June 6, 2008

Additions bolster Medical Scientist Training Program

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Larry Swift, Ph.D.

Additions bolster Medical Scientist Training Program

James Bills, Ed.D.

James Bills, Ed.D.

Vanderbilt's Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) has welcomed two new leaders into its ranks.

Larry Swift, Ph.D., professor of Pathology, will serve as a new associate director of the MSTP, and James Bills, Ed.D., assistant professor of Medical Education and Administration, has been named as a new assistant director.

Swift and Bills will join the MSTP leadership team — which currently includes Director Terry Dermody, M.D., Associate Director Susan Wente, Ph.D., and Assistant Director Michelle Grundy, Ph.D. — in their efforts to recruit and train students pursuing the dual M.D./Ph.D. degree.

As an associate director, Swift will focus on student recruitment, development and implementation of the MSTP curriculum, student mentoring and administrative support for all aspects of the program.

“Larry is a tremendous addition to our program,” said Dermody, a professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology. “He has substantial experience in the area of responsible conduct of research and in counseling students on careers in science and medicine.

Swift's major research interest is the assembly and secretion of lipoproteins — molecules composed of fats (lipids) and proteins — by the liver and the intestine. These molecules are central to normal human physiology and important in understanding dyslipidemias (abnormal levels of fats in the blood) and resultant atherosclerosis.

“Larry's accomplishments as an investigator and mentor make him ideally suited for this important position,” Dermody said.

Bills' primary responsibilities as assistant director will be to provide administrative coordination for the MSTP Advising Colleges, Clinical Preceptorship Program and Seminar Series.

He also will be responsible for tracking and reporting MSTP graduate outcomes and assisting in preparation of the MSTP handbook. Other contributions will include admissions and recruitment, student advising and curriculum design and revision.

Bills has been at Vanderbilt since 1998, and has been involved with graduate students and medical students as a member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the Office for Teaching and Learning in Medicine, and the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment.

His wide-ranging educational and research interests include medical education, curriculum development, instructional programs, cultural competency and diversity.

“Jim is the perfect person for this role,” Dermody said. “He brings great experience interacting with students and is a superb administrator.”

The Vanderbilt MSTP prepares students for faculty and research positions of leadership in the biomedical sciences. Established in 1956, the program has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for the past 24 years.

Students typically complete the first two years of medical school, pursue graduate studies for three to four years and then return to medical school to complete the final two years of clinical training.

The program enrolls 12 new students each year and currently includes 87 students at Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College. Since 1956, 158 students have graduated from the MSTP.