May 26, 2011

VUSM Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards

VUSM Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards

The 2011 Vanderbilt University Medical Center Academic Enterprise Faculty Awards, which were presented at the Spring Faculty meeting on May 25, 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.



Frank H. Boehm Award for Contributions to Continuing Medical Education Joseph Gigante, M.D., director of Education for General Pediatrics, associate professor of Pediatrics and clinical associate professor of Nursing

Joseph Gigante, M.D.

Joseph Gigante, M.D.

Gigante’s career has been dedicated to furthering medical education, including continuing medical education (CME) and faculty development, at Vanderbilt and throughout the country. At Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, for example, he participates in and serves on the executive committee of the Educator Development Program. Last year, he was selected by the program as a “facilitator with distinction,” receiving top marks for his workshop, “Effective and Efficient Teaching in the Ambulatory Setting.”

In recognition of his excellence in faculty development, he recently was appointed Director of Education for the Department of Pediatrics Office for Faculty Development. In addition to facilitating the skills development of pediatric faculty, he will directly observe pediatric residents in the outpatient setting and provide them with immediate verbal feedback and written evaluations.

Regionally, Gigante has been invited to present at the Regional Faculty Development Program at the University of Cincinnati every year since 2001. This program is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country. His presentations have consistently been among the highest rated each year. Nationally he was part of a very select group of writers for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) PREP (Pediatrics Review and Education Program) Self Assessment Program, the AAP’s chief method of CME. Since 2007 he has been a member of the AAP PREP: The Course Planning Group committee (pediatric CME), which is focused on maintenance of certification, and he is an ex-officio member of the Council on Medical Students Education in Pediatrics Executive Committee.

In 2003, Gigante was selected to be a member of the first group of Master Clinical Teachers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The same year he received a Faculty Teaching Award by the Department of Pediatrics in recognition of his excellence in resident education. He also has received the Medical School’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching Medical Students, Residents and/or Fellows in the Clinical Setting, and in 2007 was named a Founding Member of the Medical School’s Academy for Teaching Excellence. A teaching award, The Joseph Gigante Award, was named in his honor by the Department of Pediatrics in 2009. It is presented to distinguished educators and teachers of Vanderbilt and Meharry medical students who have dedicated themselves to training the next generation of pediatricians.


Gerald S. Gotterer Award for Innovation in Educational Programming that Has Proven EffectiveBonnie Miller, M.D., senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and professor of Medical Education and Administration

Bonnie Miller, M.D.

Bonnie Miller, M.D.

After being named Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education in 2005, she helped shepherd through a major curriculum revision. Since 2008, she has served in her current position, in which she oversees all phases of clinical medical education.

Shepherding the first “monumental change” in Vanderbilt’s undergraduate medical curriculum in decades is perhaps Miller’s greatest achievement to date. Launched in 2007, the curriculum revision reorganized preclinical courses from the traditional discipline-based approach to one that is integrated, interdisciplinary, systems-based and collaborative.

The changes included establishment of the Office for Teaching and Learning in Medicine, the Academy for Teaching Excellence (in which she is a founding member), the Master Clinical Teacher and Master Science Teacher programs, Medical Education grand rounds, the Center for Experiential Learning, and the Emphasis Program, which encourages each new class of medical students to achieve excellence and top-tier scholarly achievements outside of the classroom.

Miller teaches an introductory course to first-year students entitled Foundations of the Profession. She has helped organize student retreats during each of the four years of medical school to foster team building, effective communication skills and professionalism.

Miller also conceived and helped develop the Vanderbilt Core Clinical Curriculum Program for third- and fourth-year students, and the Program in Interprofessional Healthcare Learning. Last year, she received funding from the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation to launch the Vanderbilt University Fellowship in Interprofessional Learning. The Fellowship brings first-year medical and advanced nurse practitioner students from Vanderbilt together with first-year pharmacy and social work students from other professional schools in Nashville for workplace learning and clinical experiences in a multidisciplinary environment, focused on community interventions and quality improvement. In short, Miller is helping to develop a new type of medical school.

