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About the Consortium

The VECD Consortium comprises four outstanding institutions – Vanderbilt (V), Emory (E), Cornell (C), and Duke (D) – with decades-long global partnerships with premier LMIC research institutions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Collectively, VECDor’s well-funded research portfolio encompasses diverse and complementary topics in all relevant communicable and non-communicable diseases. VECDor institutions and faculty have a long history of global engagement, investigative accomplishment, and mentoring excellence, as demonstrated by high-impact global health discoveries by VECD trainees.

The VECD international partners are themselves outstanding research institutions based in low- and middle-income countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zambia). All sites conduct NIH-supported research and training and have published extensively in major journals.

Program Leadership:



Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD was named the inaugural Amos Christie Chair in Global Health and the Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) in 2005. His primary appointment as Professor of Pediatrics (boarded) is complemented by joint appointments in Preventive Medicine (boarded), Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. His focus on clinical and public health research and training in LMICs provides him with broad working experience encompassing diverse populations with health issues related to tropical and infectious disease and public health on a global scale. Dr. Vermund’s current NIH- and CDC-funded clinical research and public health service programs open opportunities for U.S. trainees upon their return home. Dr. Vermund also has a substantial network of international collaborators comprised of former grantees (from his time working at the NIH), students, and fellows, as well as AITRP, IMCHRT, FICRS, and ICOHRTA trainees. He has published more than 360 articles and chapters, two-thirds of which were with his American and international student trainees.

Douglas C. Heimburger, MD, MS is a Professor of Medicine and the Associate Director for Education and Training at VIGH. From 1982 to 2009, Dr. Heimburger served in the Departments of Nutrition Sciences and Medicine at UAB, where his titles included Associate Director of the UAB Sparkman Center for Global Health; Senior Scientist in the UAB Clinical Nutrition Research Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Center for AIDS Research; and Director of the NIH-funded Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program (CPCTP) and the Clinical Nutrition Fellowship Program. Dr. Heimburger moved to VIGH in 2009 to focus on global health education and international research. With Dr. Vermund, he led the FICRS-F Support Center at Vanderbilt and shared senior faculty responsibility for Vanderbilt’s AITRP with Dr. Vermund and Benjamin Chi (CIDRZ). Dr. Heimburger has served on the Fogarty Advisory Board, Initial Review Group Subcommittee G for the NCI, and the U.S. FDA Food Advisory Committee, and has developed test materials for the US Medical Licensing Examination.

Xiao Ou Shu, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology within the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health.  Dr. Shu is a renowned chronic disease research investigator who has more than $2.5 M per year in grant funds as the PI for Shanghai-based research in Breast Cancer Survival: Lifestyle and Genetic Determinants; Cohort Study of Cancer-Inhibitory Dietary Factors in Men; and Soyfood, Gene Polymorphisms & Endometrial Cancer Risk. She is also PI of the Vanderbilt-Shanghai Chronic Disease Research Training Program (FIC D43) and served as a FICRS-F site director and mentor.  Her work focuses on nutritional and genetic risk factors for cancer, as well as risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases.





K.M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc, MBA, is the Ruth and OC Hubert Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health, and a Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine at Emory University. As “Developed Country Partner PI” for the NHLBI Center of Excellence in the Public Health Foundation of India, Dr. Narayan works closely with Dr. Dorairaj Prabhakaran, the PI in New Delhi. Dr. Narayan co-directs the Global Diabetes Research Center (GDRC) in Chennai, India, a collaboration between Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF), along with MDRF’s Founder and President, Dr. V. Mohan. Dr. Narayan is also the co-PI of a D43 grant for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Carlos del Rio, MD, is the Hubert Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the  Emory University School of Medicine. He is also the Co-Director for Clinical Science and International Research of the Emory CFAR. Dr. del Rio’s past leadership roles include Executive Director of the National AIDS Council of Mexico and member of the Board of the International AIDS Society USA. Dr. del Rio is the PI of the Emory Fogarty AITRP. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committees of the Latin American AIDS Initiative and the Monitoring of the AIDS Pandemic Network, an Associate Editor for both AIDS Clinical Care and AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, and an editorial board member of the Journal of AIDS and Global Public Health.

Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD,  is the Director of the Emory T32 Doctoral program in Nutrition and Health Sciences and serves as an alternate VECD Committee Member. She has been an active member in the program since 1996, and served as recruiter and member of the NHS Executive Committee before becoming Program Director in 2007. She works closely with Dr. Reynaldo Martorell (PI) in the recruitment and selection of trainees and mentoring and facilitating training opportunities for them. Since joining Emory, Dr. Ramakrishnan has mentored numerous pre-doctoral trainees at the masters and doctoral trainees as well as post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.





Warren D. Johnson, Jr., MD is the B.H. Kean Professor of Tropical Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC), Professor of Medicine and Clinical Public Health, and Director of the Center for Global Health. Dr. Johnson’s research ranges from clinical-epidemiological studies of AIDS, tuberculosis and leishmaniasis to research on the cellular immune response to protozoa (toxoplasma, leishmania). He has directed the Cornell research and training programs in Brazil since 1969 and in Haiti since 1980. Dr. Johnson is also Coordinator of the Weill-Cornell-Bugando Training Program in Mwanza, Tanzania. He was elected to the Brazilian National Academy of Science (2003) and has received a NIAID MERIT award for studies of the Natural History of HIV Infection in Haiti. He is the director of an NIH Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases Training Program T32 grant in its 13th year and the Cornell Fogarty AITRP (24th year). Dr. Johnson co-directs the Tropical Medicine Research Center awarded to the Federal U. of Bahia, Salvador.

Daniel Fitzgerald, MD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at WCMC and Co-Director of the Center for Global Health. He chairs the Cornell International Education Committee that oversees international medical student electives. His major research activities are based in Haiti and focus on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and AIDS related cervical cancer. Dr. Fitzgerald has conducted 3 major clinical trials in Haiti during the past 5 years. US and Haitian trainees have worked on all 3 trials and are co-authors on the resulting NEJM and other publications. He serves as PI of an R01 grant on cervical cancer in Haiti and is co-director of a Fogarty ICHORTA and HIV Unit in Haiti. Other interests include improving informed consent and empirical studies to inform ethical guidelines for the conduct of clinical research in resource-poor countries. With Drs. Pape and Warren, Dr. Fitzgerald has spearheaded a global health research-training program in Haiti highly suitable for mentoring U.S and international physician-scientists with a focus on HIV, tuberculosis, nutrition, and related conditions.

Jean Wm. Pape, MD, serves as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at WCMC, and lives full time in Haiti where he directs GHESKIO for the 30th year.  A native of Haiti, Dr. Pape has published among the highest impact articles on the epidemic in Haiti, the relationship of TB and HIV, the utility of TB treatment, advantages of early antiretroviral therapy and a myriad of other high impact contributions.




Nathan Thielman, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine, Pathology, and Global Health, based in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Duke U. Medical Center, and is Director of Duke’s Global Health Residency/ Fellowship Pathway. He serves as the US-based Director of Training for the Duke AITRP, is Clinical Site Leader for Duke’s ACTG and conducts research within the Center for AIDS Research and the Center for Health Inequalities and Policy Research. Dr. Thielman’s international research focuses on identifying and addressing barriers to HIV testing in Tanzania and the critical social, psychological and economic determinants of health outcomes among persons living with HIV. He has served on both the NIAID Advisory Council and its NIAID AIDS Research Advisory Committee.

Eric J. Velazquez, MD is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Duke U. Medical Center, Director of Duke Echocardiography Laboratories and Duke’s Cardiac Diagnostic Unit, and Associate Director of Duke Heart Center.  Dr. Velazquez is a faculty member of the Duke Clinic Research Institute (DCRI) and has a long history of leadership at the DCRI in Global Clinical Trial Operations for device and pharmaceutical industry sponsors as well as with NIH.  As “Developed Country Partner PI” for the NHLBI Center of Excellence in Eldoret, Kenya, Dr. Velazquez works closely in this network alongside Kenya PI, Sylvester Kimaiyo and other AMPATH Consortia PIs. As part of the initiative, he provides research mentorship for trainees and junior faculty aspiring to conduct clinical cardiovascular research in western Kenya.

Kathleen Sikkema, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke brings her expertise in global mental health and an impressive mentorship record that includes 4 K awardees and 21 NIH-funded fellows.  Her ongoing research portfolio includes an R01 for HIV prevention and alcohol use research in South Africa.  In addition, she serves as the Director of Behavioral Research for Duke’s AITRP training program in Tanzania, heads the Behavioral and Social Science group of the Duke CFAR, and has served on numerous NIH advisory and study section committees and journal editorial boards.