Skip to main content


IMSD Directors

Dr. Digna R. Velez Edwards is a genetic epidemiologist, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, director of the Division of Quantitative Sciences, and director of the Women’s Health Research Center. . Her research is focused on understanding and identifying genetic risk factors for complex diseases with a specific focus on diseases that disproportionately impact minorities and genetic factors related to women’s health and reproductive outcomes. She has been faculty at Vanderbilt since 2010. Her research utilizes large clinical databases that link electronic health record information to DNA to conduct genomic studies. She also serves as associate program director of our local Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health K12 Program and a PI in a recently submitted renewal application and is actively engaged in training graduate students in the Human Genetics and Epidemiology doctoral programs. Through BIRCWH, she has coordinated career development and training activities for early career faculty in addition to works-in-progress activities for trainees. She is committed to inclusive excellence and seeks to advance the diversity of our research community across all aspects of age, race, ethnic origin, socio-economic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, political views, and religion.


Dr. Julie Rhoades (Sterling) is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and a research scientist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. Her research focuses on molecular regulation of cancer-induced bone diseases with the goals of identifying more effective therapies to improve outcomes for patients with metastatic cancer. As part of these efforts, she is currently the President of the Cancer and Bone Society and a member of the Future Global Leaders committee in the International Federation for Musculoskeletal Research Societies, where she works to foster trainees with interests in bone and mineral research. Rhoades joined the Vanderbilt Faculty in 2008 and has been actively involved in the Cancer Biology and Pharmacology graduate programs and the IMSD. In addition, to these roles, she is a Diversity Liaison for the Department of Medicine, member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee for the Cancer Biology Program, and a co-chair of the DEI committee in the Cancer Biology Training Consortium. Rhoades is committed to continuing to build diversity, equity, and inclusion in graduate education and medical research by building supportive communities and pipelines that improve opportunities for science education and careers for trainees from diverse backgrounds.

Dr. Henrique Serezani is an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacology and the Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology. His research program aims to dissect the inflammatory signals that influence host defense during preexisting conditions such as obesity and aging. Serezani is originally from Brazil and, since moving to Vanderbilt in 2016, he has been heavily involved in mentoring underrepresented minorities (over 20) from all over the world. He is a standing member of the Allergy, Immunology, and Transplant T32 study section. Serezani has been involved in different tasks to increase URM opportunities at our school and in various scientific societies. He was part of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center racial equity task force, Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Inflammation, and Immunity Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and was a member of DEI committees in different scientific societies. Serezani’s goal as a co-director of the IMSD program is to advocate, promote awareness, engagement, and community building to strengthen the voices of underrepresented groups so that every graduate student has the full opportunity to thrive at VU.