders in their patients and provide appropriate preventive counselling; who can obtain, evaluate, and apply the results of scientific research; and who can translate their proficiency into effective humanitarian service. The medical school's major strength lies in the quality of its students and faculty. The school provides a supportive, positive environment in which students are treated individually in their pursuit of excellence in medical careers. The student body is diverse, with students from a wide variety of major universities nationwide. The medical school has an unusually low attrition rate and its graduates traditionally gain entrance to residency programs of high quality throughout the country. The faculty, which represents a variety of specialties and many strong research programs, has a national and international reputation for excellence in the biomedical sciences and clinical care. House staff officers who have teaching duties consistently receive commendation for their contributions to the educational program.

The medical school curriculum contains within its core and elective components the full spectrum of medicine. The curriculum provides sufficient structure to afford guidance, with flexibility to encourage initiative. An extensive elective program during the first two years gives students the opportunity to pursue individual interests. The curriculum provides traditional experiences in the various disciplines of medicine and offers students research opportunities for academic credit. From among the approximately 6,000 applications received each year at the School of Medicine, approximately a hundred students are chosen for the first- year class. A hallmark of the Medical School admissions process is the personal attention to details by the administrative staff and the Admissions Committee. The involvement of more that a hundred faculty members in the interview and evaluations process reflects the importance placed on the selection process and leads to a personal interest in each applicant.

Medical education has important informatics components in the form of formal courses and daily integration of informatics and information technology in most of the courses in the school and clinical settings of patient care. The Introduction to Biomedical Research Course in the first year provides students a basic understanding of information sources and retrieval, evidence-based practice, information technology, and computer assisted instruction. Students also pursue an elective biomedical research project under the direction of a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Informatics. However, the balance of learning is derived from the embedding of informatics in all courses, involving all faculty, with a cumulative sequence of increasing sophistication of tasks. As such, informatics in the School of Medicine is learned each day during such experiences as the:

  • checking the class schedule on the course home page
  • bedside discussion about evidence and uncertainty
  • grand rounds presentation of state-of-the-art research
  • literature search about the patient recently seen
  • two years of intensive use of a clinical data repository (Mars) and order entry/decision support system (Wiz Order) in the clinical clerkships
  • collaboration with the Library Clinical Information Consult Service
  • online discussion group in the Primary Care Medicine Clerkship
  • preparation of the handout to be mounted on the Outpatient Morning Report Web Site.

A recently appointed Task Force for Informatics in Support of Education sets forth to articulate the current and future status of informatics in support of education of the health professions. In the fall of 2000, the group will provide a roadmap of future directions in terms of doable objectives for creating the infrastructure and incentives to support education efforts in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing.

In addition another interesting opportunity is the creation of a combined M.D./M.S. degree. Such a degree, with its potential to attract outstanding students to both programs, will benefit both the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt's Biomedical Informatics Program and will offer an excellent opportunity to enhance the collaboration between these two programs.


Key Features of the Joint M.D./M.S. Program

Admissions

Students will apply to each program separately and must be accepted by both programs to pursue the joint degree. Ideally, students will apply for joint degree status prior to enrolling in either program. However, medical students may elect to apply for admission to the joint degree program at any time during their first three years in the medical school.

Structure

Joint degree students will complete both degrees in six years, saving one-half year in school as medical school ordinarily takes four years and the Informatics Program two and one-half years.

The Structure of the Schedule is shown below:

MD/MS BMI SCHEDULE
  Fall Semester Spring Semester Summer
Year 1 Medical School Medical School Open
Year 2 Medical School Medical School Open
Year 3 Medical School Medical School

Medical School

May begin Year 4

July or August

Year 4

Biomedical

Informatics

Program

Biomedical

Informatics

Program

Biomedical

Informatics

Research

Year 5

Biomedical

Informatics

Program

Biomedical

Informatics

Program

Biomedical

Informatics

Research

Year 6 Medical School Medical School  

Double Counting of Credits

The Biomedical Informatics Program will grant credit toward the MS BMI degree for approved coursework completed at the Medical School. The medical school will in turn grant 2 units of Medical School credit toward the MD degree for approved Informatics coursework. It is this double counting of credits that permits students to complete both degrees in six years.

