June 28, 2018

Vanderbilt thinkers come together for StrategyShare18

Jun. 28, 2018—A multidisciplinary cross section of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University community gathered Tuesday during StrategyShare18, an interactive half-day event to share ideas, invite collaborations and spur new initiatives.

During a StrategyShare18 panel discussion with other presenters, Nancy Brown, MD, center, stresses the vital importance of exploiting VUMC’s wealth of data resources to address population health issues. (photo by Joe Howell)


A multidisciplinary cross section of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University community gathered Tuesday during StrategyShare18, an interactive half-day event to share ideas, invite collaborations and spur new initiatives.

For this year’s session, organizers dissected VUMC’s Strategic Compass, a tool that purposefully directs the institution on its mission, to concentrate on one compass point or strategic direction: Discover, Learn and Share.

Several hundred individuals engaged in the event, which involved learning, connecting and sharing through TED Talk-style presentations, lightning-fast “power pitches” and mission moments that showcased personal stories of success.

The event was livestreamed, and remote viewers and those in the meeting room shared questions and thoughts via an online link that drove lively debate during panel discussions throughout the day.

“We have four strategic directions, and the one we’re focusing on today is Discover, Learn and Share,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Perhaps with this strategic direction, more than any of the others, the key isn’t just our success in getting things done. The key is asking the right questions, because what we do in the world of ‘Discover, Learn and Share’ all boils down to whether we are capable of actually asking the right questions.”

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, set the event’s tone early as she posited the idea that VUMC’s performance measurements should be more driven by the institution’s Mission Statement, and she suggested several possibilities for doing just that.

“Are we really aligning our measures with the most important things, and that is, those that we identify in our mission?” Wilkins asked. “If we continue to only measure outputs, services, deliverables, the number of papers published, grants we receive, the number of patients, the wait time, does that really align with our mission or are we just measuring what’s easy?”

Nancy Brown, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, built on the importance of being focused on the institutional mission and leveraging the many strengths of the Medical Center to address debilitating health diseases present in our communities, such as diabetes and obesity. In an earlier presentation, Melissa McPheeters, PhD, MPH, director of the Office of Informatics and Analytics at the Tennessee Department of Health and adjunct research professor of Health Policy at VUMC, pointed out that approximately 40 percent of VUMC patients come from rural zip codes, where failing economies, lack of nearby health care facilities and other factors dramatically impact residents’ health.

“It’s not good to be No. 6 in the country in terms of obesity,” Brown said, pointing to a map showing obesity

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, speaks during StrategyShare18. (photo by Joe Howell)

data in the region served by VUMC. “Sometimes we need to invest in something that has long-term return on investment like basic science. And sometimes we need to invest in work that will lead to unexpected discoveries. No one predicted that peptic ulcer disease was an infectious disease, and we are discovering that obesity is also an infectious disease. This is personal for me. I have given birth to three men who grew up in that red area, which means that their life expectancy is predictively shorter, and it should be personal to all of us.”

StrategyShare18 is an initiative of the VUMC Strategic Directions team, led by Reed Omary, MD, MS, chair of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and William Stead, MD, Chief Strategy Officer for VUMC.

“It was amazing to see all the connections between the various speakers and their teams. We have a network of passionate people who will help forge our future,” Omary said. “I realized how much ‘Discover, Learn and Share’ is integrated into everything we do. It is an essential direction for us to pursue.”

After the event, Stead called Wilkins’ presentation on measuring performance based on mission a “breakthrough idea.” A presentation by Matthew McEvoy, MD, professor of Anesthesiology, proposing that individuals should be recruited for their potential and not chiefly for academic pedigree, also grabbed his attention, as did a talk about intentionally supporting medical and research professionals as they explore new career paths by Chris Williams, MD, PhD, associate dean for VUSM’s Physician-Scientist Education and Training Program (PSTP) and director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

“A concept I heard today that really inspired me was community-initiated research,” Pietenpol said. “Many times, we hear of investigator-initiated trials or research that is focused on the idea of one individual or team, but many came away today thinking about how the challenges faced by the community can be the drivers for new research investigation, and the importance of collaborating with community to ask the right questions.”

“What I saw today was a passion to move forward at a more accelerated rate with transdisciplinary discovery and use of data in innovative ways that will lead to new discoveries and new ways of engaging with community as we work together to improve health both locally and nationally,” Pietenpol said.

“The next steps actually will largely come from connections participants made today,” Stead said. “We’re also hoping to be very intentional about continuing the conversation during the year, taking pieces of this and our other planning efforts and turning them into informative elements we can share, like a series of podcasts. This is all about connecting, supporting and enabling people to move forward in a common direction.”

Team members acknowledged for their work on StrategyShare18 were Megan Youngblood, MBA, director of Strategic Programs, Strategy and Innovation Office; Susan Meyn, director for Research Resources & Strategy; Steven Weissenburger, MEd, senior project manager, Strategy and Innovation; Herschel Pollard, MSIS, Strategy and Innovation Consultant; Krystyna Barnard, MPS, communications consultant, Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Megan Smallwood, program manager; Taylor Avery, program manager; Kristy Sinkfield, MEd, director, Strategy and Innovation; and Trish Hayes, director of events for the Office of the President and CEO.