May 24, 2012

Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards

Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards

The 2012 Vanderbilt University Medical Center Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards, which were presented at the Spring Faculty meeting on May 17, include awards for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Contributions to Research. Award recipients are nominated by their faculty colleagues and chosen by the Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards Selection Committee.


Robert D. Collins Award for Teaching Medical or Graduate Students or Practicing Physicians in the Lecture SettingJames B. Atkinson III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

James B. Atkinson III, M.D., Ph.D.

James B. Atkinson III, M.D., Ph.D.

Atkinson received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University in 1973, and received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in a combined degree program at Vanderbilt in 1981. After completing his residency training in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at Vanderbilt, Atkinson was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and promoted to Professor in 1999. He has served as Director of the Autopsy Service at Vanderbilt and the Nashville Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. As Director of the Vanderbilt Laboratory of Surgical Pathology from 1997 to 2005, he developed an effective system for routinely identifying and archiving good teaching specimens. This first-rate collection of specimens is critically important for illustrating key concepts to medical students.

Atkinson has had an active role in medical student, graduate student and resident training throughout his entire career. He is described by his faculty peers as an inspiring, motivating teacher who infuses his lectures with humor. He taught in the second-year medical student Pathology course, and in 2007 he was named one of seven Master Science Teachers at the Medical School. Atkinson led the team that revised the second-year curriculum. He currently is director of the second-year course, “Disease, Diagnosis and Therapeutics.” He has served on the Medical School Admissions Committee and Vanderbilt Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects, and serves on the leadership team that is designing the Foundations of Medical Knowledge year in the current revision of the curriculum, dubbed Curriculum 2.0.

Atkinson’s research has focused on cardiovascular pathology, including atherosclerosis and cardiac transplantation. He has co-authored textbooks, as well as numerous book chapters, on cardiovascular pathology, authored 96 peer-reviewed papers, and served on editorial boards of several journals. In recognition of his expertise in cardiac diseases, he was elected a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and he serves on the executive council of the International Society for Cardiovascular Pathology.

Elaine Sanders-Bush Award for Mentoring Graduate and/or Medical Students in the Research SettingDavid M. Miller III, Ph.D., professor of Cell & Developmental Biology and Biological Sciences

David Miller III, Ph.D.

David Miller III, Ph.D.

Miller earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in 1973 and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Rice University in Houston in 1981. As a postdoctoral fellow, he conducted an immunological and genetic analysis of nematode muscle assembly at Baylor College of Medicine, and he studied the structure and expression of C. elegans myosin heavy chain genes in the early 1980s as a visiting scientist under Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge, England. He continued studying the molecular genetics of neural specificity in C. elegans as a young faculty member at North Carolina State University and Duke University before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt University as associate professor in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology in 1994.

The Miller lab uses the nematode C. elegans as a model organism to investigate neural development and function. Research topics include mechanisms of synaptic specificity, neuronal plasticity, sensory neuron morphogenesis and neurodegeneration. The goal of this work is to identify molecular pathways that control these events and to establish the cell biological mechanism of each process.

Miller has been described by colleagues as “a luminary” when it comes to recruiting and training graduate students. He has mentored 14 graduate students in his laboratory, and since 1999, he also has served on 37 Ph.D. dissertation committees that awarded degrees to students outside his laboratory. He currently serves on 13 others. He serves as an IMPACT group leader for the first-year Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP), has represented the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology on the IGP executive committee, and was founding director of the Genetics and Development module of the IGP Bioregulations core course.

Miller is a patient, rigorous and engaging teacher who gives his students the freedom to make mistakes. Under his careful guidance, they become confident presenters, skilled writers, proficient scientists, and leaders in their own right. Their papers are published in high-impact journals. Their posters are recognized at international meetings. Many have been awarded competitive fellowships from the NIH and the American Heart Association, and they have gone on to launch independent, highly productive careers.