School of Management

The Owen School of Management has created a joint M.D./M.B.A. program aiming to provide future physicians with an opportunity to acquire critical business skills that will better prepare them to contribute to and shape the business of medicine. Medical students as part of the M.B.A. program are expected to bring a different perspective and varied set of issues to classroom discussions that will benefit all students. The opportunity to unite degrees from both the Medical School and the Owen School represents a major step forward in Vanderbilt's ability to respond to the needs of the nation while still maintaining a superb educational focus.

Department of Preventive Medicine

Preventive medicine is concerned with reducing the incidence of disease by modifying environmental or behavioral factors that are causally related to illness. Originally, preventive medicine was largely concerned with understanding and preventing infectious disease. Today, this discipline is also involved with the prevention of chronic diseases, such as breast cancer, or modifying prescription practices that can result in long term morbidity in some types of patients.

The department has several faculty members: Chris Coffey, Ph.D., Michael Decker, M.D. William D. Dupont, Ph.D., Charles F. Federspiel, Ph.D., Shiva Gautam, Ph.D., Marie Griffin, M.D., Patricia Hebert, M.D., Lewis Lefkowitz, M.D., Loren Lipworth, Sc.D., Sarah Meredith, M.B.B.S., Wayne Ray, Ph.D., William Schaffner, M.D., Walter Smalley, M.D., F.A.C.P., Yu Shyr, Ph.D. The department has two divisions. The Division of Biostatistics conducts research involving long term collaborations with clinical and basic science faculty. This research includes topics in gastrointestinal oncology, the molecular epidemiology of breast cancer, neonatal intensive care, nutrition and obesity, and many other disciplines. Division faculty teach courses on Biometry and Clinical Trial Design in our Masters of Public Health program. They also give lectures on biostatistics, clinical trials and epidemiology to students in the M.D. program and to fellows and residents who are interested in clinical research. Methodological research interests include the estimation of animal abundance, likelihood methods for statistical inference, multivariate methods, methods of power and sample calculations, and statistical genetics. The Division of Pharmacoepidemiology is a research division that focuses on use of automated databases to study clinical effects of medications.

The Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) is a two-year program offered by the Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine that is designed for physicians and other doctoral- level health care professionals. The primary objective of the Program is to provide training in the methods of assessment of clinical outcomes in populations or samples of humans. This encompasses epidemiology, clinical epidemiology, clinical trials and other non-randomized clinical research, and outcomes/health services research. The training includes courses in epidemiologic methods, clinical trials, research study design, biostatistics, health services research, economic analysis and computing. The Program is open to physicians who have completed their residency training or other health care professionals at a comparable level. Normally, applicants will be fellows in clinical specialties who seek training for a future career in epidemiologic, clinical, or outcomes research or health administration. The sponsoring unit (Department or Division) must provide assurances that the fellow will have adequate time and other resources to successfully complete the program. The Program includes two intensive 6 week didactic sessions and a supervised project resulting in a paper for submission to the biomedical literature. The Program is housed in The Department of Preventive Medicine, which includes 12 full-time faculty with interests in pharmacoepidemiology, health services research, cancer epidemiology, infectious diseases, public health practice, clinical trials, and biostatistics.

Pharmacogenetics

Pharmacogenetics is being conducted within the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program. The purpose of this program is to develop and nurture the diverse talents required of a discoverer in pharmacological research in the 21st century: Scholarship in the discipline, Critical thinking, Risk taking, Experimental competence, Excellent communication through writing and speaking, Enthusiasm for new knowledge. The program is specifically designed to foster talents in independent research and discovery. The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program participates in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGP).

Clinical Investigation Program

The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) Program was developed in order to train investigators in the techniques and processes utilized in patient-oriented research. This program is intended to provide direct, mentored experience in clinical investigation and, through didactic work, to provide trainees with a strong foundation in study design, biostatistics, biomedical ethics, clinical pharmacology, human genetics and assay methods. It is expected that graduates of this program will successfully compete for grants such as the K-23, Clinical Associate Physician Award, R0-1 and major foundation grants. Graduates will be poised to make major contributions to the understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of human disease.

