Meharry/Vanderbilt Asthma Disparities Center

Meharry/Vanderbilt Center for Reducing Asthma Disparities


Collaborative Effort Will Examine Why Asthma Strikes Minorities More Than Whites



Mailing Address:  

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Meharry/Vanderbilt Asthma Disparities Center

1161 21st Ave. South, Suite T-1218 MCN

Nashville, TN 37232-2650

(615) 322-3412



Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are teaming up to try to understand why some minority and low-income groups suffer disproportionately from asthma.


The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute today announced the awarding of a five-year, $6 million grant to Meharry and Vanderbilt to establish a new Center for Reducing Asthma Disparities. It will be one of five centers in the country.


With the departure of Roberto Cruz-Gervis, who is planning to return to his native Guatamala, Dr. David Grandison, Director of the Meharry Clinical Research Center and Acting Chief of Medicine at Meharry Medical College has assumed the position of Principal Investigator. The Pregnancy study leadership will be assumed by Dr. Darryl Jordan, who has worked on the project since its inception. Responsibility for training will be assumed by Dr. Scott Trochtenberg. Dr. James Sheller, Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt, directs the Vanderbilt center.


Asthma is a major childhood illness that causes chronic breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing, and which sometimes can be fatal. African American children are three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for treatment of asthma, and four times more likely to die from asthma-related complications.


While the number of Americans with asthma – more than 14 million people – has doubled since the late 1980s, it is not known why African Americans are affected more frequently and more severely than whites. “The center will help us begin to find out some of the reasons why,” Parmies says.


In addition, says Sheller, “the center will allow us to train investigators in many different disciplines to undertake research in the broad field of asthma disparities.”


The new center is an initiative of the Meharry/Vanderbilt Alliance, established in 1999 to promote collaboration between the two institutions in teaching, research and patient care. Similarly, the four other asthma centers represent partnerships between institutions with extensive experience in medical research, and those that predominantly serve minority or economically disadvantaged populations.


Other partnerships include Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Howard University in Washington, D.C.; Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Center for Community Health Education in Boston; Northwestern University and Cook County Hospital in Chicago; and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., and the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan.


“We expect this program to have a far-reaching impact by creating a legacy of research programs for improving asthma care and by ultimately serving as a model for studying ways to reduce disparities in other chronic diseases,” Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, said in a news release.

The Meharry/Vanderbilt center will focus on four research areas: outcomes of pregnant asthmatics, the effectiveness of an intensive treatment intervention to help minority pregnant asthmatics, ways that minority asthmatics experience and respond to asthma symptoms, and possible differences in responses to asthma treatment in African-American and white children with severe asthma.


Conferences, seminars and lectures on asthma disparities will be given at Meharry and Vanderbilt. The center also will collaborate with local physicians and area health departments, to help improve the understanding and reduction of asthma disparities in the Nashville area.

Meharry Medical College is the nation’s largest private, independent historically black institution dedicated solely to educating health science professionals. Since its founding in 1876, it has been a leading producer of African-American physicians, dentists and biomedical scientists. The College is particularly well known for its emphasis on the special primary health care needs of minorities, the poor and the disadvantaged of America. Its graduates are respected nationwide for their commitment to underserved communities.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the largest private employer in Nashville, is a major referral center for the Southeast and nation. It is made up of Vanderbilt University Hospital, The Vanderbilt Clinic, Vanderbilt Medical Group, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, and Vanderbilt School of Nursing. The Medical Center employs more than 8,000 people and generates a regional economic impact of more than $1 billion annually.


Among the unique services offered by VUMC to the community are the Burn Center, Level I Trauma Center, LifeFlight helicopter ambulance service, the Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the state’s only National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Middle Tennessee Poison Center.


In addition to its activities in patient care and education of medical and nursing professionals, VUMC also is known as a research center, with its faculty members having been awarded two Nobel Prizes for Medicine.



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