R. Michael Rodriguez Award for Teaching Medical Students, Residents and/or Fellows in the Clinical SettingStephen P. Raffanti, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Medicine

Stephen P. Raffanti, M.D., MPH

Stephen P. Raffanti, M.D., MPH

Raffanti has devoted his professional career to the study of HIV and the care of HIV- infected patients. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975, and later worked as a research assistant in Microbiology at the University of Genoa, where he earned his medical degree in 1985. He gained his first clinical experience with HIV-infected patients as a resident in Internal Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, N.J., and then completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Miami.

In 1990 Raffanti was recruited by Vanderbilt to organize health care efforts for HIV-infected patients in Middle Tennessee. He established the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Metropolitan General Hospital and expanded the HIV clinic at the Metro Health Department. When it became clear that existing facilities could not keep up with the rapidly growing numbers of HIV-infected individuals, he worked with then-Mayor Phil Bredesen and Neil Diehl of Ingram Industries on a community-wide effort that resulted in the opening of the Comprehensive Care Center (CCC) in 1994. Under Raffanti’s leadership, the CCC, now known as the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic, has become one of the nation’s largest and most successful outpatient HIV/AIDS treatment facilities.

Just as he pioneered a model of managed HIV care that has minimized hospitalizations and improved outcomes for patients, Raffanti developed innovative approaches for bedside and small group training in HIV care for Vanderbilt’s infectious disease fellows, medical and nursing students, and other health professions trainees. His clinical acumen, calm and compassionate bedside manner, and ability to reach difficult patients have made him a widely respected role model, and in 2005 he was elected the HIV Clinician Educator of the Year by the Infectious Diseases Society of America/HIV Medicine Association. During the past two years, he has helped lead the Vanderbilt Program in Interprofessional Learning, an interdisciplinary, team-based clinical learning effort focused on community interventions and quality improvement.

Raffanti also has been closely involved in the establishment of the statewide Centers of Excellence Program, a collaborative effort between the state of Tennessee, managed care organizations, HIV care providers and consumers to ensure state-of-the art clinical management for people living with HIV and AIDS. As project director for the Tennessee AIDS Education and Training Center, he has contributed to the development of innovative models of care for HIV-infected patients.

Jacek Hawiger Award for Teaching Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows in the Classroom, Lecture or Small Group Setting Yu Shyr, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, professor of Biostatistics, Biomedical Informatics, Cancer Biology and Preventive Medicine

Yu Shyr, Ph.D.

Yu Shyr, Ph.D.

Shyr earned his bachelor’s degree in statistics from Tamkang University, Taiwan, in 1985, and his doctorate in biostatistics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1994. That year he was recruited to Vanderbilt as assistant professor and chief biostatistician for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). He was promoted to full professor in 2003, and currently directs the Center for Quantitative Sciences. He also is associate director for Quantitative Sciences Integration in the VICC.

With more than 275 peer-reviewed papers to his credit, Shyr is an internationally recognized authority in the field of quantitative science, particularly in the areas of omics research and clinical trial design. As an educator, he is described by colleagues and former students as a charismatic teacher who finds innovative ways to make complex statistical concepts accessible.

For several years, he has taught the Clinical Trials course to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and medical students in the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) programs. He consistently receives among the highest reviews from students in terms of instructor effectiveness, with comments such as “best course I have ever taken” and “fantastic instructor.” Shyr’s engaging style encourages participation and curiosity on the part of his students.

In addition to being meticulously prepared, Shyr is dedicated to his students. He is known to give out his cell phone number and email address, encouraging students to contact him at any time if they have questions or problems with the course material.

Shyr’s brilliance in the classroom extends far beyond Vanderbilt. He has taught workshops throughout the world, from Belgium and Saudi Arabia to China and Malaysia to Japan and Taiwan. He has developed Web-based clinical trials training courses for Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and taught courses of advanced clinical trials for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


The Stanley Cohen Award for Research Bridging Diverse Disciplines, such as Chemistry or Physics, to Solve Biology’s Most Important Fundamental QuestionsVito Quaranta, M.D., professor of Cancer Biology

Vito Quaranta, M.D.

Vito Quaranta, M.D.

