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Medical Center employees celebrated at festive event

Mar. 14, 2019, 10:30 AM

The United Voices of Vanderbilt Choir got the audience into the spirit at last week’s Celebrate the Difference WE Make Every Day!
The United Voices of Vanderbilt Choir got the audience into the spirit at last week’s Celebrate the Difference WE Make Every Day! (photo by Joe Howell)

by Jill Clendening

There were inspirational songs from the United Voices of Vanderbilt Choir, a rollicking rock band, a roll call of achievements and heartfelt stories shared by grateful patients and their families during Celebrate the Difference WE Make Every Day! 2019, an appreciation event to honor all Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees.

The three Celebrate sessions held last week mark the Medical Center’s second time to hold an all-employee event highlighting teamwork and the collective impact of its people.

“Can you believe that we have 24,000 people who work here?” asked Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “That’s a city. And if you count the spouses and children of our employees, it’s more like 70,000 people that are part of our family.”

During his annual State of the Medical Center address, Balser shared stories and statistics reflecting the institution’s accomplishments and success.

“We have four hospitals, and now well over 1,000 beds in these hospitals,” he said. “And a little-known fact is that in these hospitals the survival rate is 12 percent better than the average hospital in America. That means there are approximately 200 more people a year who survive because they come to Vanderbilt versus an average hospital.”

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, right, and C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, spoke at last week’s Celebrate events.
Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, right, and C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, spoke at last week’s Celebrate events. (photo by Joe Howell)

Balser expressed his appreciation for employees’ contributions toward the continued growth of outpatient services, noting there are now 137 clinic sites that experience more than 2.2 million patient visits each year, nearly double the number of outpatient visits from just 10 years ago. He also acknowledged the Medical Center as home to one of the largest biomedical research enterprises in the country, with approximately 5,000 individuals engaged in clinical and basic science research.

“Another thing people may not realize is we are actually a global institution,” Balser said. “If you look at our health care, education and training, and you look at our research and where it is, we’re in over 200 countries and territories. We’re both local and global. And this is really an important feature of who we are.”

Balser praised the Medical Center’s educational offerings, which include 150 specialty training programs. For physicians, about one-third of the residency and fellowship training programs are the only ones of their kind in Tennessee.

He also commended the highly acclaimed Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the Medical Center’s Nurse Residency Program, where more than 300 recently-graduated nurses are currently training in a full range of clinical specialties.

Medical Center staff serving in a large array of supporting roles were also thanked by Balser, who noted some of the amazing stats, such as each year the Valet Service parks more than half a million cars, the Department of Nutrition Services serves more than 2 million meals, Information Technology provides support for approximately 40,000 computers and the Department of Finance processes more than 4 million bills.

He shared many notable accolades, including the third consecutive Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and successive “A” Safety Grade scores from the Leapfrog Group that places the Adult Hospital among the safest in the nation.

Fun was a key ingredient of this year’s Celebrate events. (photo by Joe Howell)

“You see images around campus for the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals rating,” Balser said. “This year, we made the Honor Roll, which means among all hospitals in the United States, we are among the 20 most sought-after health care institutions in America.”

Balser praised standout clinical programs, including the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, which performed 502 solid organ transplants in 2018. The Heart Transplant Program now boasts the second highest procedure volume in the United States, while the Lung Transplant Program is the Medical Center’s fastest growing.

He also applauded the Medical Center’s leading role in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, a network comprised of 12 National Institutes of Health-funded centers that seek diagnoses for extremely rare and complex diseases affecting more than 20 million Americans. Over the past four years, the Vanderbilt Center for Undiagnosed Diseases has been responsible for nearly 25 percent of all diagnoses made by the network.

Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC, focused his remarks on patients to illustrate the Medical Center’s ongoing commitment to personalized care. New television ads featuring individuals whose lives were saved by teams at VUMC were shown.

In the ads, heart transplant patient Maurice McAllister talked about his close relationship with his care team, especially transplant coordinator Jan Lemanski, RN. Singer/songwriter Wade Hayes voiced his heartfelt appreciation for his oncologist, Jordan Berlin, MD, who he credits for saving him from stage 4 colon cancer. Tracey and Rhonda Kinslow, parents of Hannah Kinslow, shared how Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt feels like home to their daughter because of the many acts of kindness they have encountered.

“Weren’t those terrific?” Pinson asked after the audience viewed the ads. “I heard Maurice say, ‘Vanderbilt saved my life.’ I heard Wade say that he thinks if he hadn’t met Dr. Jordan Berlin, he wouldn’t be here. And I heard Hannah’s dad say, as far as that family’s concerned, and especially Hannah, ‘this is her hospital, and she loves it.’”

The patients and their families even filmed a special “thank you letter” just for employees so each could express their gratitude for the care they received, and to share that even small deeds and smiles are appreciated, especially during a crisis.

Pinson concluded his remarks by sharing updates about recent and upcoming facility expansions, along with information about initiatives underway that are enhancing the patient experience and increasing access to health care services.

Pinson said that 72 new primary care exam rooms were recently opened at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks and the Village at Vanderbilt, and construction has begun on a new pediatric specialty and outpatient surgery center in Murfreesboro that will serve patients of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.

On the west side of Nashville, at the Highway 100 and Highway 70 split, a new 46,000-square-foot multispecialty surgery clinic with operating rooms, as well as infusion bays for cancer treatment, will soon be under construction.

He said 88 inpatient or observational beds are also being added at Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital and the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, along with the expansion currently under construction at Children’s Hospital.

“We are focusing on where we serve others and how we serve others,” Pinson said. “We’re trying to fill in those gaps in access to care.”

At the conclusion of Celebrate, songwriter Jonathan Mann performed a song he’d written about the event as it unfolded. Employees sang along on the chorus before enjoying a meal provided by the Medical Center.

To watch Balser’s State of the Medical Center address, go to

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