Skip to main content

Rothman to succeed Dittus as director of Institute for Medicine and Public Health

Jan. 7, 2020, 2:01 PM


by John Howser

Russell Rothman, MD, MPP, professor of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Health Policy, Ingram Professor of Integrative and Population Health, and Vice President for Population Health Research, has been named as the new director of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health (IMPH), and Senior Vice President for Population and Public Health. His appointment is effective Feb. 1.

Russell Rothman, MD, MPP

In this new role Rothman will report to Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research and Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

“Dr. Rothman is a recognized leader and investigator in advancing research and knowledge that improves the quality, effectiveness, and equity of health care,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, also Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology. “In addition to his scientific expertise and breadth, he brings tremendous leadership skills and a vision for improving public and population health nationally and internationally. He is highly respected by his peers at Vanderbilt and worldwide.”

Rothman succeeds Robert Dittus, MD, MPH, the Albert and Bernard Werthan Professor of Medicine and the IMPH’s founding director, as he takes a new leadership role as Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer for the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (VHAN), reporting to David Posch, MS, Executive Vice President for Population Health.

Robert Dittus, MD, MPH

“Improving the quality of care and efficiency of large health systems is a critical priority for our country and for Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s future,” said Dittus. “This new role will provide an exceptional platform upon which to do this work and is the logical extension of my career’s work to improve health and health care through building bridges between health care delivery systems, public health and the academic enterprise, including IMPH.”

The IMPH, whose reach is global, is charged with catalyzing and amplifying collaborations among more than 50 of VUMC departments, consists of nearly 300 faculty, more than 200 staff, more than 100 graduate students, more than 25 centers, and has a portfolio of more than $200 million in annual research funding, placing it among the top five of all schools of public health in the nation for research funding.

Programs currently supported by the IMPH include: the Center for Health Services Research; Epidemiology Center; Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society; Institute for Global Health; Department of Biostatistics; Department of Health Policy; Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center; Center for Clinical Quality and Implementation Research; Center for Health Behavior and Health Education; Center for Effective Health Communication; Center for Quality Aging; Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety; Women’s Health Research; Center for Research on Men’s Health; Center for Surgical Quality and Outcomes Research; Community Engagement Research; Center for Child Health Policy; Center for Asthma Research; Tuberculosis Center; Center for Clinical Cardiovascular Outcomes Research and Trials Evaluation; Center for Tobacco, Addiction and Lifestyle; Center for Musculoskeletal Research; Center for Improving the Public’s Health through Informatics; Memory and Alzheimer’s Center; Rural Health Equity Research Program; and multiple master’s, PhD and post-doctoral training programs, such as the Quality Scholars Program.

Rothman has served as Director of the Center for Health Services Research since 2011. The center’s mission includes engagement with more than 160 faculty involved in research related to health services, implementation science, behavioral research, health disparities, quality improvement and other areas aimed at improving health outcomes.

His research focuses on improving care for adult and pediatric patients with diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases, focusing on addressing health communication, health literacy/numeracy, and other social and behavioral factors to improve health.

He served as principal investigator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funded Mid-South Practice Transformation Network (PTN), which, in collaboration with VHAN, the Mississippi Affiliated Health Network, and the Safety Net Consortium of Middle TN, engaged over 4,000 clinicians in quality measurement and improvement across Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“Dr. Rothman and Dr. Dittus have worked closely together for nearly two decades and we are fortunate to have someone as experienced and capable ready to assume the important role as IMPH’s next leader,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Bob has done exceptional work building and shaping the institute into a force for global change. I am incredibly grateful for his many contributions, continued leadership, and the insights he will bring to VHAN. Russell’s oversight of the PTN has resulted in significant improvements to health care delivery across the Southeast, while his experience leading this effort and other large, multi-center research collaborations makes him an ideal successor who is well-prepared to advance the IMPH’s objectives.”

Rothman is also principal investigator of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCOR) funded STAR (Stakeholders, Technology and Research) Clinical Research Network which engages VUMC, VHAN, Meharry Medical College, Duke University, the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University, Health Sciences of South Carolina, and Mayo Clinic with electronic health records on over 12 million patients. The Network supports real world evidence research and pragmatic clinical research.


Dittus has conducted research in health services, medical decision making and clinical outcomes for more than 35 years and was the founding director of the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services Research now led by Rothman. He is also the founding director of the VA Tennessee Valley Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center and founding director of the VA-Vanderbilt Quality Scholars Program, important programs that he will continue to lead.

In 2006, Dittus was named founding director for the then newly created IMPH, whose mission has been to improve personal and public health through discovery, training, and service programs designed to protect against threats to health, promote healthier living and improve the quality of health services while preparing leaders to advance health and health care.

Throughout a highly distinguished career, Dittus has led or been co-investigator of more than $350 million in grant funding and has authored more than 250 publications that have advanced the methodology of medical decision-making, and has conducted numerous studies delineating the comparative effectiveness of alternative strategies for clinical care.

He has also conducted numerous studies examining the microsystems of health care that have improved care delivery and have led to improvements in health policy. He has had numerous ongoing projects designed to examine and improve healthcare systems and health outcomes throughout the VUMC and the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System through efforts with his fellows in the Quality Scholars Program and through collaborations with faculty in many other specialties.

“The Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network is a unique collaborative alliance of physicians and health systems driving clinical innovation to take patient care and population health to the next level in Tennessee and surrounding states through measured improvement in quality, health status and cost,” Posch said. “Success of the network in achieving its aims rests on a foundation of mutual learning among its members. Dr. Dittus’ extensive knowledge and experience will be invaluable in advising the network on the creation of innovative approaches to improving health and health care for the populations we serve”

Rothman has been the principal investigator on more than $60 million in funded research and has authored more than 140 manuscripts. He has also served as chair of the PCORI PCORnet Executive Steering Committee, which built a national network to support comparative effectiveness research and pragmatic clinical trials. He currently serves as the co-chair of the Steering Committee of the ADAPTABLE study, pragmatic clinical trial enrolling 15,000 patients, to evaluate the optimal dose of aspirin in secondary prevention of heart disease. Rothman is also the immediate past president of the Academy of Communication in Healthcare (ACH).

“I am honored to take on this new leadership role from Dr. Dittus, who has built the Institute for Medicine and Public Health into an internationally recognized program for research, education and community health. With tremendous changes in technology, informatics, genetics, payment reform and other rapid innovations we are seeing a rapid transformation in health care organization, delivery and outcomes. Now is an opportune time for the Institute to expand research, education and community health efforts to have a significant impact on population and public health across the region, the country and the world,” said Rothman.

Rothman earned bachelor’s degrees in zoology and political science from Duke University and an MD from Duke University School of Medicine, where he also underwent residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics. He was a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also holds a master’s in Public Policy from the Duke University Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice