2020 Precision Health Virtual Symposium


Keynote Speaker: Nancy Cox | Keynote Speaker: Bray Patrick-Lake | Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Cohn | Santhi Ganesh | Nicholas Douville | Chad Brummett | Amy Bohnert | Jessica Virzi | Amy Pasternak | Erkin Otles


photo: Anne Rayner; VU


Nancy Cox, PhD
Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor of Genetics, Director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, Director of the Division of Genetic Medicine, Vanderbilt University

Nancy Cox, PhD, is a quantitative human geneticist with a longstanding research program devoted to understanding the genetic component to common human diseases. She earned a BS in biology from the University of Notre Dame in 1978, a PhD in human genetics from Yale University in 1982, and did postdoctoral work at Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1987. She spent 28 years there before joining Vanderbilt in 2015 as the Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor of Genetics, Director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, and Director of the Division of Genetic Medicine. Much of the research in the Cox lab is focused on integrating genome variation 1) with genome function in analysis of data from BioVU, the biobank at Vanderbilt with more than 240,000 subjects with DNA samples, 2) with funded research in the Genotype Tissues Expression (GTEx) project since its inception, 3) in analysis of sequence data from NHGRI-funded Centers for Common Disease Genomics (CCDGs) (co-PI with Bingshan Li), and 4) in a Center of Excellence in Health Disparities on Precision Medicine and Population Health (co-PI with Consuelo Wilkins). Cox is the 2017 President of the American Society of Human Genetics and a past editor-in-chief for Genetic Epidemiology. She is a Fellow of the AAAS, a Landon Award co-winner from the American Association for Cancer Research in 2008, and winner of the International Genetic Epidemiology Leadership Award in 2010.

Presentation: “How BioVU has used community engagement in its development and growth”
Community engagement was critical to the development of BioVU, the biobank at Vanderbilt University, and continues to be a key part of the growth in its activities. The community shaped early decisions about how the biobank should work and continues to weigh in on new kinds of activities that the biobank considers undertaking. One of the common ways that we work with the community is to conduct pilot projects that allow community members to see and understand how new activities might work. A recent example is the slow and staged transition that is allowing induced pleuripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to be created from the peripheral blood monocytes (PBMCs) that can be obtained from a blood sample left over after a clinical test was ordered. There was first a pilot project conducted to show that the same leftover blood samples used for obtaining DNA samples could be used to successfully create iPSCs and then that those iPSCs could be successfully differentiated into different cell types, and finally that those differentiated cells could be de-differentiated back into stem cells. There were several presentations to the community over a period of months to explain the idea, to present the preliminary results, and then to explain how iPSCs and how the cell differentiated from iPSCs could be used in research. After the pilots and the presentations, we continue, with the community’s advice, on a staged rollout where initial activities involving iPSC research would be conducted first only within VUMC and VU with regular reporting back to the community on research activities, with an ultimate goal of being able to share more broadly key resources with additional scientific communities.


Bray Patrick-Lake, MFS
Director of Strategic Partnerships, Evidation Health, Inc.

Bray Patrick-Lake, MFS, is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Evidation Health. She develops collaborations to support the design and implementation of participant-centered studies and digital measures. She serves on the All of Us National Advisory Panel and the Digital Medicine Society Scientific Leadership Board. Previously, Bray served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Health Science Policy Board, led engagement for the Duke Clinical Research Institute Project Baseline Study Coordinating Center, and served as co-chair on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director that authored the Precision Medicine Initiative’s Cohort Program. Bray holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MFS from National University.

