Neilson Society

The Neilson Society was developed to provide support and oversight for the careers of junior PhD and MD tenure track faculty as they develop independent research careers and the skills necessary to navigate the course toward tenure and promotion.

About the Neilson Society

Named after former Department of Medicine Chair Eric Neilson, MD, the Neilson Society was designed to be a resource for junior faculty to help them to develop the skills necessary to navigate the course toward tenure and promotion. In the 2022-2023 academic year, nearly 70 tenure track faculty in 12 of the department’s 13 subspecialty divisions were Neilson Society members.

Society Activities

Members develop skills necessary to navigate the course toward tenure and promotion through a variety of activities. The society coordinates informal, small group Peer Mentoring Program meetings, as well as a more structured monthly Seminar Series throughout the year to discuss issues relevant to basic scientist and physician scientist career development. The Neilson Society also has a tri-annual lectureship series supported by funds from individual divisions and part of Medicine Grand Rounds. In addition, Neilson Society leadership are available to provide individual mentoring sessions and career counseling. Each division also has a dedicated Neilson Society Faculty Liaison who helps support onboarding and provides near-peer mentoring for junior faculty in their division. This mentoring support is intended to complement the mentoring faculty will obtain from the division chief, their research mentor(s), and other training programs. Activities are coordinated with division directors and a variety of VUMC and Vanderbilt University organizations and societies that are also involved in junior faculty development activities. This includes the Elliot Newman Society, which supports all physician-scientists and PhD scientists currently funded by Career Development Awards, as well as other formalized Faculty Development Programs for VUMC and the School of Medicine.

Membership Eligibility

All Assistant and Associate Professors in the Department of Medicine PhDs, MDs and MD/PhDs (or equivalent) on the tenure track, basic and physician scientists involved in basic, translation, epidemiological and clinical science research are automatically enrolled in the Neilson Society.

Initiatives of the Neilson Society include:

In 2022, the Neilson Society launched a Peer Mentoring Pod (PMP) program as a mechanism to create communities across divisions, research areas and training backgrounds for Assistant and Associate Professors on the tenure track in the Department of Medicine. With more than 70 tenure track faculty across 12 of the 13 divisions in the Department of Medicine, the majority of faculty many have little contact with other tenure track faculty outside of their divisions, despite their many overlapping issues, concerns, research interests and expertise. By enhancing interactions within this community, the PMPs provide career support for individual faculty and enhance research and collaborations across divisions.

Spearheaded by society leadership, members have been divided into four cohorts of seven to eight faculty that comprise clinical and basic scientists from different divisions. Each pod is led by a facilitator – Drs. Fiona Harrison, Mark de Caestecker and Annet Kirabo – with the goal of meeting at least once a month to discuss grants in progress, manuscripts in progress, or other topics and issues of concern to their members.

The Neilson Society Faculty Liaison Program (FLP) was developed to enhance junior faculty career development in the Department of Medicine. In this program, near peer mentoring is provided by faculty liaisons, mid-level faculty members in each division, chosen by their respective division chiefs.

Faculty liaisons are responsible for academic (not clinical) onboarding of all new faculty members in their division shortly after the appointment, and for serving as a “buddy” system for the first three years of their appointment to help answer any questions and issues that faculty frequently encounter early in their career. The FLP has developed guidelines and ideas for discussion for academic onboarding. Clinical onboarding is performed by the Schaffner Society representatives.

An important part of the onboarding will be to advise the new faculty member about forming a mentoring committee which is expected to meet within three months of their first appointment. The FLP has developed guidelines for faculty mentoring committees in the department, including the use of reporting templates to be used both by the faculty member and the committee chair to report out from each meeting.

Depending on the size of the division, the bandwidth of the FLP representative, and preferences of their division chiefs, this mentoring program may be extended to all tenure track faculty members in the division who have not yet been promoted, as well as instructors, postdoctoral fellows and research track assistant professors who are interested in changing to the tenure track pathway. Current Faculty Liaisons in the Department of Medicine include the following faculty members:

  • Melinda Aldrich, PhD, MPH, Division of Genetic Medicine
  • Holly Algood, PhD, Division of Infectious Diseases
  • Kerri Cavanaugh, MD, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension
  • Lori Coburn, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
  • Todd Edwards, PhD, Division of Epidemiology

This support is intended to complement the mentoring new faculty will obtain from their division chief, research mentor(s), and other training programs.

The Neilson Society hosts a monthly seminar series at noon the first Tuesday of each month, and a tri-annual Neilson Society Lectureship as part of the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds.

Monthly Seminar Series
Led by Neilson Society leadership, the monthly seminar series alternates between invited speakers on topics of interest to tenure track faculty and “Grants in Motion” workshops where members present new and revised applications for feedback. Open to Neilson Society members, the purpose of this series is to serve as a focal point to build community and interactions between tenure track faculty across the Department of Medicine’s 13 divisions. Unlike many of the other seminars, we encourage speakers and attendees to think of these seminars as an open forum for discussion and active participation to drive content, rather than passive listening.

Neilson Society Lectureships
In addition to the monthly seminar series, the Neilson Society hosts a tri-annual lectureship series as part of Medicine Grand Rounds. Nominations for this opportunity are solicited three times a year from each division director, and a short list is selected by the Neilson Society Steering Committee. Final nominations and thematic topics are selected by the Steering Committee, and approved by the Department Chair. Two speakers, from different divisions, are invited to give 25-minute talks on broadly related topics that will be of general interest to a Medicine Grand Rounds audience such as inflammation and disease, metabolism, drug discovery, etc. Our focus for selecting speakers is based on the excellence of the science and impact of their science, not the seniority of the candidate, nor how established the work is in the scientific literature.

Neilson Society members may access past seminar series on the Department of Medicine SharePoint site here.

For more information on the Neilson Society, please email Carole Hathaway

Steering Committee

Ravi Shah, MD

Director, Neilson Society
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Julie Bastarache, MD

Assistant Vice President for Clinical & Translational Scientist Development, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Henrique Serezani, PhD

Associate Vice Chair for Research
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases

Patrick Hu, MD, PhD

Director, Harrison Society
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Hematology and Oncology

John Koethe, MD, MSCI

Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases

Christopher Williams, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Division of Gastroenterolog, Hepatology and Nutrition