Peabody College, The Learning Technology Center (LTC), And The Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT)

Peabody College is a college of education and human development the programs and research of which are focused on education and human development. It is one of ten schools that make up Vanderbilt University and enrols more than 1,000 undergraduates and approximately 600 graduate and professional students each year. The college offers academic programs for undergraduates, graduate students, and persons seeking professional status. For ten consecutive years, Peabody College has been ranked as the number one school of education by Ruggs Recommendations on Colleges, which surveys the opinions of high school guidance. In its 1998 ranking of graduate schools across the country, U.S. News and World Report ranked Peabody College as seventh among schools of education and first in research activity. U.S. News and World Report also ranked the Peabody College program in special education second and the educational administration program sixth. Programs in educational policy, educational psychology, and elementary education also were ranked in the top ten. The renovation and expansion of the Social Religious Building, which dates to 1915, has made it one of the foremost technological facilities for educational purposes on any campus.

The Learning Technology Center is a research center at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education. From 7 members in 1983, the LTC has grown to a group of 70 researchers, designers, and educators who are internationally known for their work on technology in education. Members' skills and knowledge cover a wide range of areas: Education, Psychology, Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, Organizational Administration, Public Policy, and Video and Multimedia Design. One of the current efforts at the Learning Technology Center is the on Knowledge Mining. The Knowledge Mining process brings together current thinking of a community using a new asynchronous communication tool on the web. The goal is to quickly gather quality information related to a specific topic and synthesise the ideas into a single document. Knowledgeable people of the specific topic are invited to write a short description of important ideas about the topic plus key references that are relevant. The result should be a large array of current, pertinent and useful information about a topic from a variety of perspectives. This process uses a very structured mode of communication designed to quickly gather information for expert's unique thoughts about a topic. Knowledge Mining is similar to other discussion forums like bulletin boards, threaded discussion and news groups, but it differs in several distinct ways.

Peabody College also has the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT). CILT focuses much of its work in four cross-institutional theme teams: Visualization and Modeling, Ubiquitous Computing, Community Tools, and Assessments for Learning. Within the broader field of learning technologies, these themes were selected as areas of critical challenge and important opportunity. Each theme team is composed of two or more leaders in the field, a postdoctoral scholar, and a broader network of participants who collaborate through workshops and projects to set agendas and further the work of the field. Theme team leaders provide guidance and critical review for the team's work, facilitate collaboration among members of the theme team community, and provide seed funding to initiate new partnerships in areas important to the field.

Institute for Bio-Mathematics

The Institute for Bio-Mathematics (in development) will serve as a catalyst for advancing research involving complex mathematical analysis and modeling across disciplines. The Institute will also serve as a focal center for advanced mathematical education throughout the University.

Tennessee Mouse Consortium

Recently, Vanderbilt University joined a statewide consortium which includes the University of Tennessee at Memphis, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Meharry Medical College, Oak Ridge national Laboratory, St. Jude's Hospital and the University of Tennessee System to create a network of interdisciplinary collaboration using the mouse as a model for human physiology and behavior. Vanderbilt University has a transgenic mouse stem cell shared resource that is utilized for molecular studies, many of which are designed to study the genetics of human cancers. Participation with the Oak Ridge facility brings their strength in mutagenesis studies using mouse models. The Tennessee Mouse Consortium for Functional Genomics intends to advance biomedical discoveries and new technology platforms, including bioinformatics, within the state.

Center for Molecular Neuroscience

The Center for Molecular Neuroscience (CMN) supports research into the genetics, biochemical and cellular underpinnings of brain function and behaviour. Research focuses on the molecular basis of excitability and chemical signalling, the genetic basis of neural development and function, the molecular mechanism of neural plasticity and pathology, and transgenic animals for the study and modification of neural genes. The center offers a Ph.D. program through the Vanderbilt Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences. Students spend their first semester in an interdisciplinary core course that links fundamental principles in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology to contemporary research. In addition to the core course in biomedicasciences, required courses in neuroscience as well as electives are offered to first-year students. These courses are designed to provide a solid foundation for specialization in a selected area of neuroscience research in subsequent years. Course work offerings include developmental neurobiology, cellular and molecular neurobiology, neuroanatomy, and psychopharmacology, among others.

 

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