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People key to Pediatrics’ many successes: Webber

Sep. 23, 2021, 9:27 AM


by Rachel Vitolo

Framed through the lens of the department’s core missions — clinical care, discovery, education, and advocacy and service — the annual State of the Department of Pediatrics address highlighted the successes of the past year, recapped the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and described the road ahead.

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered last week’s State of the Department of Pediatrics address at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered last week’s State of the Department of Pediatrics address at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

“This year has been very challenging and truly unique. In fact, I’d say without a doubt that this is probably the hardest year I’ve experienced in 37 years of medicine,” said Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, chair of the department.

“But I hope to show you that despite all these challenges you have excelled in all of our core missions and come together as an amazing team.”

The department continues to grow, totaling more than 800 people — faculty and staff — across 25 clinical locations. The department has welcomed 372 new faculty and providers since Webber joined the department as chair in 2012, an overall increase of 74%.

In alignment with institutional goals, the department is committed to furthering diversity, inclusion and health equity efforts.

Webber tasked the Pediatric Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with specific projects that have measurable outcomes, including recruitment and retention best practices, immunization initiatives, telemedicine access and food insecurity.

New clinical locations opened in the past fiscal year include the Vanderbilt Children’s Primary Care Lebanon clinic and the Vanderbilt Health Hendersonville multi-specialty clinics.

“As our reach continues to expand, we are reminded of the critical importance of taking VUMC pediatric services into our communities. We have a commitment to bring quality, comprehensive care closer to home for our patients and families,” said Webber, Pediatrician-in-Chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and James C. Overall Professor of Pediatrics.

Webber emphasized the importance of a community mindset and continuing to bring care close to home for our patients. Thriving relationships with community partners are essential to that work. The department continues their commitment to advocacy and service, maintaining a strong partnership with the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation and community pediatricians across the state.

Education and training remain integral to the department’s mission to prepare the next generation of physicians, who now come from across the United States and four countries to train as residents and postdoctoral fellows. Over the past fiscal year, the Pediatric Residency program had more than 1,270 applicants for 24 categorical intern positions.

In the discovery mission, the department again set an all-time high in total extramural funding awards, with more than $113 million from all federal and non-federal sources. The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranked the department No. 4 on its annual list for National Institutes of Health grant funding for departments of pediatrics within academic medical centers, up from No. 6 in 2019.

“It is not about the funding itself; it’s about the science that the funding facilities. It has been a banner year for high impact publications from the department, especially in the areas of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19,” Webber said.

Webber stressed the department’s commitment to supporting the clinical enterprise during the current delta surge, but also urged faculty and staff to extend their focus to the larger departmental priorities.

These include a sustained focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, expansion of clinical trials, maturation of the physician-scientist pipeline and continued strategic clinical expansion and growth of fetal services.

In closing, Webber stressed the importance of focusing on family and personal well-being.

“While I know this is easier said than done, I urge you to pause and reflect about yourself and those around you. Is there a colleague who’s struggling that you should reach out to? Are you taking the necessary time for yourself and family?

“We would all do well to reflect in this way, and in these coming months, be patient and supportive of each other. The road ahead will be challenging and at times may be exhausting, but I can think of no other group better equipped to face these challenges.”

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