December 17, 2020

Challenges, achievements share spotlight in 2020

The year 2020 will forever be defined by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s response to it has been nothing short of stunning.
The entire enterprise — clinical, research and education — began preparing for the pandemic’s impact even before the first cases appeared in Tennessee in March, and that dedicated commitment and unceasing effort did not waver in the long months that followed. But while COVID-19 dominated the news during 2020, there were still many other noteworthy achievements that made headlines during the year.


The year 2020 will forever be defined by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s response to it has been nothing short of stunning.

The entire enterprise — clinical, research and education — began preparing for the pandemic’s impact even before the first cases appeared in Tennessee in March, and that dedicated commitment and unceasing effort did not waver in the long months that followed.

Clinical teams have worked heroically and tirelessly to care for the sickest of the patients who contracted COVID-19, while at the same time continuing to offer the expert care in other areas that only VUMC can provide.

Rapid expansion of telemedicine capabilities and having a substantial number of non-clinical employees work from home helped protect the community by limiting the spread of the virus while at the same time ensuring patients continued to receive routine care remotely.

VUMC research played a crucial role in developing therapies to treat COVID-19 as well as the two new vaccines to prevent infection that will soon begin to be distributed nationwide.

The battle against COVID-19 is still ongoing and will continue far into 2021. But while COVID-19 dominated the news during 2020, there were still many other noteworthy achievements that made headlines during the year.


Facilities acquisition

VUMC announced plans to acquire Tennova Healthcare-Shelbyville and Tennova Healthcare-Harton hospitals from subsidiaries of Community Health Systems Inc. (CHS).

VUMC has also reached an agreement with Tennova’s existing minority partner, GHS Holdings, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clarksville Volunteer Health, Inc. (CVH), a Clarksville nonprofit, to acquire its 20% minority interest in Tennova Healthcare-Clarksville and related physician practices.


Heart transplant first

In the first such procedure in Tennessee, VUMC successfully used technology to bring two donor hearts that stopped beating back to life before transplanting them into patients.

Until recently, such hearts, categorized as donation after cardiac death (DCD), could not be used for transplant and were discarded.

Using DCD hearts has the potential to greatly expand the number of hearts available, providing more life-saving transplants for VUMC patients and shortening wait times for people badly in need of a transplant.


Rehabbing damaged lungs

A new technique demonstrated by Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery, shows the potential to increase the supply of donor lungs by rehabilitating organs previously considered too damaged for transplant.

Bacchetta and colleagues demonstrated that lungs could be supported for up to four days using cross-circulation from an animal model, which is the longest duration of support yet demonstrated worldwide. The method resulted in significantly improved lung function and cellular regeneration and allowed researchers to develop diagnostic tools for non-invasive organ evaluation and repair.


Lung Institute launched

VUMC launched the Vanderbilt Lung Institute (VLI), a unique collaboration between Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Thoracic Surgery, designed to provide coordinated care for patients with all types of respiratory diseases.

The Vanderbilt Lung Institute One Hundred Oaks Clinic opened in November, a 10,725-square-foot space including 16 exam rooms and five patient consult rooms. Patients also continue to be seen at VUMC’s main campus as well as the Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus, and Allergy Program (VASAP) clinics in Lebanon, Gallatin, Brentwood and Franklin.


Brain aging research grant

With the aid of an $18.2 million, five-year grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging, the Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project (VMAP) is advancing interdisciplinary research into abnormal brain aging and cognitive decline in older adults, with continuing emphasis on the role of blood flow changes in the heart and brain.

Growing evidence suggests modest age-related changes in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health, which might not typically be seen by clinicians as a warning sign, can be precursors of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.


Hendersonville specialty care

VUMC is building a new 31,000-square-foot facility that will offer adult outpatient specialty care, along with limited pediatric specialty care and imaging services to the citizens of Sumner and surrounding counties.

The facility is located on Anderson Lane North in Hendersonville’s Indian Lake Community and will feature 40 clinic exam rooms, urgent care services and imaging capabilities such as CT, ultrasound and X-ray.


Baby+Company acquired

To provide additional maternity care and a full spectrum of birthing experience options for patients, VUMC acquired the Nashville location of Baby+Company, a freestanding birthing center that emphasizes a family-centered, low-intervention approach to delivery for uncomplicated pregnancies.

The acquisition makes VUMC the only academic medical center in the country with an accredited out-of-hospital birthing center.


Transplant program milestone

VUMC completed its 10,000th organ transplant, a monumental achievement representing nearly 60 years of life-saving work.

VUMC passed the 10,000 mark overall in July, in the same year that the Vanderbilt Transplant Center celebrated its 30th anniversary. Since VUMC’s first kidney transplant in 1962, Vanderbilt surgeons have transplanted 5,664 kidneys, 2,384 livers, 1,380 hearts and 572 lungs.


