faculty profile

Mary S. Dietrich   PhD, MS

Professor, Statistics & Measurement
Affiliations: Nursing, Biostatistics, Hearing & Speech


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 a PhD 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 statistical foundations (e.g., NRSC8306, NRSC8307, NRSC8308)
  • Statistical synthesis and grant proposals
  • Specialized and advanced statistics sessions
Collaborative editorials regarding moving beyond the p < .05 criteria:



Differences in Labor Progress, Care Received during Labor, Provider-Patient Communication, and Decision-Making Quality among Low-Risk Black vs. White Nulliparous Women in Spontaneous Labor Onset, 2021-2023, Co-INV (NIH/NIMHD, R21)

Exploring the Impact of Human-Animal Interactions on Children with Life-threatening Conditions and their Parents, 2020-2022, Co-INV (NIH/HIDCD, R21)

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

Ocular Molecular Therapeutic Delivery and Biopsy through Real-Time Endoscopic B-Scan OCT-Guided Tools and Robotic Assistance, 2018-2023, Co-INV (NIH/NEI, R01)

A Randomized Trial Evaluating Bioimpedance Spectroscopy versus Tape Measurement in the Prevention of Lymphedema following Locoregional Treatment for Breast Cancer, 2014-2022, Co-INV (ImpediMed, Inc.)

Cancer Center Support Grant, 1995-2025 (NIH/NCI, Center Core)

2020 Hillman Serious Illness and End of Life Emergent Innovation Program (HSEI), 2021, Co-INV (Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation)

Aging & Fragility: Resilience and Energy In the Second Half of Life (AFRESH), 2020-2021, Co-INV (Urban Housing Solutions)

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

Establishing Lymphedema and Fibrosis Measures in Oral Cancer Patients, 2016-2020, Site PI (NIH/NIDCR, R01)

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

Clinical Validation and Testing of Percutaneous Cochlear Implantation, 2016-2019, Co-INV (NIH/NIDCD, R01)

Impact of a PCRC-Supported Legacy Intervention in Pediatric Palliative Care, 2014-2019, Co-INV (NIH/NINR, R01)

Representative Publications


Publications illustrating Dr. Dietrich's novel application of statistical methods commonly used in disciplines outside of medicine and nursing to biomedical research. Work referenced include the application of propensity score methods, the application of group-based trajectory modeling from psychosocial research to biomedical research, as well as other innovative statistical methodological applications.

Mefferd AS, Dietrich MS. Tongue- and Jaw-Specific changes and their acoustic consequences in talkers with dysarthria due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Effects of loud, clear, and slow speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 2020 Aug; 63(8): 2625-2636. PMCID: PMC7872725

Ridner SH, Shah C, Boyages J, Koelmeyer L, Ajkay N, DeSnyder Sm, McLaughlen SA, Dietrich MS. L-Dex, arm volume, and symptom trajectories 24 months after breast cancer surgery. Cancer Medicine, 2020 Jul; 9(14): 5164-5173

Mulvaney SA, Vaala SE, Carroll RB, Williams LK, Lybarger CK, Schmidt DC, Dietrich MS, Laffel LM, Hood KK. A mobile app identifies momentary psychosocial and contextual factors related to mealtime self-management in adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association; 2019 Dec; 26(12); 1627-1631. PMCID: PMC6857499

Neal Jl, Carlson NS, Phillippi JC, Tilden EL, Smith DC, Breman RB, Dietrich MS, Lowe NK. Midwifery presence in United States medical centers and labor care and birth outcomes among low-risk nulliparous women: A Consortium on Safe Labor study. Birth; 2019 Sep; 46(3); 475-486. PMCID: PMC6511333

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 Dec; 16(6); 516-524. PMCID: PMC6306661 

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).