As a result of these efforts, Miller is considered to be a national leader in medical and interprofessional education and in the application of educational technology. She articulates her vision at national meetings and courses such as the Harvard-Macy Program for Leading Innovations in Health Care and Education, and through publications in national journals. She has helped transform Vanderbilt into a national leader for how reforms in medical education can be accomplished.


F. Peter Guengerich Award for Mentoring Postdoctoral Fellows or Residents in the Research SettingMichael Waterman, Ph.D., Natalie Overall Warren Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry

Michael Waterman, Ph.D.

Michael Waterman, Ph.D.

In 1992, he was recruited to Vanderbilt as chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, a position he held until July 2010. Waterman is recognized as one of the leading experts on the structure, function and regulation of cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are required for the biosynthesis and metabolism of lipids, including the steroid hormones cortisol, estrogen and progesterone. Of particular interest are the enzymes expressed in the soil bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor, a major producer of antimicrobials, as well as essential enzymes in trypanosomes, parasitic protozoa that cause potentially fatal tropical diseases including sleeping sickness.

With 268 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 in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an NIH Merit Award winner.

Waterman’s research accomplishments and his reputation as a generous mentor have attracted dozens of trainees to his lab. During his 38-year career as an independent investigator, he has trained 51 postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have gone on to successful and prominent research careers all over the world. Recalling his enthusiasm and thrill of science, some will say that he continues to be a role model for them. “Mike continues to be my mentor,” wrote one former postdoc, now a department chair, in her nomination letter.

Under Waterman’s tenure, the Department of Biochemistry has recruited many distinguished faculty members including – to name a few — Richard Armstrong, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the journal Biochemistry, Richard Caprioli, Ph.D., director of the of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center, Walter Chazin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Structural Biology, Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and, in 2009, Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., a leader of Vanderbilt’s cancer drug discovery effort. Biochemistry faculty including Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, played important roles in founding the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and they continue to hold leadership positions.


John S. Sergent Award for Teaching Medical or Graduate Students in the Small Group SettingSandra Moutsios, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, director, Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency Training Program and clinical director, Vanderbilt Med-Peds Practice

Sandra Moutsios, M.D.

Sandra Moutsios, M.D.

Moutsios served as chief of the Medicine-Pediatrics section from 2001-2008. Under her leadership, the section has grown into one of the top 10 programs in the United States. The residency program, which recently was approved for expansion from 16 to 24 residents, has been a magnet for the nation’s best medical students. More than half of its graduates hold academic positions, six of them at Vanderbilt.

Moutsios is an outstanding clinician-educator who has drawn accolades from her students and patients. In 1998, she was given the J. William Hillman Award as “best (resident) teacher and role model” by the third- and fourth-year medical students, and in 2005 she received the F. Tremaine Billings Award for Excellence in Teaching in Primary Care Education. She earned Top Performer Awards from Vanderbilt’s patient satisfaction surveyor, Professional Research Consultants, Inc., for achieving 100 percent patient satisfaction in 2009 and 2010, which placed her in the top 1 percent of physicians nationwide.

In addition to bedside teaching and mentoring, Moutsios facilitates small groups in three medical school courses – “Foundations of the Profession, “Patient, Profession and Society,” and “Physical Diagnosis.” The first two courses cover difficult issues in medicine, including end-of-life care, health care cost and access, and conflict of interest. Moutsios challenges her students to think critically in a safe, respectful environment.

As program director of the combined Medicine-Pediatrics residency program, Moutsios teaches residents in small-group case conferences and on the wards. Recognizing a gap in educational materials for combined Med-Peds continuity clinics, she worked with two Med-Peds residents to develop a first-of-its kind, comprehensive curriculum for combined clinics that is being used by several other Med-Peds programs around the country.

Her passion for teaching extends beyond the medical school. Moutsios has been one of the leaders in the Vanderbilt Fellowship for Interprofessional Learning, an innovative small group learning experience for first-year medical, advanced nurse practitioner, pharmacy and social work students. She regularly meets with prospective adoptive parents and case workers to discuss relevant medical issues, and as health educator for a local preschool, she helps small groups of pre-schoolers prepare for (and relieve their fears about) their first doctor visit.

Her colleagues marvel at her ability to model the power of healing patient relationships and, in an era that emphasizes specialization, to inspire her students to consider careers in primary care. For her part, Moutsios’ greatest source of professional joy is teaching, “helping people learn to be better at who they are and who they want to be.”