Exploring RNA in colorectal cancer

A multidisciplinary team of investigators at Vanderbilt University and VUMC received a program project grant from the National Cancer Institute to explore extracellular RNA in colorectal cancer.

The five-year, $9 million award will support multiple projects that aim to define fundamental biological principles about extracellular RNA signaling and the development and aggressiveness of colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.


VWCH transitions IT systems

Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH) completed its transition to VUMC’s clinical and information technology (IT) systems. The change represented a critical step in fully integrating the hospital into the Vanderbilt family.

The transition included implementing eStar, Vanderbilt’s customized version of the Epic electronic health record (EHR) system, lab and imaging systems, medication dispensing cabinets and other specialized clinical systems. It also includes administrative applications, such as Microsoft tools, and access to a 24/7 Help Desk for additional technical support.


VWCH Emergency Department

VWCH’s Emergency Department transitioned to become part of VUMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine. The VWCH Emergency Department was previously staffed through physicians from a contracted agency.

The transition involved VUMC hiring seven new emergency medicine physicians in addition to two who already practice at the hospital. Additional staffing at VWCH is by physicians from the department who also work at VUAH.


Online health cost estimator

The Vanderbilt Health website now features an out-of-pocket cost estimator for many hospital and professional services offered by VUMC. Anyone with an internet connection can use the new online tool to generate immediate estimates, with no website registration required.


VMAC becomes institutional center

The Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center (VMAC), currently housed in the Department of Neurology, become a freestanding institutional center.

Joining other VUMC disease-based centers funded by the National Institutes of Health, such as the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, VMAC will support and draw expertise from faculty across the campus working in a broad range of disciplines. VMAC’s founding director, Angela Jefferson, PhD, professor of Neurology and Medicine, was named director of the new institutional center.


MyHealth Bundles debuts

VUMC created MyHealth Bundles, an innovative and value-based approach to managing some of the most common and costly health conditions.

MyHealth Bundles provide employers with more transparent, predictable pricing by prioritizing consistent care. The bundled payment model encourages care coordination and adds incentives for clinical departments to better manage a patient’s entire experience, reducing employers’ overall costs and building a concierge service experience.


Advance directives made easier

Improvements to the web-based My Health at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Health’s online patient portal, have made it easier for health care teams — including patients and their designated health agents — to add and access an End of Life Care Plan to guide medical decision making.

Through an End of Life Care Plan, also known as an Advance Directive, an individual names a health agent, an individual they want to make their health care decisions if they are unable to do so, and clearly spells out their choices for specific health care interventions.


SHARE Center launched

VUMC launched a new program to support individuals impacted by sexual harassment in the workplace.

Named the SHARE Center (Sexual Harassment: Access, Response and Education), the program provides a confidential place where VUMC faculty, staff and Allied Health students can discuss their experiences of workplace sexual harassment and learn ways to connect to additional resources to support their needs.


Kennedy Center renewed as IDDRC

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) was awarded a $6.8 million, five-year grant to continue as a national Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC).

Founded in 1965, VKC is one of the nation’s original research centers dedicated to advancing the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and amelioration of intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Women’s health center in Lebanon opens

Access to women’s health and midwifery services became more convenient than ever for Lebanon and Wilson County residents after the opening of the new Center for Women’s Health Lebanon outpatient clinic.

Located at 1616 West Main St. in suite 101 as part of Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH), the clinic provides general gynecology services such as Pap smears, well-woman visits and breast exams along with specialty gynecology services, including abnormal bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids, infertility and contraceptive care.


Cancer Center Support grant renewed

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) received an overall “exceptional” score for its research impact and excellence in patient care.

This achievement merits renewed funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and places it once again in a top group of NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

The renewal of the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) provides VICC more than $36 million over the next five years to advance research discoveries, to sustain the work of its scientific leadership and administration, and to maintain its infrastructure, including shared resources for cancer investigators.


Erlanger agreement

Erlanger Health System and VUMC, on behalf of VICC, entered into a professional service agreement designing a long-term collaboration in comprehensive cancer care, including VICC hematology-oncology services at Erlanger Oncology and Hematology and infusion locations.

The agreement established VICC as Erlanger’s exclusive contracted provider of adult inpatient and outpatient hematology-oncology services and medical directorship for the program. The agreement did not affect Erlanger’s relationship with its medical staff.


Nashville Soccer Club relationship

Nashville Soccer Club and Vanderbilt Health announced a strategic, multi-year relationship that includes Vanderbilt Health as an official sponsor of Nashville SC and the team’s exclusive health care provider.

Vanderbilt Sports Medicine is providing Nashville SC’s team physicians, including a chief medical officer, as well as a staff of athletic trainers, a nutritionist and sports psychologist. Vanderbilt Sports Medicine physicians are present at all home matches and provide on-site medical care for the club and visiting teams.