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Class Notes

Posted by on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Alumni News, Spring 2022, Vanderbilt Community .


Robert Sanders, MD’55, HS’56 &’58, BA’52, who died in 2006, was one of five to be inducted into the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame at Belmont University on Oct. 19, 2021.



Richard B. Johnston Jr., MD’61, HS’63, BA’57, was the honoree at the IX International Symposium, Advances in Neonatal Medicine, Wurzburg, Germany, Oct. 1-3, 2021.

Allen B. Kaiser, MD’67, HS’72, FE’74, Med Fac, BA’64, is retiring after a 50-year career at VUSM and VUMC. During his tenure, Kaiser, professor of Medicine, has served as physician adviser to the chief of Clinical Staff, the first chief of staff for Vanderbilt’s Health System, interim chair of the Department of Medicine, vice chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Medicine and chief of staff for Vanderbilt University Hospital. He specializes in epidemiology and hospital infection prevention.



Roy A. Meals, MD’71, closed his office practice in mid-March 2020, but after a two-year hiatus will soon start seeing clinic patients with hand problems one day a week at UCLA and is looking forward to once again interacting with patients, residents and fellows. He published “Bones, Inside and Out” in October 2020 and is finishing  “Muscle, The Long and Short of It,” which is slated for publication in early 2023.

Chris Hawk, MD’71, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, jokes that he “flunked’’ retirement in February 2020. After 42 years as a general surgeon and surgical oncologist, he returned after his first “retired” weekend to work in palliative care. Once COVID-19 hit, he pivoted to support the families of patients who couldn’t visit in the hospital by providing them with daily updates and phone calls. He was recognized as a Lowcountry Healthcare Hero in the annual awards given by the Charleston Regional Business Journal. Hawk continues to work part time in palliative care at Roper Hospital and has found it a rewarding transition to real retirement.

Richard Van Fletcher Jr., MD’74, retired from office practice in 2018 after 40 years as an OB-GYN. He writes that as his last 10 years of practice evolved, he was providing more primary care and says his education at Vanderbilt, “especially the tutelage of Dr. Tom Brittingham, Dr. Robert Collins, and Dr. H. William Scott, gave me a priceless foundation in diagnosis, critical thinking, and decision making. My gratitude is sincere and genuine.” Since his retirement, he has started working with a urologist to assist with complex pelvic reconstructions.

Bryan Simmons, MD’76, and his wife, Barbara; Michael Lojek, MD’76, HS’79, and his wife, Melissa Lojek, PhD’76; and Steve Wagner, MD’76, and his wife, Terri, reunited at the Simmons’ home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Charles Norman Spencer, MD’76, HS’79 and ’80, BA’72, retired from private practice at the Gallatin Children’s Clinic, part of Vanderbilt Integrated Providers Midsouth. He served as the medical director of the group until two years before his retirement in September 2020.

Doug Heimburger, MD’78, remains at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, now working part time (partially retired) and focusing on his NIH global health research training grants. These include the University of Zambia-Vanderbilt Training Partnership for HIV-NCD Research (UVP-2) from the NIH Fogarty International Center and the Vanderbilt-Zambia Cancer Research Training Program (VZCARE) from the National Cancer Institute.  Both are collaborations with the University of Zambia, with which he has worked closely since 2006.

Susan Niermeyer, MD’79, MPH, FAAP, received the Clifford Grulee Award, presented by Lee Savio Beers, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, during the AAP NCE in October 2021. The Grulee Award, established in honor of Dr. Clifford G. Grulee, a founder and long-standing officer of the organization, is the highest recognition bestowed by the Academy for service on behalf of the AAP and children.



Christine K. Jacobs, MD’83, has been appointed vice president for Medical Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at Saint Louis University. In this role, Jacobs will lead clinical, academic and research areas for the School of Medicine. She is also on the SLUCare Governing Board, sits on the board of the St. Louis Integrated Health Network, and co-chairs the Research Growth Steering Committee and Applied Health Research Council.

