faculty profile

Mary S. Dietrich   PhD, MS

Professor, Statistics & Measurement
Affiliations: Nursing, Biostatistics, Psychiatry


Dr. Mary Dietrich joined Vanderbilt University School of Nursing faculty in 2006 bringing a diverse background of statistical collaborations in academic computing and psychiatric neuroimaging. Her exposure to research began as an undergraduate research assistant. As a Master's student, she worked as a consultant to researchers using statistical software in mainframe computing environments. Those skills developed and expanded via her employment in the central VU academic computing environment as a PhD student and beyond. In that role, Dr. Dietrich provided consultations to the entire Vanderbilt research community on advanced statistical methods and further expanded into formal research collaborations upon completion of that degree in statistics and measurement Teaching a course in statistics for master's level FNP students at Belmont University (Nashville) sparked her appreciation of nursing science and the opportunities for creative applications of statistical methods to that science.


  • PhD, Vanderbilt University
  • MS, Fort Hays State University (Kansas)
  • BS, Bethel College (Kansas)

Academic Interests

  • PhD program 1st year statistics course sequence (NRSC8306, NRSC8307, NRSC8308)
  • Programs of Research and Grantsmanship (NRSC8312)
  • Specialized and advanced statistics sessions


Image-Guided Cochlear Implant Programming: Pediatric Speech, Language, and Literacy,
2019-2024, Co-INV (NIH/NIDCD RO1)

Exploring the Impact of Human-Animal Interactions on Children Undergoing Treatment for Cancer and their Parents, 2019-2020, Co-INV (Waltham/Mars PetCare UK)

Ocular Molecular Therapeutic Delivery and Biopsy through Real-Time Endoscopic B-Scan OCT-Guided Tools and Robotic Assistance, 2018-2023, Co-INV (NIH/NEI R01EY028133-01A1)

Mitigating ACEs in Pediatric Primary Care, 2018-2022, Co-INV (State of TN DCS)

Establishing Lymphedema and Fibrosis Measures in Oral Cancer Patients, 2016-2019, Co-INV (NIH/NIDCR R01DE024982)

Catholic Charities - MIHOW Program Evaluation RCT, 2017-2019, Co-INV (State of TN DHS - Catholic Charities)

A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Feasibility and Potential Effectiveness of the Flexitouch* System Head and Neck Treatment, 2017-2019, Co-INV (Tactile Systems Technology, Inc.)

Clinical Validation and Testing of Percutaneous Cochlear Implantation, 2016-2019, Co-INV (NIH/NIDCD R01DC008408)

Impact of a PCRC-Supported Legacy Intervention in Pediatric Palliative Care, 2014-2019, Co-INV (NIH/NINR R01NR015353)

A Randomized Trial Evaluating Bioimpedance Spectroscopy versus Tape Measurement in the Prevention of Lymphedema following Locoregional Treatment for Breast Cancer, 2014-2019, Co-INV (ImpediMed, Inc.)

Cancer Center Support Grant, 1995-2020 (NIH/NCI 2P30 CA068485-19)

Representative Publications


Publications illustrating Dr. Dietrich's novel application of statistical methods commonly used in disciplines outside of medicine and nursing to biomedical research. The work referenced below references the application of propensity score methods and the application of group-based trajectory modeling from psychosocial research to biomedical research.

  • Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Sonis ST, Murphy BA. Biomarkers associated with lymphedema and fibrosis in patients with cancer of the head and neck. Lymphatic Research and Biology; 2018 Nov 28. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 30484735
  • Neal JL, Lowe NK, Caughey AB, Bennett KA, Tilden EL, Carlson NS, Phillippi JC, Dietrich MS, Applying a physiologic partograph to Consortium on Safe Labor data to identify opportunities for safely decreasing cesarean births among nulliparous women. Birth; 2018 May 30. PMID: 29851163
  • Neal JL, Lowe NK, Phillippi JC, Ryan SL, Knupp AM, Dietrich MS, Thung SF. Likelihood of cesarean delivery after applying leading active labor diagnostic guidelines. Birth; 2017 Jun; 44(2); 128-136. PMID: 28198038
  • Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Niermann K, Cmelak A, Mannion K, Murphy BA. A prospective study of the lymphedema and fibrosis continuum in patients with head and neck cancer. Lymphatic Research and Biology, 2016 Dec; 14(4), 198-205. 

