December 20, 2012

2012 a year of milestones, accomplishments at VUMC

Editor’s note — the following is a chronological roundup of the news that made headlines at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2012.

Digestive disease research
In January, the Vanderbilt Digestive Disease Research Center (VDDRC) was awarded a second five-year renewal of its federal research grant. The center, which includes 119 faculty investigators from 14 different departments, will be supported through June 2017 with a $5.9 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Defensive medicine costly

VUMC researchers estimate that U.S. orthopaedic surgeons create approximately $2 billion per year in unnecessary health care costs associated with orthopaedic care due to the practice of defensive medicine. Defensive medicine consists of ordering additional but unnecessary tests and diagnostic procedures that may later help shield physicians from accusations of malpractice. However, these additional costs result in no significant benefit to patients’ care.

Published in the February issue of the American Journal of Orthopedics, the study suggests unnecessary costs associated with the practice of defensive medicine play a substantial role in the nation’s rising cost of health care.

Diabetes research bolstered

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC), the nation’s oldest federally funded diabetes research center, competed successfully for renewal of its grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Now in its 39th year of continuous operation, the DRTC will receive $7.8 million for direct and indirect costs over the next five years to support efforts to discover, apply and translate scientific knowledge about diabetes, obesity and metabolism, and ultimately improve the lives of people with diabetes.

Magnet designation

In April, VUMC achieved its second American Nurses Credential Center (ANCC) designation as a Magnet organization. Magnet Recognition is a much-sought-after distinction for health care institutions, which must satisfy a comprehensive set of criteria measuring the strength and quality of nursing and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Magnet recognizes hospitals for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. Appraisers look at a combination of factors and best practices in order to evaluate the culture of care at a given institution. Specifically, they want to ensure there is a collaborative, interdisciplinary team approach to care that recognizes nursing as a vital part of the team.

Children’s Hospital expansion opens

The formal opening in May of the new expansion for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt created an additional 33 beds of badly needed space for the hospital. The opening of the $30 million, 30,000-square-foot expansion concluded more than a year of construction, creating additional acute care, surgical and neonatal intensive care beds.

Since it opened in 2004, patient occupancy at Children’s Hospital has remained consistently high. The new space positions the hospital with necessary additional capacity to meet the growing demand for the specialty and sub-specialty services offered by the hospital’s physicians and staff.

‘Z-pack’ risk revealed

Vanderbilt researchers discovered a rare, but important risk posed by the antibiotic azithromycin, commonly called a “Z-pack.” The study found a 2.5-fold higher risk of death from cardiac arrhythmia in the first five days of taking azithromycin when compared with another common antibiotic or no antibiotics at all.

Wayne A. Ray, Ph.D., professor of Preventive Medicine, and C. Michael Stein, M.B., Ch.B., the Dan May Chair in Medicine and professor of Pharmacology, collaborated on the research published in the May 17 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

$18 million for Chronic disease fight

VUMC and its affiliates were awarded a three-year, $18.8 million grant to improve chronic disease management for patients with high blood pressure, heart failure and diabetes.
The Health Care Innovation Award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is one of the largest federal research grants awarded to VUMC investigators. The funding will support the implementation and evaluation of MyHealthTeam (MHT), a model of team-based care that couples collaborative health care teams with health information technology in order to improve control of chronic conditions.

CTSA renewed

Vanderbilt’s largest single government research grant, its Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), was renewed in July for another five years for $46 million. Vanderbilt officials said the grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will continue to help its researchers “propel discoveries and ideas without delay … into clinical practice.”

VU, Cookeville Regional affiliate

In August, leaders with Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) and VUMC announced an affiliation agreement that formalized collaborative relationships between the two institutions. The affiliation agreement creates significant opportunities for both parties to work together to expand the scope of health care services in Putnam County and the Upper Cumberland Region.

Conte Center support

The Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research at Vanderbilt received a $10.5 million federal grant to continue its groundbreaking research on serotonin signaling in the brain for another five years.

The funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is not a renewal of the grant that established the center in 2007 but is a completely new award, officials said. The award will support four major studies in mouse models of how “perturbed” serotonin signaling during early development can have lifelong consequences on brain function and behavior.

Parkinson’s research collaboration

Vanderbilt and Bristol-Myers Squibb signed a collaboration agreement for the discovery, development and commercialization of novel therapies acting on the mGluR4 glutamate receptor, known as positive allosteric modulators, or PAMs, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Under the collaboration, the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD) will identify drug candidates from their existing program, which obtained major support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). Bristol-Myers Squibb will have the right to develop and commercialize products resulting from the collaborative research program.

Gastrointestinal SPORE

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s gastrointestinal Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) was awarded its third round of funding by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in September. The NCI will provide $11.5 million over the next five years to continue to support the gastrointestinal (GI) SPORE, which focuses on colorectal cancer, the most common form of GI cancer in the U.S., with an estimated 143,000 new cases and 51,690 deaths this year.

Patient transition process

In October, VUMC announced an initiative to ensure smoother, more tightly coordinated transitions from the hospital to each patient’s home or other post-acute care setting. The effort will include such measures as greater coordination with sub-acute care facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals, hospice care and home health agencies across the region, daily multidisciplinary transition planning huddles on inpatient units, a centralized team to assist especially complex discharges, standardized patient follow-up (including post-discharge phone calls and the setting of clinic appointments prior to discharge) and increased attention to patient teaching and the management of discharge medications.
VUMC officials say the changes will improve patient outcomes and satisfaction and lower hospital readmission rates.

International HIV/AIDS grant

Vanderbilt received a major federal grant — just more than $7 million in the first year — to extend HIV/AIDS-related technical assistance and training in the rural province of Zambézia, Mozambique.

The five-year grant, entitled “Avante Zambézia” (Portuguese for “Move Forward Zambézia”) was awarded this fall by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal is to provide targeted technical assistance to expand HIV care, treatment and prevention services to more people, while helping the Mozambican Ministry of Health implement high-quality, accessible and sustainable HIV services within a strengthened health system.

New ally in cancer fight

Executives with Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. in Memphis and VUMC announced an academic affiliation agreement in the fall, paving the way for new clinical research and academic education opportunities that are designed to enhance cancer programs.

The new affiliation establishes a framework for collaborative oncology initiatives between Baptist Cancer Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Baptist cancer patients will have increased access to VICC clinical research trials and genetic diagnostic tools. Many of these services will be available in local communities through Baptist’s 14-hospital system across Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Conway-Welch retiring as VUSN dean

After serving more than 28 years as dean of the School of Nursing (VUSN), and as the second longest sitting dean of any U.S. nursing school, Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., CNM, the Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing and a national leader in nursing education, announced last month she will retire at the end of the academic year.

As VUSN’s dean, Conway-Welch has amassed one of the most storied careers at Vanderbilt. On the national stage, her numerous and varied contributions are evident throughout the profession of nursing, both in nursing education and the clinical setting, through educational innovations that have impacted the way nursing care is provided and have helped transform health care.