Siddharth Pratap, PhD is the Director of Bioinformatics at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. He is also an Assistant Professor in the School of Graduate Studies & Research at Meharry and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Dr Pratap completed his BS in Microbiology from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), his PhD in Biomedical Sciences & Microbiology from Meharry Medical College (Nashville, TN), and his post-doctoral fellowship with concurrent MS in Biomedical Informatics from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN).
He is a lead informatics researcher, director for the Meharry Bioinformatics and Proteomics Core labs, and a co-director of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Research Infrastructure Core at Meharry. His research focuses on implementing and connecting multiple Bioinformatics and Biomedical Informatics approaches to address and advance health disparities research. His project focus involves Genomic, Transcriptomic and Proteomic characterization of biological interactions at a systems architecture level.
Nationally, Dr. Pratap is the Meharry genomics lead for the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) and Implementing Genomics into Practice (IGNITE) national networks, a co-investigator in the Mid-South Clinical Research Network (of PCORnet), and co-director of the Biospecimen & Clinical Data Core of the Vanderbilt-Miami-Meharry Health Disparities Research Collaborative.
Jacob L. McCauley, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of the Center for Genome Technology at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. Dr. McCauley is a genetic epidemiologist whose primary interest is to improve the understanding of human disease through disease gene discovery, genomics, and in-depth examination of environmental factors that influence disease outcome.
His research focuses on the use of molecular techniques, bioinformatics, and statistical methods to identify genetic variation and to characterize its role in disease susceptibility and outcomes within a variety of human diseases. He has significant experience overseeing biological sample collection, tracking, quality control, genotyping, sequencing and analysis involved in large-scale human genetics projects. Dr. McCauley is a member of several multidisciplinary collaborations with colleagues both nationally and internationally. He has been involved in studying a variety of complex human diseases including autism, Alzheimer disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Derek M. Griffith, PhD, is a leading social scientist focused on social influences on men’s health and racial and ethnic health disparities. He primarily focuses on identifying and addressing psychosocial, cultural and environmental determinants of African American men’s health and well-being. Funded by several institutes within the National Institutes of Health and foundations such as the American Cancer Society and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Griffith specializes in informing, developing and testing interventions to improve African American men’s lifestyle behaviors and chronic disease risk, morbidity and mortality, including reducing obesity and increasing healthy eating, physical activity and screening, often using a community-based participatory research approach. His research has been featured in such news outlets as MSN, NPR, Time Magazine, US News & World Report and USA Today.
Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo’s research focuses in the areas of minority health, health disparities, health services research, and health policy. In particular, he is interested in community-based approaches to cancer prevention and control, with emphasis on approaches that employ principles of Community Based participatory Research. His work involves both health service research approaches such as analysis of large secondary datasets, as well as community-based interventions. He is also interested in work that involves use of lay health workers for outreach, and in educational and behavioral interventions.
For the last seven years he has been the Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and now also Chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Care. He oversees a clinical, teaching and research enterprise of 56 full time faculty including six primary care practices and an additional ambulatory hospital based clinic at Jackson Health System (Miami Public Hospital system). Dr. Carrasquillo is national expert in minority health, health disparities, community based participatory research, access to care and community health worker interventions.
Dr. Carrasquillo is currently the PI of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s NCI U54 South Florida Center for Eliminating Cancer Health Disparities. As part of this project Dr. Carrasquillo is leading an RCT trial to examine the most optimal approach to effectively screen hard to reach minority women for cervical cancer.
Dr. Nancy Cox was recruited to lead the VGI initiative and the Training Program in Genetic Variation and Human Phenotypes in 2015. Her primary appointment is in the Department of Medicine, and she also serves as the Director of the Division of Genetic Medicine. She is a quantitative human geneticist with a long-standing research program in identifying and characterizing the genetic component of common human diseases. Her current research is focused on large-scale integration of genomics with other “-omics” data, as well as biobank and electronic medical records data. Specifically, Dr. Cox’s laboratory develops methods for analyzing genetic and genomic data and then applies those methods to the analysis of genome data on common diseases and translational phenotypes, such as pharmacogenomics traits, with a particular focus now on the integration of information on genome function with methods for the analysis of genome data on icogenomics, breast cancer, diabetes and its complications, autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Tourette Syndrome and OCD. Her work has also been funded to develop methods for the analysis of 1,000 Genomes Project data as well as GTEx Project data. Most recently, methods development has focused on the development of genome predictors of expression of genes across all GTEx tissues. Using GTEx as a reference panel for predicting gene expression phenotypes is analogous to the way 1,000 Genomes Project data have been used as a reference panel for imputation of SNP data. Her lab proposes to augment the analyses planned for this project using gene-based tests associating genetically predicted gene expression (for relevant tissues) with case/control status (or with a quantitative trait). In addition, through her activities as VGI Director, she will be enhancing the number of samples with genome interrogation in BioVU and plans to make the results of new types of statistical genomics analyses on BioVU data available to the Vanderbilt community of scientists.