Presentation (with Elizabeth Cohn): “Engaging patient and participant communities in precision health research”


Elizabeth Gross Cohn, RN, PhD
Rudin Professor, Associate Provost for Research, Hunter College, City University of New York
Senior Scientist, Columbia University

Elizabeth Gross Cohn, RN, NP, PhD, FAAN was named a 2016 White House Champion of Change in Precision Medicine for her work at the intersection of precision medicine, public health, and health equity. She is the Rudin Professor and Associate Provost for Research at Hunter College in the City University of New York, and a Senior Scientist at Columbia University. Her work focuses on urban community health, engagement of underrepresented communities, community-engaged research, and the ethical, legal, social, and scientific issues of emerging technologies and public health. She has had funding from the National Institutes of Health. Her work with a Native American Reservation, the Unchung Nations Initiative to End Diabetes (UNITED) was funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and a second grant to strengthen resilience in communities (RESCUE) was funded by the New York State Department of Health. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, in The Atlantic and in Men’s Health. She is the author of an Elsevier cardiology text, Flip and See ECG, now in its fourth edition. She is an alum of the Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholars Program. Cohn received her Associate Degree from Nassau Community College, her bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York at Purchase, her Master’s Degree and Nurse Practitioner from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and her Doctorate from Columbia University.

Presentation (with Bray Patrick-Lake): “Engaging patient and participant communities in precision health research”


Santhi Ganesh, MD
Associate Professor, Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Human Genetics; Director, Michigan Biological Research Initiative on Sex Differences, University of Michigan

Santhi Ganesh, MD, studies the genetic and molecular basis of vascular diseases. She completed undergraduate and medical school at Northwestern University, after which she trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan and Cardiovascular Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed her postdoctoral fellowships at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Human Genome Research Institute, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Institute of Genetic Medicine. Her laboratory employs genetic and genomic analysis methods to identify and study genetic mechanisms of arterial dysplasia in both adult and pediatric arterial diseases such as fibromuscular dysplasia, renovascular hypertension, arterial aneurysm, and arterial dissections. These efforts have led to the identification of new biologic mechanisms of arterial dysplasia and related abnormal arterial remodeling, as well as novel clinically actionable genetic findings. Her lab has had continuous extramural funding, including from the NIH, DOD, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and others, and she has more than 100 peer reviewed manuscripts. She directs the Michigan Biologic Research Initiative in Sex Differences in Cardiovascular Disease (M-BRISC) program at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, which aims to identify and study mechanisms of sex dimorphism underlying cardiovascular traits and diseases.

Presentation: “Leveraging the Michigan Genomics Initiative to define the genetics of fibromuscular dysplasia and spontaneous coronary artery dissection”


Nicholas Douville, MD, PhD
Clinical Lecturer, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan

Nicholas Douville, MD, PhD, joined the the U-M Transplant Anesthesia team following a Critical Care Fellowship (2017 –18). Previously, he completed Anesthesiology Residency at the University of Michigan, serving as Chief Resident (2016–17) and was awarded a Clinician-Scientist Translational Anesthesiology Research Fellowship. He was a fellow in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), earning a joint medical degree and PhD in Biomedical Engineering. He defended his dissertation (“Alveolar Microfluidic Systems for the Study of Barrier Function, Cell Damage, and Migration at the Air-Blood Barrier”) in 2011 and continues to have active research in the area of respiratory fluid mechanics and bioinformatics.

Presentation: “Precision Health in the perioperative period: Lessons learned integrating MGI into the operating room”
Given the relatively high rate of complications, vast number of data generated, and disproportionate health care expenditures associated with a trip to the operating room, the perioperative period represents a promising opportunity to use precision medicine to improve outcomes and save money. Our goal is to assist perioperative providers in improving patient outcomes through a unified platform that identifies patient attributes that may affect their care and stratifies the risk of key complications. To do this, we have leveraged data from the Michigan Genomics Initiative to study patients having elective surgery at the University of Michigan. We identify patients with genomic susceptibility to conditions like malignant hyperthermia and butyrlcholinesterase deficiency before they proceed to surgery. We also have incorporated polygenic risk scores to predict postoperative complications, beginning with myocardial injury after non-cardiac surgery.


