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Virginia group tours Children’s Hospital as facility role model

Mar. 26, 2015, 8:38 AM

Nearly 160 representatives of Richmond, Virginia’s Chamber of Commerce visited Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt last week to see firsthand what it takes to create a top freestanding pediatric hospital. (photo by Anne Rayner)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt just received the highest compliment.

Nearly 160 people from Richmond, Virginia’s Chamber of Commerce spent the morning at Children’s Hospital on March 19 to learn the recipe for building a top freestanding pediatric hospital and how to replicate it. The group heard presentations from Children’s Hospital leadership and toured the hospital’s unique, child-friendly facilities.

“We are honored that chamber members selected Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as a world-class example of the type of freestanding children’s hospital that they would like to develop for the Richmond community,” said Luke Gregory, chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital.

The chamber chose Nashville for a three-day visit for its proximity as well as shared similarities, including size. Richmond’s metropolitan statistical area (MSA) has a population of about 1.3 million, while Nashville’s MSA is about 1.7 million people. But Children’s Hospital was the particular draw for the group.

Richmond is at a crossroad similar to where Nashville was probably about 20 years ago. The community there has multiple health care systems with fragmented pediatric services built within adult health care settings. The community wants and needs a freestanding children’s hospital and has the backing from a philanthropic family, but the logistics of what is needed to bring that to reality is still a work in progress.

Gregory gave the chamber a brief history of pediatric health service in Nashville, explaining that children’s health care has existed here in some form for nine decades, starting with the Junior League Home for Crippled Children. The key ingredients, he said, for a successful freestanding children’s hospital: community support/voice; a partnership and backing from community pediatricians; champions like Ann and Monroe Carell Jr.; an academic partner; and a strong partnership with obstetrics.

He noted that it took Nashville about 28 years of conversations to go from a children’s “hospital-within-a- hospital” to the facility that Children’s Hospital has evolved into today, with 1,400 children receiving care daily, 400 pediatric specialists, 2,200 employees and more than 300 community pediatrician partnerships. Now, Children’s Hospital has grown beyond its Children’s Way location and extends well into the region and across Tennessee.

Katherine Busser, president and CEO of Virginia Children’s Hospital Alliance, explained to her fellow chamber members why the visit to Vanderbilt was so important for their next steps.

“We have health care as an industry in our region, and we have good health care in our region as an industry from a business perspective. We have a lot of potential to build on what’s there,” said Busser, who is charged with providing executive leadership to help bring a freestanding children’s hospital to fruition.

“The next great addition to our region needs to be a freestanding children’s hospital built in partnership with the health systems that are there in our community. Hopefully, there will be lessons that we can all take back… (Children’s Hospital has) excelled, made the right investments and created the right relationships to have this be one of the top children’s hospitals in the country, and we have that potential as well.”

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