Quaranta earned his medical degree from the University of Bari School of Medicine in Bari, Italy, in 1974 and passed the USA ECFMG Board in 1976. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Molecular Immunology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., in 1981, and continued his research there, attaining the position of tenured associate professor of Cell Biology in 1992. He has been a professor of Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt since 2003.

His primary focus of research is cancer systems biology, as it pertains to invasion and metastasis. Quaranta has authored several relevant chapters in medical books and over 100 highly-cited scientific articles in the field of cancer biology. His early research helped define the molecular mechanisms by which integrins interact with laminins and other matrix molecules to modify the tumor microenvironment. For the past decade, he has developed a systems biology approach to cancer; in particular, by applying computer and mathematical modeling to predict how changes in the tumor microenvironment, including targeted therapy, affect cancer cell behavior with respect to proliferation, motility and metabolism.

Since 2004, Quaranta has been principal investigator of an Integrative Cancer Biology Program: Centers for Cancer Systems Biology grant from the National Cancer Institute that is implementing a cutting-edge interdisciplinary effort melding mathematics, engineering, computation and biology to solve the problem of cancer invasion and metastasis. A major focus is the development of single-cell methodologies to evaluate the mechanism of action of targeted therapy in cancer, based on the merging of automated time-lapse microscopy with image analysis and computational analyses.

Quaranta has achieved international recognition for his contributions to cancer systems biology. He has been an invited lecturer at numerous congresses and conferences on cancer biology. He was recently appointed by the NCI as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer to promote cancer systems biology at Sigma Xi conferences throughout the country. With Lourdes Estrada, Ph.D., he established a course in cancer systems biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and he lectures and holds workshops on the topic at national and international scientific meetings. He has also co-chaired the NCI’s Integrative Cancer Biology Program. Quaranta is sssociate editor of two scientific journals, the Journal of Cellular Physiology and Cancer Research, and he has been an ad hoc member of several NIH study sections.

The John H. Exton Award for Research Leading to Innovative Biological ConceptsMichael Waterman, Ph.D., Natalie Overall Warren Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry

Michael Waterman, Ph.D.

Michael Waterman, Ph.D.

Waterman began his work in biochemistry 50 years ago. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Willamette University in Salem, Ore., in 1961, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Oregon Medical School in Portland in 1969. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Johnson Research Foundation, he joined the Biochemistry Department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1970, rising to the rank of professor. In 1992 he moved to Vanderbilt as chair of the Department of Biochemistry, a position he held until 2010.

Waterman is recognized as one of the leading experts on the structure, function and regulation of cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, which are required for the biosynthesis and metabolism of lipids, including the steroid hormones cortisol, estrogen and progesterone. He began his study of the enzymes as a Ph.D. student, and his research has been continuously supported by the NIH since 1972. Early in his career he achieved high-level P450 expression, required for biochemical and structural biology studies of the enzymes, by developing robust and reproducible bacterial expression systems.

Waterman’s current interests include sterol 14α-demethylase cytochrome P450 as a drug target in trypanosomes, parasitic protozoa that cause potentially fatal tropical diseases including sleeping sickness. His lab also is engaged in biochemical studies of the 18 P450 enzymes in the soil bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor, which participate in the biosynthesis of antibiotics and other secondary metabolites, and determination of the structure and function of sterol 21-hydroxylase cytochrome P450 and 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase cytochrome P450, which are involved in biosynthesis of glucocorticoids and sex hormones. His integration of the structural biology, genomics and microbial biochemistry of cytochromes P450 has revealed potential new avenues for antimicrobial therapy.

With 275 peer-reviewed journal articles listed in his curriculum vitae, Waterman has been among the most-cited scientists in pharmacology and toxicology. He is a consultant to government and industry, a sought-after lecturer, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an NIH Merit Award winner (1996-2006). He has edited three volumes of "Methods in Enzymology," is a former chair of the NIH Physical Biochemistry Study Section, and this spring was awarded the 2012 Schroepfer Medal by the American Oil Chemists' Society for his contributions to the steroid/sterol field.

