W. Kimryn Rathmell M.D., Ph.D.
W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD,
Chair, Department of Medicine

Our Mission

The overarching goal of the Department of Medicine is to improve human health through basic biomedical research and clinical investigation, exceptional patient care and personalized medicine, and the training of tomorrow’s leaders in internal medicine. We believe that the strongest foundation for impacting human health is compassionate care coupled with cutting-edge scientific research. We accomplish this by fostering an environment of interdisciplinary collaboration and collegiality, personal and professional responsibility, social and intellectual diversity, and dedication to the wellbeing of the patients we serve and the community we call home.


Research in the Department encompasses a broad range of investigations from discovery science on the molecular basis of disease and organ/systems biology to the development of diagnostic tools and novel therapies to large clinical trials, customized patient care, community-based public health and population studies, and initiatives in global health. Exciting opportunities exist at the interface of laboratory research and clinical investigation, and we are particularly focused on enhancing translational – “bench to bedside and back” – research that enables us to apply fundamental discoveries to better quality patient care and to conduct fundamental research informed by clinical observations. The collaborative culture in the Department and throughout Vanderbilt encourages even our most highly specialized researchers to work as part of multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex biomedical problems. As of NIH FY16 the Department ranked 2nd among departments of medicine in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and our diverse research portfolio was supported by more than $161 million in NIH funding. To read about some of the latest scientific accomplishments of Department faculty and other research news, see Recent Discoveries and Kudos.

Patient Care

Vanderbilt faculty and trainees served over 690,000 outpatients and admitted more than 20,000 patients in the last year.

We are offering patients novel treatments such as gene-directed chemotherapy for cancer and heart, lung, kidney, and liver transplants. Our clinical work and research studies are designed to improve human health through an increasingly personalized approach, and the Department’s Quality Council is implementing new strategies aimed at reducing fragmentation of care and improving communication among healthcare professionals. Improved patient outcomes reflect the quality of our systems, outstanding teamwork, and effective engagement with patients, caregivers, and our community. While growth in programs such as transplant, heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, and personalized cancer therapy ensures that our patients have access to cutting-edge therapies, the implementation of additional programs to promote smoking cessation, lifestyle changes, and medication adherence in chronic diseases such as HIV, hypertension, and diabetes is improving health throughout the region.


We are committed to training the next generation of leaders in internal medicine and continue to attract outstanding students, residents, and fellows.

The 864 faculty members in the Department provide an exceptional pool of scientists, clinicians, and potential mentors whose expertise benefits trainees at all levels. Vanderbilt medical students and residents have always been known for excellence in patient care, and our residents match in the finest fellowship programs in the country. We are currently training 165 residents in our two primary hospitals: Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In July of 2017 we are increasing the size of our incoming class of categorical interns to 48. These incoming interns come from 36 medical schools and include 23 inductees into AOA. Eleven percent of our residents come from underrepresented minority groups. Our Chief Residents have led the way in overseeing improvements to our residency program and are publishing the early outcomes of their work. Vanderbilt's 42 NIH training grants enable support for over 350 fellows and graduate students.

The Vanderbilt School of Medicine has invested heavily in the development of our physician-scholars.

NIH funding for career development has tripled over the past 10 years, and seventy percent of Vanderbilt faculty with career development awards obtain independent funding. Our residents, fellows, and junior faculty can participate in numerous professional development programs at Vanderbilt such as the graduate certificate program in Global Health, the Master of Public Health, the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation, the Master of Health Professions Education, a Health Care Master of Business Administration, and many PhD programs in the molecular sciences, genetics, epidemiology, and other biomedical disciplines. The Physician-Scientist Training Program in the Department of Medicine, the Harrison Society, promotes a culture of curiosity and discovery among all residents and provides a forum for discussion and intellectual exchange.

The Future

We are constantly adapting as we rise to meet new challenges.

Economic forces such as changes to reimbursement for healthcare and pressures on federal research funding compel us to remain innovative in our efforts to maintain excellence while continuing to reshape healthcare paradigms through discovery and translation. We have responded by strategically recruiting the best people, by diversifying our research funding portfolio, by investing in leadership development for our faculty and trainees, and by honing our systems.

Our physicians are delivering better quality care more efficiently than ever before.

We are enhancing the quality, visibility, and impact of our research, and our training programs are among the best in the nation. We continue to benefit from the creative and energetic leadership of our Vice Chairs and Division Directors, as well as affiliations with our partners throughout the School of Medicine, the University, and the city of Nashville. With our commitment to excellence, our collaborative culture, and our innovative spirit, the Department of Medicine will continue to set standards for improving human health in our local community, with our peer institutions nationally, and through our global health efforts, worldwide.