Publications representative of Dr. Dietrich's expertise in multiple domains of measurement methods (e.g., development and validation of self-report measures, assessment of possible screening measures, use and validation of physiological measures):

  • Maxwell CA, Dietrich MS, Miller RS. The FRAIL questionnaire: A useful tool for bedside screening of geriatric trauma patients. Journal of Trauma Nursing; 2018 Jul/Aug; 25(4): 242-247 PMID: 29985858.
  • Jeffery AD, Dietrich MS, Maxwell CA. Predicting 1-year disability and mortality of injured older adults. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics; 2018 March-April; 75; 191-196. PMID: 29331842
  •  Bond SM, Schumacher K, Sherrod A, Dietrich MS, Wells N, Lindau RH, Murphy BA. Development of the Head and Neck Cancer Caregiving Task Inventory. European Journal of Oncology Nursing; 2016 Oct; 24, 29-38. PMID: 27697275
  • Ridner SH, Dietrich MS. Development and validation of the Lymphedema Symptom and Intensity Survey-Arm. Support Care Cancer. 2015 Oct; 23(10), 3103-3112. PMCID: PMC4554806.

Publications representative of successful management and integration of data collected from large multi-site, multi-PI collaborative projects as well as statistical expertise related to appropriately conducting and analyzing data collected from clinical trials:

  • Lutenbacher M, Elkins T, Dietrich MS, Riggs A. The efficacy of using peer mentors to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in Hispanic families: Findings from a randomized clinical trial. Maternal and Child Health; 2018 May 31. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 29855840.
  • Sohl SJ, Dietrich MS, Wallston KA, Ridner SH. A randomized controlled trial of expressive writing in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. Psychology and Health; 2017 Jul; 32(7); 826-842. PMID: 28355890.
  • Akard TF, Dietrich MS, Friedman D, Hinds PS, Given G, Wray S, Gilmer MJ. Digital storytelling: An innovative legacy-making intervention for children with cancer. Pediatric Blood and Cancer; 2015 Apr; 62(4); 658-65. PMCID: PMC4339662. 

Publications reflecting Dr. Dietrich's more than 10-year collaborations in psycho-neuroimaging (primarily fMRI) and in the development of surgical robotic devices for more than 10 years. As those imaging and robotic methods have matured, the focus has been on the incorporation of cognitive and other self-report measures into the analyses of signal change measures (e.g., BOLD percent signal change, implant device specifications).

  • Gifford RH, Loiselle L, Natale S, Sheffield SW, Sunderhaus LW, Dietrich MS, Dorman MF. Speech understanding in noise for adults with cochlear implants: effects of hearing configuration, source location uncertainty, and head movement. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. [In press].
  • Sarli N, Del Giudice G, De S, Dietrich MS, Herrell SD, Simaan N. Preliminary porcine in vivo evaluation of a telerobotic system for transurethral bladder tumor resection and surveillance. Journal of Endourology; 2018 Mar 27. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 29587537
  • Monroe TB, Fillingim RB, Bruehl SP, Rogers BP, Dietrich MS, Gore JC, Atalla SW, Cowan RL. Sex Differences in Brain Regions Modulating Pain: A Cross Sectional Resting State Functional Connectivity Study. Pain Medicine; 2017 May 13; [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 28505337.
  • Monroe TB, Gibson SJ, Bruehl SP, Gore JC, Dietrich MS, Newhouse P, Atalla S, Cowan RL. Contact heat sensitivity and reports of unpleasantness in communicative people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease: a cross-sectional study. BMC Medicine, 2016 May; 14:74 

Complete List of Published Work in NCBI Bibliography:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/ 1BCXkivlxwqQc/bibliography/47517739/public/?sort=date&direction=descending

Professional Organizations

  • Eastern North American Region / International Biometric Society
  • American Statistical Association


  • Dean Colleen Conway-Welch Award for contributions to student learning, mentoring, modeling of professional behaviors, and encouragement of scholarship (Vanderbilt U. School of Nursing)
  • Professional Research Recognition Award, Child Life Council
  • Dean Colleen Conway-Welch Award for contributions to student learning, mentoring, modeling of professional behaviors, and encouragement of scholarship (Vanderbilt U. School of Nursing)
  • Dean's Award for Recognition of Faculty Achievement in Research Endeavors (Vanderbilt U. School of Nursing)
  • Hardy C. Wilcoxon Award from the Department of Psychology and Human Development (Vanderbilt U) for most distinguished doctoral dissertation in any area of psychological inquiry