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People key to driving success of Department of Pediatrics: Webber

Sep. 8, 2016, 8:45 AM

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

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered the annual State of the Department of Pediatrics address on Tuesday, stressing the continued importance of the enterprise’s four mission areas — research, clinical care, education and advocacy and service.

Webber, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatrician-in-chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, delivered his yearly update to a crowd of faculty, staff and trainees inside the First Tennessee Conference Center and Theater at Children’s Hospital.

At the core of all mission areas, Webber’s focus was about people, including administrative staff, trainees, faculty and division directors, who make the success of each area possible.
Whether referring to total research funding, recruitment of trainees or faculty, clinical achievements or outreach, he drilled down to recognizing the people and their work as the driving force.

“The Department of Pediatrics is in extremely good shape, thanks to the work that you do,” said Webber, James C. Overall Professor.

In an overview of the Department, he noted that there are currently 361 primary faculty from diverse backgrounds and experiences; 125 secondary faculty; 329 community faculty; and about 180 formal trainees.

Despite a national shortage of pediatric subspecialists, the Department has recruited about 38 new faculty from top institutions over the past year.

In the research realm, Pediatrics remains a top contender of national research funds and experienced a 26 percent increase over the past year to secure $62 million in total research grants and contract funding from all federal and non-federal sources.

Approximately 70 percent of that funding comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including about a dozen faculty who currently have NIH-K awards focused on research career development.

He highlighted substantial expansion of funding by members of the Division of Infectious Diseases, particularly in the area of vaccine science, for which Vanderbilt has become a national leader.

On the patient care front, clinics continue to do well with getting patients seen more quickly, and volumes have increased — both on campus and in the community — 10 percent over the prior year, for a total of 220,111 visits this last year.

“Strong volumes mean more children are receiving care by the best doctors in the state and the South, which also means strong financial performance; and stronger financial performance means greater investment in our core missions,” he said.

With all divisions, he stressed how vital it is to get new patients seen quickly, and the Department has dramatically improved, with nearly 40 percent of patients now getting in within five days of a requested appointment. This represents a dramatic improvement compared with two years ago.

“We can’t just see patients faster,” he said. “We have to continue to improve the quality of the care that we offer. We need to focus on quality in every division, every service line and in every unit, and everyone has to own it.”

Education remains a strong point of the Department, which is competitive nationally for the best future physicians to receive training in pediatrics. Currently, there are 111 residents and 73 fellows. Far more applications are received than there are spots to fill.

In his closing remarks, Webber reminded the audience that these missions are only as successful as the people.

“Think back to my third slide where I try to persuade you that you excel in everything you do in the education, discovery, clinical and service/advocacy domains. I hope that I have given you a flavor of the fact that you really do excel in all those domains.

“We continue to value you all, and will continue to invest in you all,” Webber said.

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