January 7, 2016

VPMM symposium to explore bariatric surgery’s development

The development of bariatric surgery as a treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes will be explored during this year’s “bench-to-bedside” symposium Jan. 13 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The symposium, organized by the Vanderbilt Program in Molecular Medicine (VPMM), will feature the perspectives of clinicians, researchers and patients. It will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in room 202 Light Hall and is open to all graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

About a decade ago, researchers at Vanderbilt and elsewhere noticed that a significant proportion of patients with type 2 diabetes no longer had to take their diabetes medications after bariatric surgery.

“We were intrigued,” said Naji Abumrad, M.D., the John L. Sawyers Professor of Surgical Sciences and former chair of the Department of Surgery. “What is it about the surgery that cures them?”

Abumrad and his colleagues took the question back to the laboratory, and identified specific bile acids that may be helpful both in weight reduction and in reversing poor insulin response. That information is now being explored to modify and improve the effectiveness of weight-loss surgery.

In addition to Abumrad, faculty speakers will include John Cleek, M.D., medical director of the Vanderbilt Center for Medical Weight Loss; Brandon Williams, M.D., Matthew Spann, M.D., and Wayne English, M.D., in the Vanderbilt Center for Surgical Weight Loss; Robyn Tamboli, Ph.D., and Charles Flynn, Ph.D.

VPMM is a clinical enrichment program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows jointly supported by the Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET) and the Vanderbilt Clinical and Translational Scientist Development program.

VPMM is designed to expose basic scientists to the potential clinical impact of their research, while emphasizing how the interplay between “bench” and “bedside” can advance patient treatment, said the program’s director. Mark de Caestecker, M.B., B.S., Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine, Surgery and Cell & Developmental Biology.

Since its inception in 2010, the program has trained 47 students and eight postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are now pursuing careers in academia, industry and private foundations that support biomedical research.

Each summer, VPMM accepts new applications from first-year Ph.D. students and early-career post-doctoral fellows. For more information, visit https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/vpmm/.