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Hidden VUMC Figures event honors unsung contributors

Nov. 6, 2019, 5:13 PM

John Wiley, Marian “Peggi” Wiley, Pamela Gunter-Smith, PhD (granddaughter of William Gunter Sr., and Randy Bates were recognized at the Hidden VUMC Figures event held Nov. 4.
John Wiley, Marian “Peggi” Wiley, Pamela Gunter-Smith, PhD (granddaughter of William Gunter Sr.), and Randy Bates were recognized at the Hidden VUMC Figures event held Nov. 4. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Kathy Whitney

On Nov. 4, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Office for Diversity Affairs presented the third annual “Hidden VUMC Figures” event — a tribute to employees who have made significant long-term contributions to the Medical Center, often behind the scenes.

“At VUMC the collective ‘we’ have a rich history of hidden figures. That rich history predictably has broad diversity that includes women and people of all races, ethnicities, religions and genders and gender preferences,” said Andre Churchwell, MD, Chief Diversity Officer for VUMC. “Further reflection informs me that for us to fulfill the vision of a diverse and inclusive community committed to value all members, we must, when appropriate, honor those people whose shoes we are attempting to fill.”

The 2019 Hidden VUMC Figures include:

Randy Bates came to VUMC from NASA in 1985. Bates developed a communications system among VUMC’s various IT applications more than 30 years ago — before the World Wide Web was invented and before the Medical Center had a backbone network. “This Generic Interface Engine (GIE) is the key connector that led us to develop applications such as WIZ Order and StarPanel, and more recently it dramatically simplified EpicLeap by reducing the number of interfaces we had to develop,” said Bates’ early mentor, Bill Stead, MD, Chief Strategy Officer. As a lead architect in VUMC’s HealthIT department, Bates built a complex network of interfaces, starting with three in 1991 to more than 300 today. Bates’ GIE processes over 1 billion messages yearly, encompassing all admissions and discharges, clinical orders and results, patient scheduling, operating room processes and more.

Marian “Peggi” Hayden Wiley rode the bus in the snow to apply to work in VUMC’s Department of Nursing in 1963. She completed nursing technician training and was assigned to the new Round Wing. Over 43 years, she worked primarily in the gynecologic oncology clinic with Lonnie Burnett, MD, Howard Jones, MD, and Marta Crispens, MD. “I first met Peggi in 1997 and it did not take me long to realize Miss Peggi was more than just a tech,” said Susan White, RN, charge nurse, hematology/oncology. “She could run the (GYN) cancer clinic by herself, and if I had to do a patient procedure, Miss Peggi would always assist me. She is a remarkable woman and I was blessed to work with her for the years I did.” Wiley retired to focus on her health and to enjoy time with her family. Her straightforward, motherly, one-of-a-kind character left a lasting impression with those for whom she paved the way.

John Ellis Wiley, Peggi’s husband, began his career at Vanderbilt as a glassware washer in the Microbiology Lab in 1959. He later worked in the Pathology Department where he made slides of cancer patient biopsies and the media to stain the slides. He moved to the Biochemistry Department to measure and detect cancer in rats before joining the Muscular Dystrophy research team in the Department of Neurology. Wiley concluded his career working with Lee Limbird, PhD, former chair of the Department of Pharmacology, where he ran the animal care facility, creating an “environment of respect for the animals,” Limbird said. “The most significant applications of John’s many talents was when he began to work with Jack Wells, PhD, in pharmacology, and there he was responsible for dissecting away the coronary vessels in porcine hearts. Those were very important experiments — what Jack Wells would say couldn’t be done without John.” After 38 years of dedicated service, Wiley retired in 1997.

William (Bill) Gunter Sr. was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on Sept. 1, 1880. Essentially orphaned, Gunter was befriended by a physician at Vanderbilt who headed the Pathology Department and he became fascinated with the study of pathology. Gunter ultimately served as the diener of the anatomy labs at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in charge of anatomical material, a post that he held for 56 years. At his 50th anniversary of employment at Vanderbilt, he was honored by students, faculty and staff. “Over his nearly six decades of service, Bill Gunter trained thousands of medical students, and few employees have ever had as much of an impact,” said Christopher Ryland, curator of history of medicine collections and archives at Vanderbilt University Libraries. “I’m so proud that 76 years later, we’re able to bring recognition back to the man who gave so much to Vanderbilt.” In 1946, with the financial help of some Vanderbilt physicians, Gunter opened the William Gunter & Sons Funeral home, which he managed with his three sons. Although Gunter died in 1949, the business operated continuously for more than 60 years.

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