Dr. Roy E. Weiss is board certified in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, Weiss is an expert in diseases of the thyroid and pituitary disorders. His research has centered on the mechanisms of thyroid hormone action at the molecular, physiological, and psychological levels, including the molecular basis for the syndrome of resistance to thyroid hormone. He also has conducted several clinical studies evaluating treatment of thyroid disease.
In addition to teaching medical student courses in physiology and pathology, Weiss has been an invited speaker at national and international conferences. He recently co-authored a book, “Genetic Diagnosis of Endocrine Disorders,” serves on the editorial board of Endocrinology, and has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles on thyroid disease research and endocrinology. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, American College of Endocrinology and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Weiss is also the 2014 President-Elect for the Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research.
A physician and biomedical researcher, Dr. Wilkins is internationally recognized for her work in community engaged research and is a leader in the emerging field of precision medicine. She served as Founding Director of the Center for Community Health and Partnerships in the Institute for Public Health and gained national recognition in the fields of aging and community engaged research.
Dr. Wilkins is Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance–a strategic partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Howard University College of Arts and Sciences and received the Doctor of Medicine degree from Howard University College of Medicine in 1996. She completed internship and residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a geriatric medicine fellowship at Washington University/Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Her research focused on the complex intersection between cognitive impairment, physical frailty, and depression and contributed significantly to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease among African Americans.
Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Section of Hospital Medicine. He serves as Co-Director of the Center for Effective Health Communication, Director of the Effective Health Communication Core, and Director of the Center for Clinical Quality and Implementation Research. His research interests include health literacy, transitions of care, medication management, and implementation science.
Dr. Kripalani has served as a member of numerous national committees and task forces related to literacy and health, including being Chair of the NIH grant review panels for health literacy research, coordinating the SGIM health literacy interest group, and serving as Scientific Committee Chair for the 2015 International Conference on Communication in Health Care. He has served as co-editor of two special journal issues on health literacy and health communication, and he led a white paper commissioned by the Institute of Medicine on Organizational Health Literacy. Dr. Kripalani received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, and at Emory University he completed his residency in Internal Medicine, fellowship in Hospital Medicine, and Master of Science in Clinical Research.
Carolyn (Carey) Szetela, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical and Professional Education at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She completed her degree in philosophy, with a medical ethics specialization, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1998. Dr. Szetela designs and presents ethics curricula for medical students, physicians, and researchers. She coordinates opportunities for medical student training in interprofessional and community settings as they learn to deliver coordinated, effective and humanistic healthcare. In her role teaching ethics, she encourages knowledge competencies along with role play and reflection upon attitudes to help build students’ and trainees’ confidence in knowing and honoring ethical practices in patient care. She serves as Vice-Chair of the Nashville General Hospital ethics committee.
Dr. Szetela’s focal interests in ethics include behavioral and social medicine, the prevention of harms due to alcohol and drug misuse, and issues related to genetics and precision medicine. She encourages diverse perspectives in exploring potential benefits and harms of precision medicine, and advocates justice considerations in the application of precision medicine within healthcare.
Dr. Marino Bruce is a social and behavioral scientist with interests in the integration of the full range of health determinants specifically for young African American males and their risk factors for chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. His current research explores the intersection of race, gender, spirituality, religiosity, and behavior and their implications for social and health outcomes among African American male boys, adolescents and emerging adults. He is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and an ordained Baptist Minister and leverages the strengths of research-, community-, and faith-based communities toward efforts to improve the health of disadvantaged and disenfranchised males, their families, and their communities.