Joel McCullough, MD’86, was appointed as the new Commissioner of Health by the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department in Lexington, Kentucky, and will begin his post in early 2022.

Edd Fleming, MD’89, was appointed to the board of directors for Komodo Health, a software-driven health analytics company, on Nov. 30, 2021.

William Anderson Spickard III, MD’89, Med Fac, was appointed the new associate dean for Spiritual Growth and Development, professor of Internal Medicine, and clinical educator at Belmont University’s future Thomas F. Frist Jr. College of Medicine in Nashville.



Barney S. Graham, MD, PhD’91, HS’84, FE’87, is a recipient of the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. This award is given by the Partnership for Public Service to honor outstanding federal workers and to recognize innovation and leadership within the federal government. Graham is also featured as one of Time magazine’s “2021 Heroes of the Year—The Miracle Workers” for his groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine research.

Steven R. Coats, PhD’93, FE’96, was appointed chief development officer of ImmunOs Therapeutics AG on Dec. 6, 2021, which is a Swiss biotechnology company that develops new therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Judson M. Brandeis, MD’95, is the lead author of a book, “The 21st Century Man,” which is a comprehensive sexual health guide for men. Brandeis has been voted best urologist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade, and is a researcher, physician educator, clinician and surgeon. He specializes in men’s sexual health and rejuvenative medicine.

Paul Tebbey, MD, PhD, FE’95, has been appointed senior vice president of Product Development and Portfolio Strategy at Heat Biologics, Inc., which is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies to regulate the immune system.

Dana Fender, MD, HS’97, has been named a partner of the Thurston Group in Chicago, which is a private equity firm focused on investments in health care and related business services sectors. Fender also serves on the board of directors for National Dental Healthcare REIT, SGA Dental Partners and Gen4 Dental Partners.

Kathryn Teng, MD’97, HS’99, MBA, has joined Babylon Health, a global, virtual-first, value-based health care company as United States Chief Clinical Officer.



Sean P. Kelly, MD, HS’00, has joined WELL Health Inc. as chief medical officer. In this role, Kelly will use his medical expertise to help strategize research and development, product management, sales and customer experience.

Laura Green, MD’02, was selected to become the vice chair of the Ophthalmology Review Council of the ACGME, beginning July 1, 2021.

Amit Rakhit, MD, MSCI’02, has been appointed chief executive officer of Sporos Bioventures, LLC, a private biotechnology company. Rakhit is also an adviser trustee for the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, and an advisory member of the Healthcare Board of the Partnership Fund for New York City.

Prince Kannankeril, MD, FE’02, MSCI’04, was appointed as the inaugural holder of the Richard B. Johnston Jr. MD Chair in Pediatric Research, Cardiology, at VUMC. Kannankeril is professor of Pediatrics and co-director of the Center for Pediatric Precision Medicine. He is an expert in genetic arrhythmia syndromes and postoperative heart rhythm disturbances in children.

Mary Margaret “Mimi” Huizinga, MD’03, MPH’07, FE’05, ’07, MBA’15, has been appointed senior vice president and head of Medical Affairs of ImmunoGen Inc., a company that develops the next generation of antibody-drug conjugates to be used to treat cancer. Huizinga comes to ImmunoGen Inc. from Rafael Holdings, where she served as the chief medical officer and head of Research and Development.

Cecilia Chung, MD, MPH’05, FE’12, has received the 2022 Leon I. Goldberg Early Investigator Award from the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Chung is a professor of Medicine at VUMC and the fourth investigator from VUMC to receive this distinguished award.



Karl Benedict Bezak, MD’10, is one of five new physicians to be awarded the 2021 New Physician Excellence in Clinical Care Award at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Presbyterian and Montefiore Hospitals.

