November 15, 2021

New Department of Medicine roles push forward initiatives in clinical research

T. Alp Ikizler, MD, director of Vanderbilt’s Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, has been named vice chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Medicine.


by Emily Stembridge

T. Alp Ikizler, MD

T. Alp Ikizler, MD, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Professor of Vascular Biology, professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, has been named vice chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Medicine.

As vice chair for Clinical Research, Ikizler will help achieve the department’s goal of being able to open trials quickly and to allow more patients, clinicians and trainees to participate actively in clinical investigation.

Tina Higginbotham, MPA, manager for Clinical Research in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, will support Ikizler as manager for Clinical Research Operations. In this role, she will support and coordinate administrative activities related to clinical research across the department.

“Building resources and services within the Department of Medicine that support clinical research is a high priority for the Department of Medicine. I am delighted that Dr. Ikizler has agreed to take on the role of vice chair for Clinical Research. He is a skilled leader in clinical investigation and has expressed a vision that supports our diverse groups of clinical researchers across the department,” said Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Hugh J. Morgan Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine.

“He brings an incredible energy and insight to the clinical research of the Department of Medicine and recognizes the many arenas in which the department will need to collaborate as clinical trials are becoming more multidisciplinary and complex. Alp is the ideal person for this role. I am equally delighted that Tina Higginbotham will be joining him in leading this initiative. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the organization, operation and finance of clinical research. Her fingerprint on this process will be transformative as we work to allow programs to develop, grow and achieve sustainability,” Rathmell said.

“Alp has tremendous insight into many different aspects of translational and clinical research which he will use to grow the departmental infrastructure to improve our already outstanding clinical research portfolio. He is the ideal role model for trainees and young faculty to look up to as they launch and enhance their careers,” said Roy Zent, MD, PhD, Thomas F. Frist Sr. Professor and vice chair for Research in the Department of Medicine.

Ikizler, an internationally known expert on the nutritional and metabolic aspects of kidney disease, earned his medical degree from Istanbul University in 1987. Following residency training in internal medicine in Istanbul, he came to Vanderbilt in 1993. After completing a three-year clinical fellowship in medicine at Vanderbilt, he joined the faculty in 1996.

“Alp has a long and rich record of support for clinical investigation at VUMC that will serve him well in this new role. He chaired the VICTR Scientific Review Committee and directed the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation for many years, devoting full and expert attention to these outstanding programs ensuring their long-term success,” said Gordon Bernard, MD, Melinda Owen Bass chair in Medicine.

“Dr. Ikizler has an outstanding track record in clinical research, and under his leadership as the vice chair of Clinical Research I am sure he will bring much needed focus and efficiency to the implementation and conduct of clinical research in the Department of Medicine,” said Michael Vaezi, PhD, MD, clinical director in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

Ikizler is the author or co-author of nearly 300 scientific publications, a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and past president of the International Society of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism (ISRNM) and the National Kidney Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Ikizler received the foundation’s Joel Kopple Award in 2011 and the Thomas Addis Medal from the ISRNM in 2012 for outstanding contributions to the field. He directed the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program from 2006 to 2017, and in 2016 he received the VUMC Excellence in Mentoring Translational Scientists Award.

Higginbotham has steered the GI Clinical Research Program, along with director Vaezi, to become a nationally recognized program that supports dozens of clinical trials across a spectrum of GI-related diseases, and a portfolio accounting for $3.5 million annually. Her experience creating collaborative infrastructure will be tapped now to foster integrated, dynamic and responsive clinical research across the spectrum.

“This initiative reflects the Department of Medicine leadership’s commitment to the needs of faculty and staff dedicated to clinical research,” said Ikizler. “Our research portfolio is growing at such a high pace that there is an obvious necessity to implement a streamlined and efficient approach to department-wide clinical research activities. Our goal is to facilitate an environment that is conducive to perform such activities while taking advantage of the unmatched resources that are already available institution-wide. We are confident that this will eventually increase our national and international recognition and lead to transformational improvements in the care of our patients.”