Vanderbilt Clinical Oncology Research Career Development Program

The Vanderbilt Clinical Oncology Research Career Development Program (VCORCDP) is a two-to-three-year training program for physicians interested in a career in clinical oncology research. The VCORCDP is funded through the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Paul Calabresi K12 Training Grant Mechanism

The goal of the VCORCDP is to train and support the career development of senior fellows and junior faculty to become successful clinical and translational investigators in oncology. The primary components of VCORCDP are: 

  • Completion of mentored clinical research in oncology 
  • Didactic work leading to an advanced degree or equivalent educational experience
  • Career coaching in the conduct of robust, impactful, and collaborative science that advances the clinical care of patients with cancer 

Senior Fellows in training or junior faculty (Instructors or Assistant Professors) interested in developing careers in clinical cancer research are eligible for Vanderbilt Clinical Oncology Research Career Development Program (VCORCDP). All clinicians must have completed their residency.  

Potential scholars for the VCORCDP may come from any program within Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Applications from outside the institution are encouraged, such as applicants from Meharry Medical College (MMC), but the applicant must hold an appointment (such as an adjunct) within one of the VUMC departments prior to entering the VCORCDP.  

The majority of VCORCDP scholars come from core clinical oncology disciplines: 

  • Medical Oncology 
  • Pediatric Oncology 
  • Surgical Oncology 
  • Radiation Oncology 

However, about 20% of applicants in the past 15 years have come from outside the classical clinical oncology disciplines, such as Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, Dermatology, Epidemiology, Cancer Biology, Urology, Pulmonary Medicine, and Neurology.  

In addition, senior fellows or junior faculty from other non-oncology medical and surgical subspecialties (such as Geriatrics, Gastroenterology, Gynecology, Cardiology, and Otolaryngology) are potentially eligible for the VCORCDP, but the applicant’s proposed research must be directly related to cancer.  

Research projects must fulfill the definition of patient-oriented research: “research conducted with human subjects (or material from human origin) for which an investigator directly interacts with human subjects.” 

The Internal Advisory Committee selects applicants for support based on: 

  1. The applicant's past educational and training history 
  2. Their career goals as noted in the submitted personal statement 
  3. Their dedication to a research career in clinical oncology, which will be based on their past record of involvement, their personal statement, and letters from references 
  4. The letter of recommendation by the trainee’s proposed mentor 
  5. The Internal Advisory Committee’s assessment of the potential benefit for career development for each applicant. 

Appointees will be designated Paul Calabresi Scholars. The Committee will also make efforts to recruit candidates from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds. 

All scholars are selected based on a proposed research plan that includes:

  • A VCORCDP mentor who is an actively practicing physician participating in patient-oriented cancer research  

- or -

  • A dyad mentorship in which at least one mentor is a clinical investigator and the other a basic or translational science investigator. 

The proposed research project for the scholar must be patient-oriented and involve direct patient assessment, measurements on patient-derived samples, and/or the use of investigational therapeutic or diagnostic techniques.  

Scholars are expected to complete the following VCORCDP core requirements during their time in the program, including: 

  1. Complete Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training and to recognize and document RCR training occurring throughout the period of training 
  2. Receive instruction in Methods of Enhancing Reproducibility 
  3. Publish at minimum one peer-reviewed manuscript during the period of training 
  4. Apply for at least one external source of funding during annually

Scholars and mentors must provide program evaluation in the form of: 

  1. An annual structured written progress report, including a report of the mentor and mentoring committees, collected via a secure REDCap survey tool 
  2. An annual Individual Development Plan (IDP), also collected via REDCap survey, with signoff by one or both program directors 
  3. Participation in the annual retreat, including presentation of future direction in a chalk talk-style format

At the heart of VCORCDP is the mentored research project, and the availability of committed, experienced faculty mentors remains a strength of the program. Our faculty mentors represent diverse disciplines of oncology and their expertise spans the three major domains of research in which our scholars conduct their training and investigations:  

  • Clinical Trials and Drug Development 
  • Translational Cancer Biology 
  • Cancer Health Outcomes and Epidemiology 

Mentors and areas of expertise:

Clinical Trials and Drug Development

Vandana G. Abramson, MD
Jordan D. Berlin, MD
Marta A. Crispens, MD
Cathy Eng, MD
Michael K. Gibson, MD, PhD
Laura Goff, MD, MSCI
Douglas B. Johnson, MD, MSCI
Christine Lovly, MD, PhD
Brian I. Rini, MD
Michael R. Savona, MD

Translational Cancer Biology

Justin M. Balko, PharmD, PhD 
David K. Cortez, PhD 
Nancy J. Cox,PhD 
Michael L. Freeman, PhD 
James R. Goldenring, MD, PhD 
Scott W. Hiebert, PhD
Paula J. Hurley, PhD
Ian Macara, PhD
Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD 
Jennifer A. Pietenpol, PhD 
Jeffrey Rathmell, PhD 
W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD 
Ann Richmond, PhD 
William P. Tansey, PhD 
Christopher S. Williams, MD, PhD 
Sandra Zinkel, MD, PhD 

Cancer Outcomes and Epidemiology

Melinda Aldrich, PhD 
Daniel A. Barocas,MD, MPH 
Debra Friedman, MD, MS 
John Graves, PhD 
Tuya Pal, MD 
David Penson, MD, MPH 
Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD, MPH 
Martha Shrubsole, PhD 
Georgia Wiesner, MD, MS 
Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI 
Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH

The major function of the VCORCDP Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) is to provide continuous oversight and advice regarding program operations. The IAC is chaired by program co-director, Dr. Debra Friedman, MD, MS, of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Division of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology.  

Specifically, the IAC: 

  • Screens and selects candidates for program participation 
  • Assists in the mentor selection process 
  • Reviews and approves each scholar’s cancer research career development plan 
  • Evaluates each scholar’s progress every six months to make necessary improvements and/or to recommend termination 
  • Evaluates the participation and success of faculty mentors 
  • Promotes the transition of scholars to extramural mechanisms of support and independence 
  • Evaluates the overall effectiveness of the program in terms of the quality and availability of applicants, the effectiveness of mentors, the progress of scholars, the success of scholars following completion of the career development program, and the success of recruitment strategies in identifying qualified applicants with a focus on URM. 

The IAC meets every six months to review program progress and to evaluate applicants and scholars. The IAC is comprised of investigators from each subspecialty of oncology from which most scholars apply. The Committee has also been constituted to reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of leadership in cancer research at Vanderbilt. All IAC members are experienced investigators who have a record of mentoring and research productivity as well as administrative leadership.

IAC Member/CredentialsDepartment/Division
Ronald Alvarez, MDDepartment of Gynecologic Oncology
David Barocas, MD, MSDepartment of Urology 
Michael DeBaun, MD, MSDivision of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology
Michael Freeman, PhDDepartment of Radiation Oncology
Scott Hiebert, PhDDepartment of Biochemistry
Vicki Keedy, MD, MSCIDivision of Hematology & Oncology
Carrie L. Kitko, MDDivision of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology
Kelvin Moses, MD, PhDDepartment of Urology
Tuya Pal, MD, MSDivision of Genetic Medicine
Ben Ho Park, MD, PhDDivision of Hematology & Oncology
David Penson, MD, MPHDepartment of Urology
W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhDDivision of Hematology & Oncology
Ann Richmond, PhDDepartment of Cancer Biology
Christopher Williams, MD, PhDDivision of Gastroenterology
Karen Winkfield, MD, PhDDepartment of Radiation Oncology

The major function of the VCORCDP External Advisory Committee (EAC) is to provide input into the scientific direction of program, ensure the program is meeting national workforce needs, and monitor progress, accomplishments, and trajectory to further programmatic advancement. These EAC faculty are all oncology physician-scientists, leaders in oncology, and directors or associate directors of oncology K12 programs at their institutions.

EAC Member/CredentialsDivision/Institution
Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhDMedical Oncology, Georgetown University 
Irwin Bernstein, MD    Pediatric Oncology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Susan Blaney, MD   Pediatric Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine
Ramaswamy Govindan, MDMedical Oncology, Washington University
Michelle Heil, BSSenior Manager, Hospital Systems, American Cancer Society
Funmi Olopade, MD Medical Oncology, University of Chicago

Since the inception of the grant in 2001, 89% (48/54) of Vanderbilt Clinical Oncology Research Career Development Program graduates have remained in academia and/or clinical research positions and 85% (46/54) have peer-reviewed grant support, including clinical trials.  