Jennifer Rosenbluth, PhD’09, MD’11, and Daniel Mordes, PhD’08, MD’10, have moved from Boston to San Francisco with their two daughters and have started their new labs at University of California San Francisco. Jennifer joined the UCSF Cancer Center, and Daniel joined the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Kelly Homlar, MD, HS’11, FE’12, has been elected president of the Georgia Orthopaedic Society. Homlar is also an orthopaedic oncologist and associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Valerie Malyvanh Jansen, MD, PhD, HS’12, FE’16, has been promoted to chief medical officer of Elevation Oncology, Inc., which is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the development of medicine for patients with genomically defined cancers. Jansen is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.

Aaron Fritts, MD, FE’13, Christopher Beck, MD, HS’15, Michael Barraza, MD, A&S’07, HS’16, and Bryan Hartley, MD’10, HS’12, FE’16, are co-hosts for the “Black Table Podcast” and medical education platform. Since the start of the company in 2016, their mission is to help doctors access information about innovative medical procedures and foster an online collaborative network. Even though they live in different states, they are close friends and colleagues who work together to produce new podcast episodes weekly.

Celestine Wanjalla, MD, PhD, HS’13, FE’16, is one of the 17 recipients of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation 2021 Clinical Scientist Development Award. Wanjalla will receive $450,000 over the course of three years to advance her research of virus-specific immune responses to cardiovascular disease. She is an assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at VUMC, and serves as the Infectious Disease Society Representative for the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association Board.

Jordan J. Cohen, MD’14, and his wife, Kate Cohen, MD’14, BA’09, are working at the Tsehootsooi Medical Center on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Jordan is the interim chief of the Emergency Department, and Kate is a staff physician in OB-GYN.

Jennifer D. Rahn, MD’14, continues to practice as a rural family physician with Barnwell Family Medicine in Barnwell, South Carolina, and as of 2022 is chief medical officer for the parent organization, Low Country Health Care System, Inc., which serves Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, and Barnwell Counties in South Carolina.

Pooyan Rohani, MD’15, was featured in an article in Living Well Magazine in Dallas. Rohani works at McGuiness Dermatology & Plastic Surgery in Plano, Texas, and specializes in Mohs surgery.

Mary-Margaret Fill, MD, HS’15, MPH’21, was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 in Public Health by the de Beaumont Foundation. Fill serves as the Deputy State Epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health.



Elizabeth Perkins, MD, FE’21, Med Fac, has been named the director of Pediatric Neurotology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She recently finished her neurotology and lateral skull base surgery fellowship at VUMC.



Faculty News

James Crowe Jr., MD, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, and Michel Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, of The Rockefeller University, have been jointly awarded the 2022 Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine for “groundbreaking work” that enabled the use of human antibodies to treat COVID-19.

Michael DeBaun, MD, MS, MPH, professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, vice-chair of Clinical Research and Translational Research and J.C. Peterson, M.D. Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, has been elected president-elect of the American Pediatric Society. He will serve a three-year term as president-elect, president and immediate past term president. DeBaun, also director of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, will become president of the 1,800-member society in 2023.

Kathryn Edwards, MD, is a 2020 inductee into the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame. She holds the Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair in Pediatrics at VUSM and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Her work focuses on vaccine evaluation for the prevention of infectious diseases in adults and children, and she has also led multiple pivotal clinical vaccine trials through the years.

Wes Ely, MD, MPH, Grant W. Liddle Professor of Medicine, was honored with a Christopher Award for his book “Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster). The Christopher Awards celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit” and reflects the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Cathy Eng, MD, has been elected co-chair of the National Cancer Institute Gastrointestinal Cancer Steering Committee, which is responsible for supervising clinical trials. Eng is a professor of Medicine and holds the David H. Johnson Chair in Surgical and Medical Oncology at VUMC.

Sara Horst, MD, MPH, associate professor of Medicine, has been named the new medical director for Telehealth Ambulatory Services for VUMC.

Heidi Schaefer, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, has been named medical director of the Adult Solid Organ Transplant Center at VUMC.