November 8, 2018

Assembly highlights crucial role of culture of respect

Setting the tone for the morning’s presentations, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s fall Leadership Assembly began with a stirring rendition of the Aretha Franklin classic, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” performed by the Medical Center’s United Voices of Vanderbilt choir.

Wednesday’s Leadership Assembly kicked off with a performance by the United Voices of Vanderbilt choir. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Bill Snyder

Setting the tone for the morning’s presentations, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s fall Leadership Assembly began with a stirring rendition of the Aretha Franklin classic, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” performed by the Medical Center’s United Voices of Vanderbilt choir.

Acknowledging to the audience that leaders often have to confront difficult and uncomfortable situations, Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, focused his remarks on respect in the workplace, particularly on the topic of sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviors that disproportionately affect female members of the health care workforce, including those at VUMC.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, speaks at Wednesday’s Leadership Assembly in Langford Auditorium. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“We have that here,” he said to a standing-room-only crowd in Langford Auditorium. “And we have more of it than we should have … As humans, we don’t like to confront conflict … yet this is an issue where we must. Our people need us to.”

No matter the source of sexual harassment, he said, “it is not right … it should not be tolerated.”

Nearly 20 percent of the sexual harassment complaints received by federal agencies charged with investigating such claims come from health care organizations, Balser said. That is largely due to the fact that men traditionally have dominated the workforce in medicine.

This is changing, but “what that means is that men have an added responsibility to help us get this right, call it what it is and make a difference,” he said.

To foster a culture of respect and address incidents of sexual harassment, Balser said that training is now being rolled out across the organization for leaders, and over the coming year for all members of the VUMC community, that will set behavioral expectations. There is also a clearly defined reporting process and a team of Human Resources professionals in place to provide guidance.

“I need your help,” Balser said in concluding his talk. “This is something we can really impact in this Medical Center if we just will, and I believe we can.”

Balser’s call to action around respect in the workplace was echoed by the assembly’s keynote speaker, Shan Foster, a 2008 graduate of Vanderbilt University and the all-time leading scorer for the Commodores men’s basketball team. Foster, vice president of External Affairs at YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, now leads its AMEND Together program that engages men and boys to end violence against women and girls.

More information about VUMC’s sexual harassment policy, reporting and resources can be found on the VUMC Human Resources website:

Reflecting the assembly’s overarching theme of respect, C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC, opened his remarks with comments about the significance of outstanding customer service, followed by a short video about Bruce Tyler, a patient transporter in the GI Endoscopy Clinic who became a VUMC patient himself this summer.

“Bruce treats everyone with dignity and he delivers his best in every interaction,” Pinson said. “Now he is entrusting us with his care as he battles cancer. He was open about sharing his perspective because he wanted to encourage others to be respectful and positive. VUMC is a special place because of Bruce and so many people like him.”

In his quarterly Pillar Goal update, Pinson shared that the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network is continuing to grow, including the recently announced affiliation with the Knoxville-based University Health Network (UHN). UHN includes the University of Tennessee Medical Center and University Physicians’ Association in Knoxville.

The Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network now spans 67 hospitals, more than 6,100 providers and 320,000 covered lives, Pinson said

“We created this network to adapt to the future delivery of health care,” he said. “Our goal is to be the region’s preferred clinically integrated network that delivers best-in-class quality and service to individual patients and to populations of patients.”

To better position VUMC for future growth and enhance its overall performance, Pinson provided an update on the Adult Enterprise reorganization. Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital continues to be led by CEO Mitch Edgeworth, MBA, while the Adult Ambulatory Clinics inside Davidson County are now led by Thomas Nantais, MBA, who joined VUMC in September as executive vice president for Adult Ambulatory Operations. Adult Clinics outside of Davidson County are now led by Luke Gregory, Chief Executive Officer for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and Senior Vice President for Business Development.

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, discussed the Adult Enterprise reorganization and performance on Pillar Goals. (photo by Susan Urmy)

The Adult Enterprise restructuring reflects the Medical Center’s three key focus areas for this year: improving patient services and access; increasing clinical volumes; and better management of expenses. “Just a 1 percent reduction in expenses across all of VUMC would bring $40 million to the bottom line,” Pinson said.

As for the Medical Center’s performance on its Pillar Goals — People, Service, Quality, Growth & Finance and Innovation — Pinson said the Medical Center has made substantial progress in the year since the transition to eStar was launched.

Greater numbers of new patients are being seen within 14 days of requesting an appointment, and nearly 50,000 new users created My Health at Vanderbilt online accounts during the first quarter of the fiscal year.

To further improve VUMC’s culture of service, through a two-year initiative called Defining Personalized Care — Elevating Our Culture of Service, all employees were enrolled this week in a training module called “Be Welcoming.”

The Be Welcoming module focuses on universal behaviors that everyone can use to improve their personal connections.

“Every interaction is an opportunity to provide exceptional service and personalized care,” Pinson said. “Is that not what you would want for you? Is that not what you would want for your family?”

Finally, he mentioned all employees should consider downloading the convenient Vanderbilt Health On Call and TelaDoc apps.