December 16, 2021

Year in Review 2021: A year of perseverance, achievement at VUMC

The fight against COVID-19 carried on, but while the pandemic dominated the news in 2021, there were many other achievements that made headlines this year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

For the second straight year the COVID-19 pandemic loomed over Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the nation and the world.

Throughout the year, clinical teams showed unwavering commitment and dedication to caring for the sickest patients impacted by COVID-19 while continuing to provide the specialized services available only at VUMC. Clinical team members weathered several surges in patient volume and helped each other manage the stress and fatigue of battling the pandemic.

Research conducted at VUMC played a crucial role in developing therapies to treat COVID-19 as well as the new vaccines and boosters to prevent infection that were distributed nationwide.

The fight against COVID-19 will carry on, but while the pandemic dominated the news in 2021, there were many other achievements that made headlines this year.

Hospital acquisitions

VUMC acquired Tennova Healthcare-Shelbyville and Tennova Healthcare-Harton hospitals and their related businesses, including physician clinic operations and outpatient services, from subsidiaries of Community Health Systems Inc. (CHS).

Under VUMC’s ownership these facilities became Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital and Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital.

VUMC also acquired a minority ownership interest in CHS’s affiliated Tennova Healthcare-Clarksville hospital and related physician practices through an agreement with Tennova’s existing minority partner, GHS Holdings, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clarksville Volunteer Health Inc.

ADRD research funding

VUMC was awarded a five-year, $31.7 million grant by the National Institute on Aging to harmonize research data gathered on human subjects in scores of disparate studies of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

ADRD is studied from various angles, and from one human research cohort to the next the data are collected in different ways and at different scales, with many data points conforming to ad hoc definitions.

Record number of transplants

The Vanderbilt Transplant Center performed a record number of solid organ transplants in fiscal year 2021 (FY 21) — 637 life-saving procedures among its adult and pediatric programs — despite occurring entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of transplants from FY 21, the period between July 2020 and the end of June 2021, are up 10% from the 578 transplants during the same period in FY 20.

In FY 21, VUMC performed 590 adult transplants and 47 pediatric transplants, records for both age groups.

Vanderbilt Health Belle Meade

Vanderbilt Health Belle Meade opened. The 50,000-square-foot outpatient facility offers additional space for urology, orthopaedic and oncology services, along with cancer infusion therapy.

The facility, located at 6002 Highway 100 in Nashville near the Highway 70 and Highway 100 split, includes 18 exam rooms; seven operating suites for orthopaedics and urological surgeries; pre- and post-operative areas; a cancer clinic and an infusion area with nine infusion stations and two procedure rooms.

Vivien Thomas Way

Through a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student-led effort, Dixie Place, the city street that runs between the Medical Center’s Central Garage and the Oxford House building on 21st Avenue South, was renamed Vivien Thomas Way.

Thomas’ history with Vanderbilt and contributions to cardiac surgery are well documented. A Nashville native, he secured a job as a Vanderbilt laboratory assistant with Alfred Blalock, MD, in 1930, rapidly mastered complex surgical techniques and research methodology, and began doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in Blalock’s lab.

General Surgery’s new home

The Division of General Surgery, the largest division within the Department of Surgery and one of the Medical Center’s highest volume surgical practices, moved the majority of its practice into a new space in Hillsboro Village.

The clinic at 2111 Belcourt Ave., Suite 103 (Side B), is the patient care site for nearly all facets of elective general surgery. This includes consultations for the surgical treatment of abdominal wall, incisional, inguinal and hiatal hernias; gastric reflux; gallbladders; and many more conditions.

AIDS CTU grant renewed

VUMC and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis received renewal of a major federal grant to continue their collaboration to test and develop new treatments and vaccines against HIV/AIDS — and now COVID-19.

The grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health provides an estimated $17.5 million over the next seven years to the AIDS Clinical Trials Units at both institutions.

Clinical care focus of new academy

Leaders at VUMC and VUSN created the Academy for Excellence in Clinical Medicine (AECM). The mission of the Academy is to recognize and advance exceptional patient care.

The initiative to establish the AECM grew out of a proposal from the Physician Council for Clinical Service Excellence and is being formed to “honor exemplary clinicians who combine humanism, professionalism and a passion for patient care with a scholarly approach to improving patient health and who will establish a community of leaders to promote clinical excellence.”

Vanderbilt Health Hendersonville

VUMC opened Vanderbilt Health Hendersonville, a 31,000-square-foot facility that offers adult outpatient specialty care, along with pediatric specialty care and imaging services to the citizens of Sumner and surrounding counties.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, growth projections show that the population in Sumner County will increase 45% by 2035. The Vanderbilt Health Hendersonville facility and the services now offered there were planned with this in mind.

Funding renewed for MVTCP

The Meharry Medical College/Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center/Tennessee State University Partnership (MVTCP) received renewed funding for the next five years to continue long-standing collaborations to eliminate cancer health disparities.

The National Cancer Institute awarded the grant through the U54 Comprehensive Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity program. The MVTCP is the longest-standing partnership in the United States through this program, entering into its 22nd consecutive year of funding in September 2021.

New insights on cancer metabolism

Tumors consume glucose at high rates, but a team of Vanderbilt researchers discovered that cancer cells themselves are not the culprit, upending models of cancer metabolism that have been developed and refined over the last 100 years.

