August 2, 2018

Grant set to boost patient-centered outcomes research

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a five-year federal grant to train investigators in Learning Healthcare Systems research, aimed at improving patient outcomes and the community’s overall health.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a five-year federal grant to train investigators in Learning Healthcare Systems research, aimed at improving patient outcomes and the community’s overall health.

The T32 postdoctoral training grant from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will support establishment of the Vanderbilt Patient, pRactice Outcomes and Research in Effectiveness and Systems Science (PROgRESS) Training Program.

The overarching goal of PROgRESS is to train future investigators in three distinct methodologic areas:

  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research — to determine which strategies are most effective for patients;
  • Implementation Science — to implement those effective strategies into practice; and
  • Health Policy/ Community Health — to influence policy to benefit all patients and improve the health of the community.

Program directors are Christianne Roumie, MD, MPH, associate professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and Carlos Grijalva, MD, MPH, associate professor of Health Policy.

Christianne Roumie, MD, MPH

“The PROgRESS Program will enhance our ability to teach and train researchers, enhancing Vanderbilt’s position at the forefront as a Learning Health System,” Roumie said.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a Learning Health System aligns science, informatics, incentives and culture “for continuous improvement and innovation, with best practices seamlessly embedded in the delivery process and new knowledge captured as an integral by-product of the delivery experience.”

“This award attests to the strong institutional commitment to personalized training, career development and mentoring,” Grijalva added. “Through its faculty and mentors, Vanderbilt provides a unique environment for advanced research training encompassing discovery, implementation and evaluation.”

Carlos Grijalva, MD, MPH

“This new award is a wonderful addition to our existing training programs at Vanderbilt,” noted Robert Dittus, MD, MPH, VUMC’s Executive Vice President for Public Health and Health Care. “It aligns with our mission to operate as a Learning Health System that is constantly innovating, designing and evaluating new approaches to care, and advancing the science and methods of implementing proven approaches to improve the health of our patients and the community.”

Gordon Bernard, MD, Executive Vice President for Research, agreed.

“The VUMC approach to development of a Learning Healthcare system is well underway and is supported both institutionally and by a formal program within the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA),” he said. “Having this new training program will greatly accelerate the development of know-how and tools with which to answer medical and scientific questions within healthcare operations.”

Dittus directs the Institute for Medicine and Public Health and is senior associate dean for Population Health Sciences and the Albert and Bernard Werthan Professor of Medicine in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Bernard, the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine and senior associate dean for Clinical Science, directs the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.

The PROgRESS program will provide salary support, training and dedicated mentoring for post-doctoral scholars for two years. After a competitive application process, the program selected the first four PROgRESS scholars to begin training this academic year. They are listed below with their mentors and projects.

  • Beth Prusaczyk, PhD, MSW, a postdoctoral fellow in the Vanderbilt Center for Clinical Quality and Implementation Research and Department of Medicine, will be mentored by center director Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, associate professor of Medicine. Her project is entitled “Understanding the implementation of multidisciplinary team discharge huddles.”
  • Nicole Senft, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in General Internal Medicine, will be mentored by Hilary Tindle, MD, MPH, founding director of the Vanderbilt Center for Tobacco, Addiction and Lifestyle, and the William Anderson Spickard Jr., M.D., associate professor of Medicine. Her project: “Developing an intervention to increase vulnerable populations’ engagement in health innovations using insights from cultural and affective psychology.”
  • Maren Shipe, MD, a third-year general surgery resident at VUMC, will be mentored by Eric Grogan, MD MPH, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery, and Pierre Massion, MD, holder of the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in the Department of Medicine. The title of her project is “Using biomarkers and imaging in fungal regions to improve lung cancer diagnosis.”
  • Derek Smith, DDS, PhD, research professor of Biostatistics and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, will be mentored by Barbara Murphy, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Pain and Symptom Management Oncology Services in the Department of Medicine. His project: “Developing an oral health screening tool and integrated model of care to reduce treatment-related oral morbidity in head and neck cancer survivors.”

The program will be taking applications beginning in October for additional positions to start in July 2019. In the meantime, interested applicants can find more information at