William J. Darby Award for Translational Research that has Changed the Practice of Medicine WorldwideRobert Coffey, M.D., professor of Medicine and Cell & Developmental Biology,
John B. Wallace Professor of Medicine, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and director, Epithelial Biology Center

Robert Coffey, M.D.

Robert Coffey, M.D.

Within the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Coffey directs the Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology Program and he is program director of the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in GI cancer, which focuses on colorectal cancer.

Coffey’s research focuses on the role of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) ligands and EGFR activation within the context of gastrointestinal neoplasia. He began studying one such ligand, transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-α), at the Mayo Clinic in the mid-1980s as a research fellow in the lab of Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D. At the time, TGF-α was thought to be secreted only by cancer cells.

After coming to Vanderbilt, Coffey was the first to describe TGF-α production by normal cells, including keratinocytes and gastric mucosal cells. Subsequent work by Coffey and collaborators confirmed the importance of TGF-α as an autocrine regulator of gastric acid secretion, a cytoprotective factor in injured gastric mucosa and a mitogen for gastric mucosal epithelial cells. More recently, his group has found that Naked2, an antagonist of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, is also a critical regulator of basolateral trafficking of TGF-α, and thus is a point of convergence between EGFR and Wnt signaling. This work has led to the identification of a new mode of EGFR ligand signaling via exosomes.

While studying the stomachs of transgenic mice that overexpressed TGF-α, Coffey noted gastric foveolar hyperplasia, parietal cell atrophy and decreased acid production, all features reminiscent of Ménétrier’s disease, a rare but devastating gastropathy. After confirming that TGF-α also was markedly overexpressed in the gastric mucosa of patients with the disease, he obtained compassionate use approval from the FDA to test in a man with severe Ménétrier's disease an investigational monoclonal antibody that blocks EGFR signaling. The resulting case report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000, suggested that the drug, cetuximab, could have a remarkable effect on patient symptoms. In Science Translational Medicine in 2010, Coffey and his colleagues confirmed the early result in seven patients, thereby identifying both the underlying mechanism and an effective treatment for the rare disorder.

In addition to his contributions in the laboratory, Coffey is a staff physician at the Nashville Veterans Administration Medical Center, has mentored more than 35 young scientists, and has helped build the research infrastructure at Vanderbilt for studying gastrointestinal diseases, including the development of expression profiling and proteomics studies of GI cancers.

His far-reaching reputation is exemplified by the awards he has won, by his service on the advisory boards of internationally known cancer centers and institutes, and by his membership in prestigious professional societies including the American Society of Clinical Investigation, American Association of Physicians and the American Clinical and Climatological Association.


Sidney P. Colowick Award for Research that Serves as a Platform for Discovery in Diverse AreasCharles Sanders, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry

Charles Sanders, Ph.D.

Charles Sanders, Ph.D.

Sanders is a pioneer in the use of NMR methods to determine the structure of integral membrane proteins, many of which are important drug targets. His research accomplishments can be grouped into three main areas. First, he played a central role in the development of bicelles (bilayered micelles), model membranes that are now widely employed by many NMR groups for studies of both water-soluble and membrane-associated biomolecules.

His lab also has contributed to the development and application of other emerging membrane-mimetic media. Second, Sanders’ use of cutting-edge NMR technology to solve the structure of a large bacterial protein, diacylglycerol kinase (DAGK), implies that it is now feasible to use NMR to tackle a host of human membrane protein drug targets, including most G protein-coupled receptors, which are similar in size and complexity. For this landmark work, which was published in Science in 2009 and which took 17 years to complete, Sanders received a 2010 Chancellor’s Award for Research. Third, his lab has made systematic studies of the defective folding of integral membrane proteins that are associated with diseases including Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, the most common peripheral neuropathy.

In 2008, Sanders and his colleagues reported the first-ever structural study of the transmembrane C-terminal domain of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), the cleavage of which produces the amyloid-beta polypeptide that is believed to underlie the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease. Even more importantly, it was shown for the first time that APP is a cholesterol binding protein. This work is of considerable therapeutic relevance as it suggests that drug-like molecules that can disrupt APP-cholesterol binding may be able to prevent amyloid-beta production.

