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Hidden VUMC Figures event honors crucial contributions

Oct. 19, 2017, 10:29 AM

André Churchwell, M.D., second from right, poses with the honorees at Tuesday’s Hidden VUMC Figures event. They are, from left, James Phillips Sr., Howard Price, Dru Bratton-Newsom and Audrey Hall. (photo by Anne Rayner)

On Monday, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) Office for Diversity Affairs held the inaugural “Hidden VUMC Figures” event, a tribute to employees who have made significant long-term, often behind-the-scenes, contributions to the Medical Center.

“Sometimes books, movies or other media can lead you to new insight. ‘Hidden Figures’ is a historical movie that was viewed by millions last year. It told the story of the role of three anonymous African-American female mathematicians who worked in the early years of the American space program,” said André Churchwell, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs, referring to the inspiration for the VUMC event.

“It is important for us to cite the life journeys and contributions of such Americans because they exemplify how one person can contribute to building a great country, and in our case, a great institution.

“These figures we honor today, once hidden, will now be acknowledged and illuminated in the bright light of celebration and gratitude from all of us who make up our VUMC community.”
Four employees were honored before a large crowd in Light Hall.

James Phillips Sr., dedicated 48 years of service to the Department of Surgery and the Medical Center, first as a research technician and later as the coordinator of the S.R. Light Laboratory Surgical Facilities. Every surgical resident who went through a research fellowship from 1947 to 1995 was the beneficiary of his wisdom and experience.

Audrey Hall enjoyed a nursing career that spanned 40 years, working in three of Nashville’s hospitals. She joined VUMC in 1964 and worked as a staff nurse in various areas before she became the head nurse for the Nursery, where she worked with Mildred Stahlman, M.D. After eight years at VUMC, Hall was called back to work at her alma mater, Meharry Medical College.

Dru Bratton-Newsom began employment at Vanderbilt in 1966 where she worked as a ward clerk in the emergency room. In the 1970s she worked in Personnel as an employment interviewer and worked nights as a nursing registry assistant, then as the first African-American secretary II for the Law School. For the past several years she has worked behind the scenes in the Employee Service Center, where she continues to support and serve others.

Howard Price began working in the VUMC dietary department in 1959. His current activities include the role of supervisor in the media glassware room in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology. Over his 57 years at the Medical Center, Price has overseen the handmade development of all forms of culture media — fungal, bacterial and mycobacterial. He has greatly impacted programs in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center.

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