Instead, non-cancer cells in a tumor — primarily immune cells called macrophages — have the highest glucose uptake, the group reported in the journal Nature. The findings could be exploited to develop new therapies and imaging strategies, the investigators said.

New support from PCORI

The STAR Clinical Research Network, based at VUMC, was approved for an additional $8.9 million in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to support its efforts to improve health care throughout the Southeast and across the United States.

The funding is provided over three years as part of PCORI’s support for the third phase of PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.

Lebanon pediatric care clinic

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt opened a new pediatric primary care clinic in Lebanon, Tennessee, across the street from Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH).

The Vanderbilt Children’s Primary Care Lebanon, located at 1420 West Baddour Parkway, Suite 210, adds to a growing footprint of Children’s Hospital locations across Middle Tennessee that bring care closer to where families live.

Including the main Children’s Hospital campus in Nashville, the surgery and clinics facility in Murfreesboro, six after-hours clinics and specialty care clinics, Children’s Hospital now has 17 locations.

Carefluent Connect launched

VUMC launched a durable medical equipment (DME) company, Carefluent Connect, LLC.

The wholly owned commercial subsidiary of VUMC opened a retail storefront amid clinics at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks, at 719 Thompson Lane, Nashville. The company is starting with 10 full-time employees.

DME is any medical equipment used in the home, from walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds to CPAP machines, oxygen tents and blood sugar meters. When prescribed by a clinician, DME typically is covered by health insurance.

Dental, oral surgery services relocate

With the opening of Vanderbilt Oral Health, VUMC’s dental and oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) services came together in one convenient location on Belcourt Avenue in Nashville, just across from the Belcourt Theatre.

The 8,400-square-foot facility at 2111 Belcourt Avenue, Suite 201, marks the first time both associated clinical services have been in the same space. Each clinic — dentistry and OMFS — cares for approximately 8,000 patients annually, and the new facility provides plenty of space with 13 exam rooms, three oral hygiene rooms and four procedure rooms.

VUMC launches its own UDN

VUMC, an original member institution of the National Institutes of Health’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network, (UDN) launched its own program, the Vanderbilt Undiagnosed Diseases Program (VUDP), which will operate alongside the UDN. The VUDP goal is to expand services to many more patients who are living with the often-dire consequences of an undiagnosed disease.

Teen Cancer America lounge

Children’s Hospital and Teen Cancer America opened a new state-of-the-art lounge to serve the unique needs of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients.

Kylie Jenner made a $500,000 gift with additional funds from Teen Cancer America to build the new lounge space, located on the sixth floor of Children’s Hospital. The gift was made in honor of Harry Hudson, singer-songwriter and cancer survivor who was successfully treated for stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma after being diagnosed in 2013 at age 20. Jenner, CEO/Founder of Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin, has been a longtime friend to Hudson.

Heart failure research support

Researchers at VUMC received a four-year, $6.2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop a novel panel of biomarkers to improve the diagnosis of acute heart failure (AHF).

Accurate diagnosis of AHF can be difficult because symptoms such as shortness of breath (dyspnea) and congestion (edema) are non-specific and may be caused by other conditions. The challenges to diagnosis may delay appropriate therapies, resulting in longer hospitalizations and worse outcomes.

Army trauma training site

VUMC became an official site of the U.S. Army Military-Civilian Trauma Team Training (AMCT3), formalizing a longstanding relationship between the two entities that is built on a history of collaborative success.

The AMCT3 program delivers medical training opportunities to military medical personnel by assigning them to civilian trauma centers. VUMC is one of only a few civilian medical centers in the nation to now participate in such a program.

New pediatric cath lab

A new, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab debuted at Children’s Hospital to meet the growing volume of the Pediatric Heart Institute.

As the ninth busiest pediatric cardiac surgical program in the country, the expansion will include Hybrid Cath Lab capabilities to allow for collaboration between cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists in the cardiovascular procedural suite that combines all the features of a traditional cardiac surgery operating room with those of a cath lab.

MPRINT grant

VUMC was awarded a five-year, $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a center of excellence for Maternal and Pediatric Precision in Therapeutics.

Vanderbilt joined University of California San Diego, Ohio State University, and Indiana University to form the new Maternal and Pediatric Precision in Therapeutics Hub.

These four institutions, funded by the NIH, work together to serve as a national resource to expand knowledge and expertise in maternal and pediatric pharmacology.

Wound Center established

Chronic wounds impact the quality of life for an estimated 2.5% of the United States population, and because successful treatment of poorly healing wounds often requires intervention by specialists in several medical fields, VUMC established the comprehensive, multidisciplinary Vanderbilt Wound Center.

The center treats adults with slow-to-heal wounds not responding to conventional care. These individuals now see wound care specialists in one location with well-coordinated treatment to better promote healing.

Novel treatment for MMA

A 9-year-old Children’s Hospital patient became the first in the world to receive an investigational gene editing therapy for Methylmalonic Acidemia (MMA), a rare genetic disorder diagnosed at birth.

On May 29, Eddie Axelson, of Clarksville, Tennessee, received LogicBio Therapeutics’ investigational single-administration targeted gene-editing therapy, hLB-001, which seeks to correct MMA, an inborn metabolism disorder in which the body cannot properly process protein from food. n