Dear Colleagues,

With this email, we begin what will be a monthly update that you will receive the first Wednesday of every month.

The purpose is to improve communication between different levels within the medical center and also within the work groups in our growing department.

Yu Shyr will be leading this continuous quality improvement project. If you have suggestions or questions to be answered in future updates, please add your comments here:


Special Guest

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the school of medicine, introduced new members of his team.

  • Susan Wente, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for basic research and counterpart to Gordon Bernard, MD, assistant vice chancellor for clinical research

  • Julie Hudson, MD, assistant vice chancellor for health affairs. Dr. Hudson is working closely with Dr. Balser in philanthropic, government relations, and medical school development activities. A priority of Drs. Balser and Hudson is building relationships “outside the walls” of Vanderbilt.

  • David Raiford, MD, has been promoted to assistant vice chancellor and senior associate dean. David’s expanded responsibilities include all aspects of faculty support (appointments, promotions, conflicts of interest, etc.)

  • Lynn Webb, PhD, has been promoted to assistant vice chancellor (for staff) and is responsible to both the school of medicine and the Vanderbilt Medical Group. Lynn has a strong human resources background and is a great asset. (The medical school has ~ 2000 faculty and 5000 staff.)

  • John Manning, PhD, MBA, has been promoted to chief operating officer and understands both science and business, making him an invaluable resource to Dr. Balser and the school.

  • Bonnie Miller, MD, has been promoted to senior associate dean for health care education.

In a strategic move, the institution has decided to integrate research and education under Dr. Balser’s leadership. Streamlining and consolidation have resulted in significant cost savings.

Dr. Balser is meeting with all departments within the school of medicine before the spring faculty meeting and is eager to get feedback from faculty and staff on “what's going well” and “what needs attention.” He emphasized that he's interested in direct communication and building bridges.



International collaborations

Dr. Balser wants to make carefully thought-out, well-selected strategic alliances with universities/medical schools outside the United States and encouraged working groups to develop proposals including costs/benefits. Potential collaborations in progress are with the Karolinska Institute and the University of Melbourne.



The opening of clinics at 100 Oaks is a priority; it will increase patient access, volume and capacity. Some clinics will open in February. Another priority is completion of the Third Bed Tower to increase operating room and patient throughput capacity. Relocation of the Dayani Center will be deferred. Construction of the new Life Sciences Engineering/Clinical Research (LSE/CR) Building will be deferred because of the huge capital investment requirement. The University does not want to take on new debt and Vanderbilt must maintain its A rating (S&P, Moody's, etc). Management of debt ratio is a high priority.

The dean stated that we will re-engage in the construction process at the appropriate time, as the LSE/CR is the next logical step for the research enterprise; for example, it's an excellent way to engage both sides of campus. Plans are for biomedical and chemical engineering to be housed in this new building along with medical center research/basic science departments including biostatistics. The department's relocation to Blakemore will be deferred for an estimated one to two years.

Data Coordinating Center (DCC)

Dr. Gordon Bernard, Dean Balser's office, biostatistics, and biomedical informatics are continuing to pursue the possibility of a DCC.

Graduate Program

Several educational programs at Vanderbilt are undergoing extensive review. The graduate program in biostatistics is moving forward, with classes starting in September of this year.


Economy/Financial Health

Dr. Balser ranks Vanderbilt’s financial health as extremely good compared to other academic medical centers. State-supported schools are among the hardest hit during these challenging economical times.

A couple of considerations for Vanderbilt are the impact of the market on its endowment and the effect of unemployment on universal care. In addition, TennCare may reduce its rates. One major advantage is that Vanderbilt owns the medical center, which provides considerable financial support to the school of medicine. Dr. Balser described Vanderbilt as a great place to be. He is optimistic that Vanderbilt will remain strong and anticipates the market may level off during spring 2009.

Vanderbilt has not initiated any plans for reductions in the workforce and there have not been pay reductions. It's a high priority to avoid any negative impact on employees. Dr. Balser has, however, asked department chairs to develop potential contingency plans with an emphasis on deferring low priority programs.

Vanderbilt's NIH funding has tripled under the leadership of Dr. Balser and his predecessor. Growing non-NIH funding (corporations, foundations, private industry) has been a targeted strategy that has paid off with significant increases in these sources of funding. Currently the medical school is approximately 68% NIH-funded and 32% non-NIH-funded. Randy Farmer and Julie Koh were mentioned as key players in medical center development activities.

Susan Wente commented that sources tell her that NIH funding looks stable and may be even stronger under the new administration.

Future of Biostatistics

Dr. Balser compared the necessity of biostatistics to that of anesthesiology and described it as crucial to success. He sees biostatistics as an intricate, interwoven, and critical aspect of the school.

Hope you find this update useful.

Frank Harrell, Yu Shyr, Dan Byrne and Linda Stewart
Topic revision: r2 - 26 Apr 2013, JohnBock

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