Dr. Haas provides clinical expertise, a strong NIH-funded clinical trials background, and a long history at Vanderbilt. He serves as Associate CFAR Director at Vanderbilt, as well as the Director of the Clinical Sciences Core. He is directly involved in the administration of the Tennessee CFAR at Vanderbilt, as well as in the Nashville HIV/AIDS provider community. He has developed many important collaborations, particularly in areas of genomics and pharmacology. His enthusiasm and energy has already drawn many new investigators into HIV research. He has also established connections between our campuses. He continues to foster interactions with colleagues at other academic institutions. He is directly involved in all Executive Committee and Advisory Board activities and helps monitor Scientific Working Group progress and oversees all Clinical Sciences Core activities.
Katherina Walz, Ph.D., is a biologist interested in the understanding of molecular bases of human genetic conditions, with special emphasis in those that are related to brain function and altered behavioral outcomes.
Her research is focused in the validation of the genetic cause, the definition of the phenotypic outcomes and the elucidation of the molecular and physiological pathways related to human diseases. Dr. Walz is also an Research Associate Professor in the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics.
Hector Myers, PhD. has published extensively on biobehavioral and psychosocial factors contributing to ethnic disparities in health & mental health. He has maintained an active collaborative program of research including the first neurobehavioral sequelae of HIV/AIDS in African American men, on one of the largest longitudinal studies of HIV-positive women and their partners, on a clinical trial of a risk reduction intervention for women with histories of child sexual abuse, and on the NIMH collaborative multi-site trial of a risk reduction intervention for HIV-serodiscordant African American couples.
Dr. Myers has also collaborated on several large clinical trials of Transcendental Meditation intervention with African American adults with hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, on a pilot randomized clinical trial testing the efficacy of Mindfulness Meditation and immune status in HIV/AIDS, as well as on an NIMH-funded multi-site clinical trial testing for ethnic differences in genetic and psychosocial factors affecting treatment response to Citalopram in adults with uncomplicated major depression.
J. Sunil Rao PhD is the Interim Chair of the Division of Public Health Sciences and the Division Director of the Division of Biostatistics at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. His methodological statistical research interests include high dimensional statistical modeling, model selection, mixed model selection and prediction, modeling incomplete data, robust estimation, bump hunting, statistical formulations for precision medicine, and the statistical analysis of disparity data. Dr. Rao’s areas of cancer research have included genetic screening for colon cancer screening (including work on the now FDA approved Cologuard test), genomic modeling of colon cancer progression (including the widely used Bayesian ANOVA for microarrays technique), identification of patient subgroups most likely to do well on therapy, and now cancer disparity modeling including for colon and cervical cancer. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute and co-leader of the Cancer Control and Prevention program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
Erin Kobetz, PhD is the Principle Investigator (PI) for the Addressing Cervical Cancer Disparity in South Florida CPR in Action, also known as HIYA, awarded in 2014 from The National Cancer Institute. This project focus on the efficacy of a mailed HPV self-sampling intervention for cervical cancer screening in the underserved communities of Little Haiti, Hialeah, and South Dade. Like other predominately minority, low-income neighborhoods across the United States, these communities contribute to excess cervical cancer incidence and mortality, largely due to lack of access to routine Pap smear screening and timely follow up for detected abnormalities.
The HPV self-sampling intervention was found previously to be highly efficacious when delivered in-person by a community health worker. The current project aims to determine whether mailing the self-sampler will be equal to or better than the CHW-delivered intervention with respect to screening uptake. If shown to be efficacious, the mailed self-sampler will represent an innovative and cost-effective strategy to improve access to cervical cancer screening among underserved communities, and may be integrated into standard clinical practice at federally-qualified healthcare centers.
Dr. Aldrich attended college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she received her B.A. in Biology in 1992. After finishing college, she worked at Genentech, Inc. as a research scientist focusing on asthma pulmonary biology. In 2001, she left Genentech to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her M.P.H. in Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 2003, and her Ph.D. in Epidemiology in 2007. Dr. Aldrich completed her postdoctoral training in 2010 at the University of California, San Francisco focusing on racial/ethnic differences in pulmonary function. She joined the Vanderbilt faculty in October 2010.
Dr. Aldrich’s research interests focus on identifying genetic and environmental risk factors for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in diverse racial/ethnic populations. Current projects include investigating racial differences in lung cancer incidence and survival outcomes, lung cancer risk prediction in screening populations, the genetic relationship between COPD and lung cancer, social vs genetic factors contributing to health disparities, and population genetics of African Americans. Dr. Aldrich’s research leverages large-scale epidemiologic studies and BioVU, Vanderbilts biobank.