Sanders and his colleagues also presented the first structurally-detailed model for how the KCNE1 protein modulates the human KCNQ1 voltage gated potassium, an interaction essential to the normal cardiac action potential. Mutation-induced perturbations in this interaction result in long-QT syndrome, a potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sanders has made significant contributions to science outside of the lab through his service on NIH study sections, as an associate editor of the journal Biochemistry, and as organizer of national and international conferences.

At Vanderbilt, he contributes to the teaching and mentoring of students and postdoctoral fellows, and wrote the successful National Science Foundation grant, awarded in 2009, to purchase an ultra-high field, 900 megahertz NMR spectrometer which is helping to accelerate studies of complex protein structures.


Ernest W. Goodpasture Award for Groundbreaking Research that Addresses the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease or Important Biological Problems in Immunity Mark Boothby, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Medicine

Mark Boothby, M.D., Ph.D.

Mark Boothby, M.D., Ph.D.

Boothby’s lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which external signals regulate lymphocyte function. He has made key contributions to understanding how the immune system mounts specialized responses to different types of infectious organisms. As a clinical fellow in the lab of Laurie Glimcher, M.D., at Harvard he began his studies of the immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4), which plays a critical role in controlling the balance of adaptive immune responses during infection, allergies and immunity.

As an independent scientist at Vanderbilt, he has identified a powerful role for the NF-kappaB transcription factor in regulating T cell production of the inflammatory cytokine interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), discovered how the IL-4 receptor links to the induction of Stat6, the central transcriptional mediator of allergic processes, and described a novel transcriptional regulator, now known as PARP14, which collaborates with Stat6 to regulate gene expression, metabolism in B lymphocytes and macrophages, B cell survival, and antibody responses.

Recently, Boothby and colleagues at Vanderbilt characterized a critical role for a protein known as the mammalian target of rapamycin protein complex 2 (mTORC2) in regulating T helper cell differentiation. T helper cells – so-called because they modulate the function of other immune cells – acquire different functional properties to defend against different pathogens. Type 1 helper (Th1) cells promote killing of infected cells by macrophages and cytotoxic T cells, whereas Type 2 helper (Th2) cells promote proliferation and function of antibody-producing B cells that are important in antiviral immunity and combating parasites. Using an elegant conditional gene knockout approach, the researchers showed that rictor, an essential component of mTORC2, regulates Th1 and Th2 cell differentiation by targeting different protein kinases.

These results, published last year in the journal Immunity, have important implications for vaccine biology, autoimmunity, tumor immunology and transplantation. New findings from this line of investigation are revealing a role for mTORC2 in B lymphoid development and antibody production, thymic development of T cells, and Notch-induced leukemias.

Boothby has been a Hilda Duggan Arthritis Investigator, a Baxter Foundation Scholar in Immunology, a Leukemia Society of America Scholar, and a Senior Investigator in the Sandler Program for Asthma Research. In 2006 he was selected by his peers to be a member of the Faculty of 1000. He has served on the board of directors of the Federation of the American Societies of Experimental Biology (FASEB) and as chair of the NIH issues subcommittee of the FASEB Science Policy Committee. At Vanderbilt, he coordinates the Medical School’s Foundations of Immunology course and Departmental seminar series.


Research Enhancement Award for Development, Implementation, and/or Creation of Technology that Elevates the Research and Science of Multiple InvestigatorsPaul Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Informatics and Biomedical Engineering

Paul Harris, Ph.D.

Paul Harris, Ph.D.

Harris’ primary professional interest is the creation and optimization of informatics tools used to facilitate clinical and translational research. He was recruited to Vanderbilt to direct the Informatics Core in the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC).

He currently directs the Office of Research Informatics, and leads the informatics operations unit for the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), the Medical Center’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). Harris developed StarBRITE, an online research portal for Vanderbilt faculty and staff, ResearchMatch, a national Web portal that matches potential study volunteers with active research teams, and the REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) system, which is used for more research enterprise solutions across U.S. academic medical centers than any other data management tool.

