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Webber delivers first State of Pediatrics address

Sep. 5, 2013, 10:19 AM

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivers Tuesday’s State of the Department of Pediatrics address, stressing adaptation in the changing health care landscape. (Photo by John Russell)

Academic medical centers are at a “fork in the road,” but Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP,  is confident that Vanderbilt and the Department of Pediatrics are on the right path, he said at this week’s State of the Department of Pediatrics address.

Webber, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatrician-in-chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, delivered his first state of the department address to faculty, staff and trainees since arriving at Vanderbilt last fall.

During his address, he focused on the achievements, strengths and growth over the past year in the Department’s clinical, educational and research mission areas. But he also noted the changing landscape of the health care industry and stressed the importance of adapting and seizing on new opportunities to ensure continued success in providing quality care and patient access.

Webber showed a PowerPoint slide of how the world has rapidly changed over the years, from advances in the airplane industry to melting ice caps in the ocean, and emphasized the risks of not preparing.

“Nowhere is the world changing faster than in health care,” said Webber, the James C. Overall Professor. “If we don’t embrace the change, we will truly be in for a hard landing or we will become isolated. Only those health care institutions that embrace change and that are prepared for it will thrive.”

In his review of the past year, Webber noted that Department continues to do well as a top contender for National Institutes of Health grants, remaining steady at $24 million in funding for the last fiscal year and approximately $50 million in total research grant and contract funding from all federal and non-federal sources.

The Doctors’ Office Tower outpatient clinics saw another year of increasing patient volumes, recording an estimated 4 percent growth for pediatric visits for the year. Gains were also seen in volumes for several other areas, including a 12 percent increase for neonatology services.

Recognizing various achievements, he acknowledged faculty for multiple teaching and research awards and honors. As an academic medical center, he also noted that the Department’s applicants for residency and fellowship training remain very strong, and that partnerships with community physicians help place medical students and residents in community practices for unique educational experiences.

Then he switched gears to focus on the future of the Department as it continues to build on its many successes in the current climate.

“We are at a fork in the road, as is everyone in health care. But I am absolutely confident that we as an institution and as a department will be taking the right path,” he said. “There are many initiatives on the horizon.”

He touched on Vanderbilt’s pediatric after-hour and subspecialty care clinics, which expand Children’s Hospital’s reach into surrounding communities, including the most recent opening of the Vanderbilt Children’s After-Hours Clinic in Mt. Juliet.  Vanderbilt will also be partnering with Williamson County Medical Center to offer pediatric care services.
“Our footprint is already widely found across the state and these initiatives will continue,” Webber said. “We want children to come to us from all over the region and beyond for their tertiary medical and surgical care.”

In closing, he engaged his audience to think, “What can we do as individuals?” He stressed the importance of remaining educated about national changes in health care; being fully engaged in the process of change; identifying the opportunities that change poses; and remaining confident and optimistic.

Webber likened himself to a conductor of a fine-tuned orchestra. “I am really just a conductor—not the one that does any of the work. I try to keep everyone in time—that is swimming in the same direction. On occasion, I may take the prerogative of choosing a piece to play, but all the achievements of the Department are yours and not mine,” he said.

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