Since 2001, our scholars have published 1,764 manuscripts within 5 years of their appointment to the VCORCDP. They are contributing significantly to the design and conduct of high-impact clinical research that is advancing the field of oncology and improving outcomes for cancer patients.  

Name/Credentials Start YearDivisionCurrent Position
Briana Smith, MD2022Pediatric OncologyAssistant Professor, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Sarah Nunnery, MD, MSCI2022Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Michael Topf, MD2022OtolaryngologyAssistant Professor, Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Kerry Schaffer, MD, MSCI2022Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Thatcher Heumann, MD, MPH2022Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Saara Kaviany, DO2020-21Pediatric OncologyInstructor, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Sonya Reid, MD, MPH2020-21Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Rajiv Agarwal, MD, MSCI2019Medical Oncology

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC

Kathryn Beckermann, MD, PhD2019Medical OncologyInstructor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Joshua Donaldson, MD, PhD2019Medical OncologyInstructor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Vivian Weiss, MD, PhD2019Pathology, Microbiology & ImmunologyAssistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, VUMCA Review of Low-Dose Radiotherapy for Osteoarthritis 
Satya Das, MD, MSCI    2018Medical OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Peter Hsu, MD, MPH2018Pediatric Oncology

Children's Hospital of Boston and Dana Farer Cancer institute

Wade T. Iams, MD, MSCI2018Medical OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine,  Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Austin Kirschner, MD, PhD2018Radiation OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine,  Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Rachael R. Schulte, MD, MSCI2018Pediatric OncologyAssistant Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Indiana University School of Medicine
Scott Haake, MD, PhD  

2017Medical OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Myrick (Ricky) Shinall, Jr., MD, PhD  2017SurgeryAssistant Professor, Division of General Surgery, VUMC
Krystle Kuhs, PhD, MPH2017EpidemiologyAssociate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Kentucky & co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program, Markey Cancer Center, Lexington, KY
Valerie Jansen, MD, PhD2016Medical OncologySenior Medical Director, Mersana Therapeutics, Boston 
Eric Tkaczyk, MD, PhD2016DermatologyAssistant Professor of Dermatology & Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, VUMC
Kelvin Moses, MD, PhD2015Urologic SurgeryAssociate Professor, Department of Urology & Fellowship Director of the Urologic Oncology Fellowship, Division of Urologic Oncology, VUMC
Clinton Carroll, MD, MSCI     2014Pediatric OncologyPediatric Hematologic/Oncologist, TriStar Medical Group Children's Specialists, Nashville

Stephen (Wes) Clark, MD,  PhD  2014Neurologic Surgery Assistant Professor, Division of Neuro-Oncology, Department of Neurology, VUMC
Marco Davilla, MD, PhD2014Medical OncologyAssociate Member in Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy, Moffitt Cancer Center
P. Brent Ferrell, Jr., MD2014Medical OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC

Ariella Hanker, PhD2014Cancer BiologyAssistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Christy Osgood, MD2014Pediatric OncologyMedical Officer, U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration 
Kamran Idrees, MD, MSCI, MMHC2013Surgical OncologyAssociate Professor of Surgery, Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery, Director, Pancreas and GI Surgical Oncology, and Director, Peritoneal Surface Malignancy/HIPEC Program, VUMC

