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Bick selected as first VUMC Discovery Scholar in Health and Medicine

Jan. 14, 2021, 9:10 AM


by Bill Snyder

Alexander Bick, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Genetic Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been selected as the first VUMC Discovery Scholar in Health and Medicine.

Alexander Bick, MD, PhD

The Discovery Scholars program was launched last year to support recruitment and development of talented early-career basic scientists. The start-up package includes funding from the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development Endowment, and full salary coverage for up to four years or until the Discovery Scholar obtains external research funding.

“I am thrilled that the review committee selected Dr. Bick as the first member of the Discovery Scholars cohort,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

“His discoveries have advanced our understanding of the genetic basis for disease and hold promise for translating genomic findings into medical practice,” Pietenpol said. “Also, I am very grateful for the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development Endowment funding, and Dr. (Eric) Skaar’s leadership that makes this important early-career development program possible.”

Pietenpol, the Benjamin F. Byrd, Jr. Professor of Oncology and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development, initiated the Discovery Scholars program with Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, vice chair for Research and Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

“Dr. Bick is an outstanding choice for the first VUMC Discovery Scholar,” said Skaar, who also directs the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. “His creative and innovative approach to research at the intersection of genetics and cardiovascular diseases will lay a strong foundation for this exciting new program.

“We look forward to watching him continue on his impressive trajectory and to recruiting additional outstanding scientists to the VUMC Discovery Scholars cohort,” he said.

Bick earned his MD and PhD in genetics from Harvard and joined the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine faculty last summer after completing his residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, with a clinical focus on personalized medicine.

As an investigator in the Division of Genetic Medicine and the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, Bick is researching the causes and consequences of clonal hematopoiesis, age-related acquisition of somatic mutations in blood stem cells that are a root cause of multiple diseases of aging, including blood cancer and heart disease.

In September, Bick received a 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists, and the next month he was among 13 recipients of the 2020 National Institutes of Health Director’s Early Independence Award.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as the inaugural Discovery Scholar and thankful to the Brock Family, Dr. Pietenpol and Dr. Skaar for their vision and profound support of early-career investigators at VUMC,” Bick said.

“I am grateful to have joined an exceptional scientific environment at VUMC and look forward to further expanding our early-career scientific community through the Discovery Scholars program in the years ahead.”

Each year, the Discovery Scholars program will recognize and support one or two outstanding faculty candidates in basic science research across all VUMC departments. Each department may nominate up to two candidates per year.

Nominees should be tenure-track assistant professors hired within the previous 18 months. They should be less than three years from their last training experience (typically postdoctoral fellowships), and they must be pursuing basic science research in a VUMC department.

For more information about the nomination process, contact Amy Martinez, PhD, Scientific Program Officer, Office of Research, at

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