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People power Department of Pediatrics’ success: Webber

Sep. 13, 2018, 8:56 AM

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered last week’s State of the Department of Pediatrics address at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Christina Echegaray

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, delivered the annual State of the Department address Sept. 4, celebrating the people that form the department while reviewing major achievements in the past year and discussing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

As is a recurring theme for Webber’s addresses, the more than 800 people within the department are the force behind the accomplishments relevant to its four mission areas: research, education, clinical care and advocacy and service.

Woven within the core areas, the common refrain was growth, which the department has continued to achieve for several years in a row.

“The glue that makes us successful is absolutely our people — the people in this room,” Webber, pediatrician-in-chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospitals at Vanderbilt, told a crowd of faculty, staff and trainees.

In the discovery mission, the department hit an all-time high in total research grant and contract expenditures in excess of $62 million from all federal and non-federal sources. Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research continues to rank the department No. 4 on its annual list for National Institutes of Health grant funding for Departments of Pediatrics within academic medical centers.

Education and training remain a strength as the department continues to draw residents and fellows from states all over the country, a footprint that has grown significantly since Webber’s arrival. Currently, there are 110 residents and 77 post-doctoral fellows.

“We want to be a national resource and for people to come from all over, and that is a testament to the strength of our programs,” he said. “Our residents and our fellows are presenting their research all over the country and are recipients of numerous awards and grants.”

With respect to patient care, clinical volumes continue to go up, with a 5 percent gain over the prior year in outpatient care. That gain, he said, also comes on the heels of the successful Vanderbilt University Medical Center-wide installation of eStar. Patient access rates — with a goal to see all new patients within 14 days — remained steady at about 65 percent of those who want an appointment in that time frame able to secure one.

Webber also noted the importance of the collaboration between the department and the different leadership that make up Children’s Hospital as a whole.

“Everything we do, from running a cath lab, to running an OR, to having efficient clinics, has to be a collaboration between hospital leadership and departmental leadership. We’ve worked really hard over the past five years to make sure that relationship is really tight — so we can run like a smooth engine,” Webber said.

That collaboration includes the department’s and Children’s Hospital’s outreach and growth in the community. With about 18 locations offering after-hours and subspecialty care, the faculty are providing even more care to children and families out in the community, closer to their homes.

Also in the community, the department is busy with advocacy, health promotion, education, camps, disease prevention and community-engaged research. Excellent relationships with community partners are integral to that work.

“Without our community partners there is no Department of Pediatrics and no Children’s Hospital,” Webber said.

Looking ahead, he noted that Children’s Hospital and the department are readying for the four-floor expansion, with the first two floors on schedule to open by fall 2019.

In closing, Webber stressed that because people are so vital to the operation and achievements the department enjoys, staff and faculty should focus on their own well-being.

“There has been a lot of focus in the last year about physician burnout — it has reached tremendous levels nationally.

“We need to really think about what we need to do, encouraging each other to help one another with wellness in the broadest sense. Take holidays, see your primary care physician, talk to each other, go to a yoga session. We’ll all be better off and much happier,” Webber said.

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