Waterman’s commitment to Biochemistry at Vanderbilt also extends to the training of graduate students and more than 50 postdoctoral fellows, and, as department chair, to the recruitment of some the University’s most accomplished scientists.

The Grant W. Liddle Award for Outstanding Contributions in Clinical ResearchE. Wesley Ely, M.D., MPH, professor of Medicine

E. Wesley Ely, M.D., MPH

E. Wesley Ely, M.D., MPH

Ely earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1985, and his M.D. and master’s degree in Public Health in 1989 – all from Tulane University in New Orleans. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine and a postdoctoral fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Wake Forest University before joining the faculty there in 1996.

In 1998 Ely was recruited to Vanderbilt as assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the lung transplantation program. Since 2002 he has served as associate director of aging research for the Tennessee Valley Veterans Affairs (VA) Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center.

Ely and his team have revolutionized major components of the care of critically ill patients in intensive care units. Through the ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group and its ICU Delirium website (, which he founded, he and his colleagues at Vanderbilt and the VA have identified brain dysfunction as one of the most critical problems facing ICU patients. Their studies have linked acute brain dysfunction (delirium) with an increased risk of long-term cognitive impairment (acquired dementia) and mortality, prolonged ICU and hospital lengths of stay and significantly higher medical costs. They have developed and validated a clinical measurement tool, the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU (CAM-ICU), which has been translated into more than 20 languages and is recommended as a standard of care by the Society for Critical Care Medicine for all patients on mechanical ventilation.

Ely is principal investigator of two large NIH-sponsored and VA-sponsored cohort investigations in ICU patients, one of which linked high-dose sedative/analgesic drug exposure to an increased risk for delirium and dementia. He and his colleagues were the first to report that by switching to another class of sedatives and implementing a ventilator weaning protocol, they could reduce time spent in the ICU by three days (an enormous impact on the cost of care) while lowering the risk of death. Ely currently is investigating the role that severe sepsis may play in the development of delirium in the ICU and in increasing the risk for dementia. He is the principal investigator of the multi-center MIND-ICU trial, which is testing whether use of antipsychotic drugs can minimize ICU-associated delirium and long-term cognitive impairment.

With more than 250 journal articles, book chapters and commentaries to his credit, Ely frequently is invited to present his research and to work with investigators around the world. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, one of the nation’s most respected medical honor societies.

The Charles R. Park Award for Basic Research Revealing Insights into Physiology and PathophysiologyVivien Casagrande, Ph.D., professor of Cell & Developmental Biology, Psychology and Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

Casagrande received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1964, and her Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology from Duke University in 1973. After postdoctoral work at Duke and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Casagrande was appointed assistant professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1975. She became a full Professor in 1986 and also is an Investigator in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

Casagrande is known internationally for her contributions to evolutionary, developmental and sensory systems neuroscience. She was one of the first to demonstrate that visual information is processed in distinct and functionally parallel streams. She is perhaps best known for discovering a third pathway in the primate visual system — a third distinct population of retinal ganglion cells — through which visual processing of form and motion occur. By mapping visual circuitry in several primate species, she has revealed clues to the evolution of the visual system, and added greatly to current understanding of brain development and plasticity.

In the course of her research, Casagrande brought innovative technologies to Vanderbilt, including optical imaging of the cerebral cortex and multi-electrode recording, which have helped her answer a broad range of questions about the organization of the visual system and the coding of visual information. Her work has helped reveal the origin of nearsightedness (myopia) and provided the mechanistic basis for diseases that cause blindness, including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic neuropathy.

Casagrande has been funded continuously by the National Eye Institute since she first arrived at Vanderbilt. She has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to virtually every textbook written on the visual system. In 1981 she received the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists for meritorious contributions to comparative neurology, and she became a fellow of the association in 2011. She is past president and a current board member of the Cajal Club, the nation’s oldest neuroscience society, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition to research, Casagrande was instrumental in the creation of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt and played an important role in the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center. She has had a longstanding interest in neuroscience education, and currently co-directs the Medical School’s Systems Neuroscience course. She has served twice as president of the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.