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Vanderbilt mourns loss of pediatrics icon Wadlington

May. 25, 2016, 1:47 PM

William B. Wadlington, M.D., a graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine class of 1952 and former member of the Board of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, died May 18. He was 89.

William B. Wadlington, M.D.
William B. Wadlington, M.D.

Dr. Wadlington, a well-respected Nashville pediatrician, dedicated his life to his young patients and to educating and training the next generation of physicians who would continue caring for children for years to come. His name is so synonymous with education that a teaching room is named after him on the second floor of Children’s Hospital.

“Bill Wadlington was a well-respected pediatrician who delivered care to countless children over the many decades he practiced in Nashville. He was also an avid supporter of Children’s Hospital,” said Kathryn Edwards, M.D., the Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics and scientific director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program.

“He loved to teach parents, residents and faculty about disease. Often when he sent patients from his office to be admitted to the hospital, he would also send literature about the disease so that everyone could learn. The main teaching conference room in Children’s Hospital, named after him, is a testimony to his legacy of education of future generations. He will be missed.”

Dr. Wadlington, a native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, attended Vanderbilt University. He was drafted from there into the U.S. Army in 1945 and served eight months in Tokyo. He then returned to Vanderbilt, where he was a member of the class of 1948, lettering in football, basketball and tennis. He subsequently attended and graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. After serving a portion of his residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital until 1955, he returned to Vanderbilt, with which he maintained a lifelong affiliation.

Dr. Wadlington also ran the Baptist Pediatric Service from 1955-1960 and ran the Saint Thomas newborn nursery for 10 years. For 16 years he worked at the Vanderbilt Seizure Clinic, served on the Pediatric Board in 1957, served on the Children’s Hospital Board, was the first pediatrician to join the Canby Robinson Society and served six years on the board of that society. He was a member of the AOA fraternity, the Phi Beta Kappa medical honor society. At Vanderbilt, he helped to start the Christie Society and was its president for the first five years. He served as chief resident under Amos Christie, M.D., former chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics.

During his long career in pediatrics, Dr. Wadlington published two books, Pearls from a Pediatric Practice and How to Raise Happy Healthy Children, and 35 papers about diseases of children and teens. He also received the Pediatrician of the Year Lay Education Award and the Practitioners Research award, both given by the American Academy of Pediatrics, making him the only practicing pediatrician at the time to receive two national awards in the different fields of lay education and office-based research. He accepted medical students into his office for two-week periods for 17 years, and taught them about the office-based practice of medicine.

Over the years, he was the recipient of numerous community awards and honors and was active in organizations throughout Middle Tennessee, including the YMCA, Cumberland Museum and Science Center, Brentwood Academy, West End Methodist Church, and Friends of Children’s Hospital. His many community accomplishments include the founding of the Health Hall at the Cumberland Museum, a resource for the Nashville community.

Meg Rush, M.D., MMHC, chief of staff and executive medical director Children’s Hospital, remembers with fondness her early encounters with Dr. Wadlington and his impact on pediatric health care.

“For me, Bill Wadlington was one of the pillars of the pediatric community, not only here in Nashville but in Tennessee and even nationally. He was one of my first community pediatric teachers as an intern. He came to teaching rounds ready to shape critical thinking, all the while role-modeling his dedication to his patients,” Rush said.

“His numerous recognitions reinforce the role he played over many decades as a leader in modern pediatric care, education and office-based research. His loyalty and partnership to the three-part academic mission as a community pediatrician was important to shaping our comprehensive approach to children’s health care today. He will be missed by all who knew him and benefited from his wisdom.”

Dr. Wadlington was the son of the late Eunice Bertha Means and Carl Brown Wadlington. Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his son William Brown Wadlington Jr., who died in 1964. He is survived by wife, Anna Vantrease Wadlington; children, Amy Wadlington Bayles (Skip), Van Russell Wadlington (Shannon), John Wadlington, Jeffrey Deen Wadlington (Cindy); and grandchildren, Mallory Bayles Mallin, Kelly Bayles, Colson Bayles, Mazi Wadlington, Brett and Tyler Wadlington and Anna Wadlington.

A memorial service and visitation was held May 21 at West End United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the following organizations: West End Methodist Church, Nashville YMCA, Brentwood Academy or the Adventure Science Center (Health Hall).

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