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Yin receives early investigator MERIT Award from NCI

May. 14, 2020, 9:15 AM


by Paul Govern

Zhijun Yin, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has received the National Cancer Institute’s Method to Extend Research in Time Award (or MERIT Award) for Early Stage Investigators.

Zhijun Yin, PhD

The award is for promising researchers who are still within the first decade of their careers. Introduced by the NCI in 2018, the award is intended to free researchers from the grant application treadmill for up to six years.

The award will help Yin continue his work using machine learning methods to automatically stratify risk across the electronic health record population, based in part on messages sent by patients to the health care team via patient portals such as My Health at Vanderbilt.

Initial work in this area by Yin and colleagues has shown that portal messages from breast cancer patients can help reveal, via machine learning, which patients are at higher risk for going against physician recommendations and discontinuing their five-year course of anti-cancer hormone therapy early. To continue this work, Yin will receive $1.6 million from NCI over four years and will be eligible for a two-year funding extension.

“I’m honored and excited to have this generous funding from the NCI,” Yin said. “Efficiently risk-stratifying the patient population is a key to targeting interventions and delivering personalized medicine. I’m convinced there’s much to uncover about what automated processing of patient portal messages and electronic health records can tell us about risk across the patient population.”

Yin holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication. From Vanderbilt University he holds a master’s in biostatistics (2017) and a doctorate in computer science (2018). He joined the faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics in 2018.

Find details on Yin’s award (NCI grant R37CA237452) in NIH RePORT.

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