Our division’s research is conducted throughout the Vanderbilt campus, as the Department of Pediatrics has 104,115 square feet of lab space across multiple locations around campus. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) controls more than 124,000 square feet of research and administration space and influences more than 186,000 square feet of research space. Research is facilitated by eight well-developed research programs within VICC and its shared resources, as well as a federally-qualified Comprehensive Hemophilia Treatment Center and the Meharry-Vanderbilt Sickle Cell Center of Excellence.
Please see below to learn more about our investigators and their research efforts.
Jennifer Andrews, MD
As a board-certified Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist and Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine physician, Dr. Andrews is an expert in Pediatric Transfusion Medicine and is regularly invited to the National Institute of Health to set the research agenda in the field of Pediatric Transfusion Medicine. Her research interests include: blood utilization in children, use of technology to optimize blood transfusion, medical education and clinical trials especially of new blood products or blood product alternatives such as fibrinogen concentrate.
Daniel Benedetti, MD, MA
Dr. Benedetti’s research explores ethical dilemmas that occur in the care of children with cancer. His current emphasis is on understanding conflicts between oncologists and parents over treatment decisions, in particular cases where parents refuse recommended treatment.
Scott Borinstein, MD, PhD
Dr. Borinstein is a nationally recognized expert in bone and soft tissue sarcomas. He conducts translational research in pediatric sarcomas and is involved in the development and implementation of clinical trials to improv cancer treatment, advance supportive care, and minimize late effects.
Alexandra Borst, MD
Dr. Borst’s academic focus is in the area of pediatric hemostasis and thrombosis. Her research is focused on improving understanding of and interventions for surgical coagulopathy in children. She is also co-director of the Vanderbilt Multidisciplinary Vascular Anomalies Program, offering a comprehensive medical home to children with vascular malformations and tumors.
Michael DeBaun, MD, MPH
Research in Dr. DeBaun’s laboratory is focused preventing and treating complications in children and adults with sickle cell disease both in the US and Africa.
Adam Esbenshade, MD, MSCI
Dr. Esbenshade focuses on cancer control, CNS malignancy, and survivorship. Areas of active investigation include prevention and treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome in survivors, infectious disease complications during therapy, risk prediction modeling, and clinical trials that focus on targeted therapy for CNS tumors. He is active in the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and is the Chair of the Young Investigators Committee and the Vice Chair of the Cancer Control and Supportive Care Committee.
Debra Friedman, MD
Dr. Friedman conducts clinical and population sciences research across the cancer care continuum. Her research includes observational and interventional studies in cancer prevention, cancer care delivery and health outcomes. She is a nationally recognized for her clinical work in Hodgkin lymphoma and retinoblastoma.
Richard Ho, MD
Dr. Ho is a clinician scientist with research interests and expertise focused in the areas of pediatric clinical pharmacology and cancer pharmacology. He is a nationally recognized physician investigator who has led translational research projects concentrated on drug transporters and chemotherapy disposition, and pharmacogenetics of cancer therapy in pediatric oncology.
Saara Kaviany, DO
Dr. Kaviany's clinical and research interests are immuno-oncology, with goals of investigating the intersection of immunology with pediatric cancer and stem cell transplantation. Clinically, she also see patients in the Comprehensive Hematology, Immunology, and Infectious Disease Program (CHIIP). The CHIIP clinic offers care for complex immune disorders and allows patients to receive expertise from multiple sub-specialists, including immunology, hematology, infectious disease, and bone marrow transplant, during one clinic visit.
Carrie Kitko, MD
Dr. Kitko is the Medical Director of the Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program. Her research focus is on improving outcomes from post-transplant complications, particularly graft-versus-host disease. She is able to offer her patients the opportunity to participate in several clinical trials designed to help prevent and treat these complications.
Heather McDaniel, MD, MSCI
Dr. McDaniel is a pediatric hematologist who focuses on the care of patients with non-malignant hematologic disorders. She serves as the director of the pediatric thrombosis and inpatient hematology consult services. Her research focus is on treatment for hematologic disorders as well as prevention of venous thromboembolism in pediatric patients.
Michelle Reising, PhD
Dr. Reising is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in psychosocial intervention for youth with serious health conditions and their families. Her research is clinical intervention based with a focus on stress, coping, and quality improvement regarding patient-centered care. In collaboration with clinical psychologist, Dr. Shari Neul, who co-created the Behavioral Hematology-Oncology Program (BHOP), program development is a primary focus for providing evidence-based practices in the psychosocial assessment of youth diagnosed with cancer or hematological disorders and their families to match psychosocial intervention and supports with patient and family needs to optimize psychological adjustment and health outcomes.
Christine Moore Smith, MD
Dr. Smith’s academic interests focus on quality improvement and patient safety. Her clinical academic interests are in hematologic malignancies, specifically lymphomas.
Shari Neul, PhD
Dr. Neul is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in psychosocial intervention for youth with serious health conditions and their families. Her research is clinical intervention based with a focus on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and quality improvement regarding patient-centered care. In collaboration with clinical psychologist, Dr. Michelle Reising, who created the Behavioral Hematology-Oncology Program (BHOP), program development is a primary focus for providing evidence-based practices in the psychosocial assessment of youth diagnosed with cancer and hematological disorders and their families to match psychosocial intervention and supports with patient and family needs to optimize psychological adjustment and health outcomes.
Devang Pastakia, MD
Dr. Pastakia’s research focuses on optimizing treatment for pediatric patients with brain and spinal cord tumors. He is involved in national consortiums that collaborate together to find novel treatments for CNS tumors. Additionally, as co-leader of the medical education academic community in the pediatric residency program, he works with pediatric residents to academically evaluate changes to the residency curriculum.
Brianna N. Smith, MD, MS
Brianna Smith, MD is a physician-scientist with a clinical interest in the care of children and adolescents with myeloid malignancies, myelodysplastic syndromes, and bone marrow failure disorders. Her laboratory focus is the study of experimental therapeutics and cell death pathways in myeloid disease within the Savona Laboratory.
Jason R. Schwartz, MD, PhD
Dr. Schwartz's research and clinical interests focus on pediatric inherited bone marrow failure syndromes and their associated predisposition to develop myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). He strives to utilize personalized genomic data to guide therapy decisions and potentially make those decisions sooner, resulting in better overall outcomes. In the laboratory, his focus is to better understand the hematopoietic consequences of pathogenic germline SAMD9 and SAMD9L variants given their strong association with inherited monosomy 7 and MDS.
Emmanuel Volanakis, MD
Dr. Emmanuel Volanakis is interested in the clinical care of children and young adults with sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies. He has served as the site investigator for industry sponsored and investigator initiated multicenter clinical trials.
Allison Wheeler, MD, MSCI
Allison Wheeler is the director of research for benign hematology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She studies hemostatic and thrombotic disorders in collaboration with industry sponsors and individual investigators. Her personal research is focused on bleeding disorders and symptoms in women.
Sara Zarnegar-Lumley, MD, MS, BA
Sara Zarnegar-Lumley, MD, specializes in the care of children and adolescents with leukemia, lymphoma, and histiocytic disorders. She has a particular interest in the molecular background of these diseases. She is actively involved in designing and conducting clinical trials of targeted therapies for pediatric leukemia.