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Vanderbilt’s Buntin, Denny elected to National Academy of Medicine

Oct. 16, 2017, 10:46 AM

Vanderbilt University’s Melinda Buntin, Ph.D., professor of Health Policy and chair of the department, and Joshua Denny, M.D., M.S., professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine and Vice President for Personalized Medicine, are among 70 new members elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the organization announced this week.

Melinda Buntin, Ph.D.

Formerly called the Institute of Medicine, the NAM was established in 1970 as the health arm of the National Academies. Both an honorific membership organization and an advisory organization, the NAM is recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis, providing recommendations on a broad range of health-related issues.

With more than 2,100 members, the NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. Formed under a congressional charter, the academies operate outside the framework of the federal government.

Joshua Denny, M.D., M.S.

Vanderbilt now has 28 current faculty members who have been elected by their peers to the National Academies in recognition of excellence in their fields. Eighteen are NAM members.

“Vanderbilt’s increasing presence in the National Academy of Medicine reflects our broad leadership in patient care and scientific discovery,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Drs. Buntin and Denny are world leaders in their fields, and are driving our nation’s agenda in health policy and biomedical informatics. They are both to be congratulated.”

Buntin came to Vanderbilt as departmental chair in 2013. She previously served as deputy assistant director for health at the Congressional Budget Office, where she was responsible for directing studies of health care and health care financing.

“Obviously it’s a great honor to be elected by your peers to any organization. I have had the pleasure of working with two groups affiliated with the National Academies over the past year and a half and I’ve really gained a great appreciation for the caliber of work that they do and the talent of the staff and the experts that they involve in producing their work,” Buntin said.

As an undergraduate Buntin studied at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. At Harvard University she earned a doctorate in health policy with a concentration in economics. Prior to her work at the CBO, she worked for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, where she established and directed the Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation and Modeling. She has also worked at the RAND Corporation as an economist and program director.

Buntin’s work at Vanderbilt is focused on the effects of health policy changes, health care delivery, health insurance, costs of care and bringing evidence to bear on community-level interventions to improve health.

Denny came to Vanderbilt as a college freshman in 1994, earning a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology, followed by a medical degree, and finally a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Informatics. His medical specialty is internal medicine. He joined the faculty in 2007 and today leads the Center for Precision Medicine.

“I’m quite humbled,” Denny said of his election to the NAM. “I feel like I have the best job — getting to do what I love, working with incredible faculty and staff. Vanderbilt has been an amazing place to build a career.”

Denny’s research interests include natural language processing, genomics, pharmacogenomics and educational informatics.

With the aid of a $71.6 million grant to Vanderbilt from the federal government’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PCI), Denny founded and directs the Data and Research Support Center for the PCI’s All of Us Research Program. Gathering data from 1 million or more people living in the United States, the program seeks to accelerate research and improve health by taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology.

For the National Institutes of Health, Denny also co-chairs the Precision Medicine Initiative executive committee.

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