Chad Brummett, MD
Co-Investigator, Precision Opioid Prescribing Use Case
Director of the Division of Pain Research, Director of Clinical Research, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan

Chad Brummett, MD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, where he is the Senior Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Anesthesiology. He has more than 160 publications, including articles in top journals such as JAMA, JAMA Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Annals of Surgery. He is the Co-Director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan OPEN), which aims to apply a preventative approach to the opioid epidemic in the US through appropriate prescribing after surgery, dentistry, and emergency medicine.  In addition, his research interests include predictors of acute and chronic post-surgical pain and failure to derive benefit for interventions and surgeries primarily performed to treat pain.  He is the Co-PI of three major NIH grants studying these concepts, and also receives funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA and the CDC.

Presentation: “Precision Health at the University of Michigan’s Opioid Use Case”


Amy Bohnert, PhD, MHS
Co-Investigator, PROMPT Precision Health Study
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan

Amy S.B. Bohnert, PhD, MHS, is a mental health services researcher with training in public health who focuses her research on epidemiology and brief interventions regarding substance use and related disorders. Within a team of collaborators at the University of Michigan and the Department of Veterans Affairs, she has led a number of projects related to overdose and prescription drug safety. A number of her research activities have been specifically aimed at improving care occurring in substance use disorder treatment settings. Dr. Bohnert has demonstrated a particular expertise in applying epidemiology methods to the analysis of electronic health records-based datasets to answer important questions for health services delivery. Dr. Bohnert earned her PhD in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and completed her postdoctoral fellowship with the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation Center in Ann Arbor, MI. She has an appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

Presentation on The PROMPT Precision Health Study: enhancing mental health care through mobile technology


Jessica Virzi, MSN, CSSBB
Clinical Informaticist, Precision Health at the University of Michigan

Jessica Virzi, MSN, CSSBB, is the MIPACT Project Director, and a Clinical Informaticist with Precision Health’s Health Implementation Workgroup. She is an accomplished clinical and research leadership professional with experience in improving strategic and operational initiatives, quality, informatics, clinical data analytics, and lean project management methodologies in healthcare. Jessica has led various quality assurance and process improvement efforts, and has implemented key strategic initiatives that cross multiple tiers of the health system.


Amy Pasternak, PharmD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy and Clinical Pharmacist, Michigan Medicine

Amy Pasternak earned her PharmD from the Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital. She then pursued specialty training in clinical pharmacogenetics as the PGY-2 Clinical Pharmacogenetics Resident at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, and as a Clinical Pharmacy Translational Fellow at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. Dr. Pasternak joined the U-M faculty as a Clinical Assistant Professor in 2018. She became a Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist in 2015. Her current clinical practice is focused in the implementation of pharmacogenetics into routine clinical care at Michigan Medicine as part of the pharmacogenetics service. Dr. Pasternak precepts both APPE and PGY-1 residents on a pharmacogenetics rotation. Her research focuses on the discovery and validation of pharmacogenetic associations and evaluating the clinical impact of translating pharmacogenetics into patient care. Her current work is focused on increasing the understanding of tacrolimus pharmacogenetic interactions in multiple transplant populations and among routes of administration.


Erkin Otles, M.Eng.
Medical Scientist Training Program Fellow, University of Michigan

Erkin Otles, M.Eng., is a Medical Scientist Training Program Fellow (MD-PhD student) at the University of Michigan. His research interest lies in creating machine learning and artificial intelligence tools for patients, physicians, and health systems. His work focuses on the development, deployment, and prospective validation of dynamic health outcome prediction models (e.g., early warning systems). Erkin was named an Innovation Fellow for 2018-2019 by the American Academy of Family Physicians. He has a professional background in health IT development and holds a Master’s of Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. After completing his MD-PhD training, he plans to pursue medical residency training in emergency medicine.

Panel Presentation: “Precision health: One size does not fit all. Improving health outcomes that are unique to you and your family”