He also contributed to development of the Synthetic Derivative, a database containing clinical information derived from Vanderbilt's electronic medical record that has been stripped of personal identifiers and which can be used in conjunction with the Medical Center’s DNA databank, BioVU, to identify patient sets for genome-phenome analysis.

REDCap, launched in 2004, is a secure, Web-based application for building and managing online databases. It currently serves more than 20,000 research end-users at 225 academic and non-profit institutions across six continents. Harris created and leads the REDCap consortium of partner institutions that use and enhance the system. REDCap is frequently cited at national meetings as the leading example of the success of the NIH’s CTSA program in improving the national research infrastructure.

StarBRITE, launched in 2007, allows Vanderbilt investigators to access pilot fund applications, resources and research support provided through VICTR. More than 4,000 unique users regularly sign on to the portal. ResearchMatch, launched in 2009, is a national volunteer recruitment registry serving the entire CTSA consortium. Vanderbilt hosts the national ResearchMatch Web site. To date, more than 14,000 potential volunteers have enrolled in the registry, and roughly 1,000 have participated in studies conducted by more than 500 researchers at 56 U.S. partner institutions.

Harris has been very active at the national level in both the NIH GCRC and NIH CTSA programs, and is a former president of the GCRC Biomedical Research Informatics Association. He is a member of the American Medical Informatics Association and regularly teaches graduate school courses on data management – most recently at Vanderbilt, Tokai University and Kitesato University in Japan.


Leadership of a Multi-investigator Team Award for Two or More Faculty Working Collaboratively or in a Multidisciplinary Manner to Address Important Biological Processes and/or Diseases

H. Alex Brown, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Chemistry, associate director, Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology

Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Chemistry, co-director, Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery

H. Alex Brown, Ph.D.

H. Alex Brown, Ph.D.

Craig Lindsley, Ph.D.

Craig Lindsley, Ph.D.

Brown is a leader in the field of lipidomics, the application of analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry and systems biology to lipid profiling in cells and tissues. He has helped define the critical role that the enzyme phospholipase D (PLD) plays in intracellular lipid signaling pathways involved in growth promotion and invasive cancers.

Lindsley is widely recognized as a pioneer who brought technology-enabled synthesis to the forefront of drug discovery chemistry. Using a microwave-assisted organic synthesis approach he developed, he has discovered and developed high quality novel compounds in multiple therapeutic areas, from cancer to neuroscience.

Brown and Lindsley have used their diverse but overlapping backgrounds to establish a collaboration that has enriched and strengthened Vanderbilt’s drug discovery effort. One of their first collaborations contributed, in 2009, to a major publication in Nature Chemical Biology in which they and their colleagues reported the design and synthesis of the first isoform-selective PLD inhibitors. These compounds are proving to be effective blockers of aggressive, highly metastatic breast cancer cell lines and appear to be particularly effective against cells derived from glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor with a poor prognosis.

In collaboration with Vanderbilt colleagues in Neurosurgery, the two scientists now are testing the hypothesis that some of the synthesized compounds with excellent brain penetrance and favorable pharmacological properties may be novel treatments for glioblastoma.
Brown and Lindsley also contributed to the recent discovery and characterization at Vanderbilt of novel allosteric potentiators of M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. Rather than directly activating the M1 receptor, these compounds provide a more specific and precise “tuning up” of receptor activity and could lead to new ways to treat schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another area of collaboration is microbial: Since PLD is a known virulence factor for bacteria, the two scientists are developing small molecules that selectively inhibit the prokaryotic PLD enzyme. These compounds are showing efficacy in treating bacteria that are resistant to standard antibiotics. Earlier this year, Brown and Lindsley were named co-leaders of metabolomics and drug discovery, respectively, in the Human Chemical Sciences Institute, a partnership of Vanderbilt University and The Scripps Research Institute that aims to advance science at the interface of chemistry and medicine.

For establishing one of the world’s most impressive chemical biology collaborations, for delivering transformative chemical probes with significant research and therapeutic potential, and for pushing the frontiers of understanding PLD-mediated cellular pathways, Brown and Lindsley have been selected as recipients of a new faculty research award for Leadership of a Multi-investigator Team that addresses important biological processes and diseases.