Division of Rheumatology and Immunology


Impactful research that informs excellent patient care

The division’s research mission builds on its clinical practice, capitalizing on VUMC’s diverse patient population and the innovative work of exceptional basic and translational scientists. Supported by nearly $3 million in NIH funding, as well as by significant funding through Veterans Affairs and foundation grants, faculty are actively engaged in the research of systemic autoimmune diseases and musculoskeletal disorders through the work of collaborative research centers and labs.

As a result of their research, faculty are well published with manuscripts appearing in leading journals such as Nature Communications, the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Annals of Internal Medicine.

The division works closely with the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (VI4) and the Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology (VCI). Our investigators have access to tremendous core laboratories to increase our research efficiency. In addition to our fundamental and translational immunology, we have made use of unique resources at Vanderbilt including BioVU, one of the largest DNA biobanks in the world, linked to clinical data through our de-identified mirror image of the electronic health record.

Disease-specific cohorts with linked biospecimens for patients with systemic sclerosis, inflammatory myositis, vasculitis and other systemic autoimmune inflammatory diseases are available to stimulate research in these complex systemic diseases.

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial is a regulated, systematic way to answer a question related to health care. The results can range from finding a better way to detect or control a disease or disorder to prevention and cure. Also called medical research or research studies, clinical trials are used to determine the safety and effectiveness of new drugs or treatments for the people who may need them. 

Patient volunteers are monitored for side effects by closely supervised and ethically designed trials. As with any medical intervention, there are potential risks that participants need to know before deciding to enroll in a clinical trial. Participation may require visits to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and/or its affiliates. Any questions you may have about the study will be answered before you participate. 

Volunteers are needed in all areas of clinical research, from trials in healthy volunteers to disease-specific studies. Through their involvement, volunteers have the opportunity to participate in clinical research that may bring about advances in science and health care.  Our group was among the first to show that coronary atherosclerosis was increased in patients with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Faculty have studied the role of traditional and non-traditional risk factors and biomarkers for atherosclerosis in patients with RA and SLE.

Ongoing studies include the evaluation of the role of salt on inflammation, and the role of micro-RNAs in RA susceptibility and treatment response. This research is funded by the NIH and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

For information about research studies in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, please call (615) 322-4746. 

Our faculty participate in the annual American College of Rheumatology (ACR) conference. The ACR conference brings together researchers in rheumatology and immunology, along with industry leaders, to discuss the emerging science behind the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of rheumatic diseases.  

In the table below, we highlight the achievements of our faculty by showcasing posters and oral presentations accepted for presentation at past ACR conferences.  


Comorbidity Clusters in Ankylosing Spondylitis and their Association with Disease Activity and Functional Impairment: data from the PSOAS cohort 

Paras Karmacharya, MD, MSc 
Responsiveness and Minimal Clinically Important Difference in Patient-Reported Outcome Measures among Patients with Psoriatic Arthritis 
Paras Karmacharya, MD, MSc 
Multimorbidity in Psoriasis as a Risk Factor for Psoriatic Arthritis: A Population-Based Study 
Paras Karmacharya, MD, MSc 
"Developing Electronic Health Record Algorithms That Accurately Identify Patients with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis" April Barnado, MD, MSCI 
and Anna Patrick, MD, PhD 

"Natural Language Processing to Identify Lupus Nephritis Phenotype in Electronic Health Records"
April Barnado, MD, PhD 
"Class V Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Nephritis Patients Are Undertreated and Face Similar Adverse Renal Outcomes as Class III/IV Patients" April Barnado, MD, MSCI 
and Alex Camai 

"Rarity of Pneumocystis Jirovecii Pneumonia in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Using a Real-world, Electronic Health Record" 

April Barnado, MD, MSCI 
and Ben Boone, MD

"Increased Adverse Maternal Postpartum Outcomes in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Pregnancies Compared to Controls" 

April Barnado, MD, MSCI, Janie Hubbard, Sarah Green, and Sarah Osmundson, MD 
"Predicted Expression of Genes Involved in the Thiopurine Metabolic Pathway Is Associated with Azathioprine Discontinuation Due to Bone Marrow Toxicity" 

Cecilia Chung, MD, MPH, Alyson Dickson, Prathima Anandi, Tyler Reese, MD, Vivian Kawai, MD, and C. Michael Stein, MD 

"TPMT and NUDT15 Genotype and Azathioprine Myelotoxicity in Patients with Inflammatory Conditions: Results from Real-World Clinical Practice"

Cecilia Chung, MD, MPH, Alyson Dickson, Prathima Anandi, Tyler Reese, MD,  and Vivian Kawai, MD 
"Three Distinct Transcriptional Profiles of Monocytes Correlate with Disease Activity in SSc Patients" 

Tracy Frech, MD, MSc

"ACCORD: A Novel Rheumatology Transition Clinic Structure for Adolescent and Young Adult Patients with Childhood Onset Rheumatic Disease" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Item Development for the Assessment of Systemic Sclerosis-associated Raynaud’s Phenomenon (ASRAP) Questionnaire" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Item Reduction for the Assessment of Systemic Sclerosis-associated RAynaud’s Phenomenon (ASRAP) Questionnaire Using Data from the International Multicentre ASRAP Validation Study" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Presence of Anti-RNA Polymerase 3 Antibody in Systemic Sclerosis, Renal Disease, Malignancy and ILD from a Single Academic Center Cohort" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Serum Interferon Score Is a Biomarker of Active Disease in Patients with Early Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis Enrolled in the Prospective Registry of Early Systemic Sclerosis (PRESS) Cohort" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Background Mycophenolate (MMF) Treatment Is Associated with Improved Outcomes in a Phase 3 Trial of Lenabasum in Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis (dcSSc)" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Preliminary Assessment of Internal Reliability and Construct Validity of Long and Short-form Assessment of Systemic Sclerosis-associated RAynaud’s Phenomenon (ASRAP) Questionnaires" Tracy Frech, MD, MSc 
"Outcomes and Disease Characteristics in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors for Malignancy at a Single Academic Institution" Megan Hansen, MD 

"Epidemiology of Comorbidities in an Incident Psoriasis 
Cohort: A Population-Based Study" 

Paras Karmacharya, MD, MSc 

"All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Spondyloarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" Paras Karmacharya, MD, MSc 
"Description of an Internet-Based Cohort with a Self-Reported Diagnosis of Polyarteritis Nodosa" 

Jason Springer, MD, MSc 

"Pharmacological Response of Rituximab Based on Dose Intensity in Maintenance Therapy of ANCA-Associated Vasculitis" Jason Springer, MD, MSc 
"High-Dimensional Analysis Reveals Abnormal B Cell Subsets Associated with Specific Changes to Circulating T and Myeloid Cell Populations in Patients with Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathies"Erin Wilfong, MD, PhD,  Katherine Vowell, PhD, Leslie Crofford, MD, and Rachel Bonami, PhD 
"Jo-1-Binding and Clonally-Expanded Memory B Cells Express Germline and Somatically-Mutated B Cell Receptors in Anti-tRNA Synthetase Syndrome Patients" Erin Wilfong, MD, PhD Alberto Cisneros, PhD, Jennifer Young-Glazer, MD, MSCI, Leslie Crofford, MD, and Rachel Bonami, PhD

Research Centers and Labs

Learn more about our division's research centers and labs below.

Clinical Trials

Explore NIH- and VA-funded clinical trials currently being led by members in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology.


Read the latest research published in leading journal by Rheumatology and Immunology faculty.