Douglas Johnson, MD, MSCI2013Medical OncologyAssociate Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine
Shanna Arnold, PhD, MSCI2012PathologyLead Oncology Investigator, Outcomes Research Program, Sarah Cannon Research Institute
Kristen Ciombor, MD, MSCI2012Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Division of Neuro-Oncology, Department of Neurology, VUMC
Adam Esbenshade, MD, MSCI  2012Pediatric OncologyAssociate Professor, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Christine Lovly MD2012Medical OncologyCo-leader, Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Research Program & Ingram Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Laura McGirt, MD, MSCI2012Dermatology Director of Dermatologic Oncology, Levine Cancer Institute
Eric Liu, MD, MSCI2011Surgical Oncology Neuroendocrine Specialist and Surgeon, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, Denver
Philip Lammers,MD, MSCI2011Medical Oncology Medical Director of Clinical Oncology Research, Baptist Cancer Center, Memphis, & Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor, VUMC
Kirk (Pat) KeeganMD, MPH2011UrologyAssistant Professor, Department of Urology & Chief, Urology Section of Nashville VA Division of Urologic Oncology, VUMC
Anna Vilgelm, MD, PhD2011Cancer BiologyAssistant Professor, Translational Therapeutics, Ohio State University School of Medicine
Leora Horn, MD, MSc2009Medical OncologyIngram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Assistant Director of Educator Development Program & Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology Program, VUMC
Joshua Mondschein, MD, MSCI    2009Radiation OncologyRadiation Oncologist,Tennessee Oncology, Franklin, TN
Kenneth Niermann, MD, MSCI2008Radiation OncologyAssistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, VUMC
Nishitha Reddy, MD, MSCI2008Medical OncologyAssistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, VUMC
Vicki Keedy, MD, MSCI2007Medical OncologyAssociate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, Clinical Director of Sarcoma & Medical Director of Clinical Trials office, VUMC
Stephen Strickland, MD, MSCI2007Medical OncologyAssistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology & Service Line Chief of Heme Malignancies, VUMC
Pinki Prasad, MD, MPH2007Pediatric Oncology

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Louisiana State University Health: New Orleans

Brian Engelhardt, MD, MSCI2006Medical OncologyAssociate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, VUMC
Alex Parikh, MD, MPH2006Surgical Oncology

Robert and Penny Barnhill Distinguished Professor of Oncology, Chief of Division of Surgical Oncology & Director of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine

Laura Williams Goff, MD, MSCI2006Medical OncologyExecutive Medical Director of the VICC Cancer Patient Center, VUMC
Igor Puzanov, MD, MSCI2004Medical OncologyClinical Professor of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo & Professor & Director of Early Phase Clinical Trials Program, Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Catherine Jones, MD, MSCI    2004Medical Oncology  Medical Oncologist, Mercy Medical Center, Senora, CA
Sunil Geevarghese, MD, MSCI2004Surgical OncologyProgram Director of Vanderbilt ASTS Transplant Surgery Fellowship & Associate Professor of Surgery, Radiology and Radiological Sciences, VUMC
Madan Jagasia, MD2004Medical OncologySenior Vice President Medical Affairs, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc., San Carlos, CA  
Jennifer Domm, MD, MSCI2004Pediatric OncologyPediatric Hematologist/Oncologist & Medical Director, TriStar Medical Group Children's Specialists & Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics, The Children's Hospital at TriStar Centennial
Charles Leys, MD, MSCI2003Surgical Oncology

Associate Professor of Surgery, Chief of Division of Pediatric Surgery and Dr. James and Sharon Gutenberger Family Pediatric Surgery Chair, University of Wisconsin

Tanyanika Phillips, MD, MPH2002Geriatric Oncology

Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, City of Hope Cancer Center, Lancaster, CA

Carl Schmidt, MD, MSCI2002Surgical Oncology

Professor and Chief of Surgical Oncology, West Virginia University

Richard HO, MD, MSCI2001Pediatric OncologyAssociate Professor of Pediatrics, VUMC
Julie Means-Powell, MD, MSCI2001Medical OncologyMedical Oncologist, Tennessee Oncology, Nashville
Stacy Moulder, MD, MSCI2001Medical Oncology

Professor, Department of Breast Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Thank you for your interest in the VCORCDP program. The next deadline for submitting an application is March 1, 2024. 

Applications should include: 

  • Three-to-five-page research proposal 
  • Letter from the potential mentors (two mentors are recommended, one of which must be a member of the training grant) agreeing to mentor the applicant and commenting on the applicant’s potential and the likelihood of success of the research project 
  • Curriculum vitae 
  • Letter from the applicant’s department chair or division director indicating support, including guarantee of protected time 
  • Personal statement from the applicant indicating career goals, planned didactic coursework, and commitment to oncology research 

Please contact Kimryn Rathmell or Deb Friedman with questions about the application process or the training program. 

Interested applicants should e-mail Lucy Shaffer at  prior to submitting an application. Send completed applications to her by March 1, 2024. 

Interested applicants can set up a meeting with VCORCDP program leaders Drs. Friedman, Hurley and/or Rathmell  to review details of the program and application process. 

Program Leadership

Debra Friedman, MD

Professor of Pediatrics
Co-Director, VCORCDP

Paula Hurley, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine
Co-Director, VCORCDP