September 6, 2012

Rush sees bright future ahead for Pediatrics

Meg Rush, M.D., called upon the Department of Pediatrics’ faculty, trainees and staff to ‘be the change’ they wish to see in the future of pediatric health care at Vanderbilt and in our region.

Meg Rush, M.D., delivers this week’s State of the Department of Pediatrics Address. (photo by Joe Howell)

Meg Rush, M.D., called upon the Department of Pediatrics’ faculty, trainees and staff to ‘be the change’ they wish to see in the future of pediatric health care at Vanderbilt and in our region.

Rush, acting chair of the Department of Pediatrics and chief of staff for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, delivered her last annual State of the Department address before she hands over the reins to the newly appointed chair, Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP.

The theme of her Tuesday speech, ‘Be the change,’ played off the words of Mahatma Gandhi, known for his peaceful activism for positive change. She urged the department to use and build on the achievements of the past year — research productivity, patient volume growth and innovative programs — to drive further change.

The department has continued to rank in the top five for National Institutes of Health grants and saw a 6 percent increase in funding over the last fiscal year.

Once again, 10 of the hospital’s pediatric subspecialties ranked among the best by U.S. News & World Report, with both Neonatology and Urology ranked eighth.

Children’s Hospital and outpatient clinics, Rush noted, also continued to see tremendous growth in patient volumes, increasing more than 4 percent from last fiscal year at all locations. Three subspecialty clinics saw 20 percent growth or greater — Pulmonary Medicine, Gastroenterology and Genetics. To accommodate ongoing growth, the 10th floor of the DOT building, the last to be completed, opened in January.

“The addition of 33 beds to our hospital this spring enabled us to expand our inpatient clinical initiatives, and as most of you know we had full occupancy nearly immediately,” Rush said. “Our NICU quickly filled all beds in the expansion space and was the unit to increase volumes the most in one fiscal year, increasing by 32 percent.”

She also remembered Ann Scott Carell, wife of the late Monroe Carell Jr., who helped celebrate the expansion opening and died in August.

Rush said she was excited to work with the new chair, noting her confidence in Webber, who comes to Vanderbilt from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. While Webber couldn’t be present for the address, Rush read a statement from him.

“The Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital have a long and rich tradition of excellence in pediatric care, providing clinical care in teaching, research and discovery,” Webber’s statement read.

“As we move forward we will strive to enhance this excellence still further with an equal emphasis placed on all three missions of the academic medical center. The journey forward is going to be both exciting and rewarding, and I am truly looking forward to making this journey with all of you.”

In closing, with a few tears and laughs, Rush thanked a host of people for their support during her time as acting chair. She had set out to stabilize the department, build relationships and ready the department for a permanent chair. She commented that this “has been an incredible journey.”

As Gandhi realized in his journey, Rush said, one person alone can’t change anything and that great things can only be accomplished together.

“I challenge you to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world,’” Rush said, employing the full quote of Gandhi.

“I challenge each of you, no matter your role or your task in this department, to continue to work together with discipline and commitment toward our common goals of patient care, education, advancement of discovery and advocacy for our most vulnerable of populations — our children. For I believe together we can be the change that we wish to see in the world.”