Dr. Lea Davis’s work explores the “genomic architecture” of complex traits, defined as the type, frequency, and function of DNA variants en masse that contribute to the genetic predisposition of a given trait. Until recently, the human genetics field has been highly focused on the identification of individual DNA variants associated with complex phenotypes. However, recent research from the Davis lab and others has demonstrated that many complex traits, including Tourette Syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, are highly polygenic with risk distributed across hundreds or thousands of polymorphisms. Through the application of quantitative genetic methods, the Davis lab seeks to answer questions that follow from this observation including (1) How does genomic architecture differ across complex human traits? (2) What kinds of selective pressures shape the polygenic landscape of different phenotypes? (3) How do functional elements (e.g., eQTLs, enhancers, methylation QTLs) influence or concentrate risk? (4) How does sexual dimorphism influence the expression of polygenic burden? The overarching goal of the Davis lab is to integrate functional knowledge of the genome into polygenic approaches to answer such questions. To do this, the Davis lab uses state-of-the-art computational and statistical methods to inform classical quantitative models (used for decades in animal and plant genetics) along with biologically relevant expression data, rare variant data (e.g., exome data, copy number variant data), and environmental data (e.g., prenatal infection or smoking history). Through these integrated approaches, Dr. Davis hopes to understand the biological basis and genetic architecture of common complex phenotypes.
Natasha Schaefer-Solle, PhD RN, is currently the Co-Principal Investigator of a pilot study, “Understanding Female Firefighters’ Risks and Perceptions of Cervical Cancer,” funded through the State of Florida as part of a larger cancer research initiative, the Firefighter Cancer Initiative (FCI), developed between the firefighters of South Florida and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. This pilot aims to better understand cervical cancer screening behaviors in female firefighters through qualitative data collection.
Dr. Nicholas Tsinoremas holds faculty appointments at the Miller School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami. He is the Founding Director for the University of Miami Center for Computational Science.
Dr. Tsinoremas is an international leader in computational genomics and bioinformatics, and brings over 25 years of academic and industrial experience to the University of Miami. He received his B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Athens, Greece, and his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Leeds, UK. Before joining the University of Miami, he served as Senior Director of Informatics at The Scripps Research Institute-Florida. There, he recruited and managed the Informatics and IT groups for the newly formed Scripps Florida.
As Director of Computational Genomics and Genomic Discovery at Rosetta/Merck where he directed the project that combined informatics and computational approaches with gene expression profiling and genetics to discover, prioritize, and define drug target genes. Prior to working for Merck/Rosetta, Tsinoremas was the Vice-President of Genomics at DoubleTwist Inc., where he determined the scientific direction of DoubleTwist’s bioinformatics applications and databases.
Victoria Behar-Zusman, PhD, is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies. She completed a BA and a PhD in psychology at the University of Miami. Dr. Behar-Zusman is a licensed psychologist with clinical specialization in family therapy. Her research focuses on family process and family intervention in populations affected by substance abuse and HIV.
Dr. Behar-Zusman directs the SONHS PhD program and teaches quantitative research methods and research ethics in the PhD program. She is the principal investigator and research director of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies’ NIH/NIMHD-funded Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research, which advances the science of reducing health disparities in the areas of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, family and intimate partner violence, and associated mental and physical health conditions. El Centro is focused on improving health equity among groups of Hispanic and African descent, sexual minorities and people in Caribbean and Latin American nations through the development, testing and dissemination of culturally tailored interventions. Dr. Behar-Zusman also serves as vice-chair of the University of Miami Social Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board.
Stephania Miller-Hughes, PhD, MS, MSCI is a behavioral scientist and health disparities researcher. She has an overarching interest in translating evidence-based interventions to eliminate chronic disease burdens experienced by racial and ethnic minorities. Her long-time program of funded research is focused on community-engaged and patient-relevant efforts to reduce the disproportionate diabetes burden experienced by African American women. She has expertise in lifestyle intervention development and implementation, patient-centered counseling protocol development and implementation, qualitative research, survey development, and community engagement.
Locally, she serves in several research infrastructure roles. Regionally, she represents Tennessee in efforts to address social determinants that negatively impact the health of racial and ethnic minorities. Nationally, she serves as a grant reviewer for various entities, such as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (Addressing Disparities Panel) and other academic institutions.