Ridner SH, Deng J, Doersam JK, Dietrich MS. Lymphedema Symptom Intensity and Distress Surveys-Truncal and Head and Neck, Version 2.0. Lymphatic Research and Biology; 2021 Jun; 19(3): 240-248. PMCID: PMC8220539

Deng J, Dietrich MS, Niermann KJ, Sinard RJ, Cmelak AJ, Ridner SH, Gilbert J, Murphy BA. Refinement and Validation of the Head and Neck Lymphedema and Fibrosis Symptom Inventory. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 2021 Mar;109(3): 747-755. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.10.003

Cockroft JD, Adams SM, Matlock D, Dietrich MS. Reliability and construct validity of 3 psychometric trust scales for women seeking substance abuse treatment in a community setting. Substance Abuse; 2020; 41(3): 391-399. DOI: 10.1080/09907077.2019.1635967

Bond SM, Schumacher K, Dietrich MS, Wells N, Militsakh O, Murphy BA. Initial psychometric testing of the Head and Neck Cancer Patient Self-Management Inventory (HNC-PSMI). European Journal of Oncology Nursing; 2020 Aug;47: 101751. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2020.101751

Maxwell CA, Rothman R, Wolever R, Simmons S, Dietrich MS, Miller R, Patel M, Karlekar MB, Ridner S. Development and testing of a frailty-focused communication (FCOM) aid for older adults. Geriatric Nursing; 2020 Nov/Dec; 41(6); 936-941. PMCID: PMC7738367

Publications representative of successful management and integration of data collected via self-report and medical record extraction methods in large multi-site, multi-PI collaborative projects as well as Dr. Dietrich's statistical expertise related to appropriately conducting and analyzing data collected from clinical trials.

Akard TF, Dietrich MS, Friedman DL, Wray S, Gerhardt CA, Hendricks-Ferguson V, Hinds PS, Rhoten B, Gilmer MJ. Randomized clinical trial of a legacy intervention for quality of life in children with advanced cancer. Journal of Palliative Medicine; 2021 May; 24(5): 680-688. PMCID: PMC8064943

Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Deng J, Ettema SL, Murphy B. Advanced pneumatic compression for treatment of lymphedema of the head and neck: A randomized wait-list controlled trial. Supportive Care in Cancer; 2021 Feb; 29(2): 795-803. PMCID: PMC7767900

Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Davis AJ, Sinclair V. A randomized clinical trial comparing the impact of a web-based multimedia intervention versus an educational pamphlet on patient outcomes in breast cancer survivors with chronic secondary lymphedema. Journal of Women's Health, 2020 May; 29(5): 7344-744. PMCID: PMC7247047

Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Cowher MS, Taback B, McLaughlin S, Ajkay N, Boyages J, Koelmeyer L, DeSnyder SM, Wagner J, Abramson V, Moore A, Shah C. A randomized trial evaluating bioimpedance spectroscopy versus tape measurement for the prevention of lymphedema following treatment for breast cancer: Interim analysis. Annals of Surgical Oncology; 2019 Sep; 26(10); 3250-3259. PMCID: PMC6733825

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 Oct; 22(Suppl 1); 92-104. PMCID: PMC6153763

Publications reflecting Dr. Dietrich's more than 15 years of collaborations in psycho-neuroimaging (primarily fMRI) and in the development of surgical robotic devices. 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).

Atalla SW, Cowan RL, Anderson AR, Dietrich MS, Iversen L, Kalvas LB, Moss KO, Wright K, Monroe TB. Determining the impact of age and sex on the psychophysical and neurophysiological response to thermal pain across the adult lifespan. Journal of Advanced Nursing; 2021 Mar; 77(3): 1546-1555. PMCID: PMC7898385

Romano RR, Carter MA, Dietrich MS, Cowan RL, Bruehl SP, Monroe TB. Could altered evoked pain responsiveness be a phenotypic biomarker for Alzheimer's disease risk? A cross-sectional analysis of cognitively healthy individuals. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease; 2021 Feb; 79(2): 1227-1233. PMCID: PMC7990440

Beach PA, Cowan R, Dietrich MS, Bruehl SP, Atalla SW, Monroe TB. Thermal psychophysics and associated brain activation patterns along a continuum of healthy aging. Pain Medicine; 2020 Sept; 21(9); 1779-1792. PMCID: PMC7553022

Sarli N, Del Giudice G, De S, Dietrich MS, Herrell SD, Simaan N. TURBot: A system for robot-assisted transurethral bladder tumor resection. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics; 2019 Aug; 24(4); 1452-1463. PMCID: PMC5998199

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; 2018 May; 61(5); 1306-1321. PMCID: PMC6195075

Complete List of Published Work in NCBI Bibliography: 


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