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Address highlights Pediatrics department’s growth

Sep. 14, 2022, 3:44 PM


by Christina Echegaray

Amid a year full of ongoing pandemic challenges, the Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics’ “people” have driven the continued successes, achievements and growth of the department while also caring for more children than ever before, Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, said in his recent annual State of the Department address.

Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered last week’s State of the Departmemt of Pediatrics address.
Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, delivered last week’s State of the Departmemt of Pediatrics address. (photo by Donn Jones)

Webber, marking his 10th address since he assumed the role as chair, gave updates and highlights from the past fiscal year while providing insights into the department’s advancements and gains over the last decade.

Delivering his address in a hybrid in-person/virtual format, Webber, James C. Overall Professor and pediatrician-in-chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, focused on the four core mission areas of clinical care, discovery, education, and advocacy and service with diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of each.

“I think that everybody recognizes that this year has been very challenging in health care and that despite all these challenges, you have all excelled in our core missions and come together as an amazing team,” Webber said.

“As we talk about the people of our department, we must view our mission through a lens that includes intentional focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do both in the department and as an academic medical center.”

With more than 800 faculty and staff, the department’s team members now provide a network of care across the state in 30 different locations, which includes clinics, after-hours care, specialty care, and support for several nurseries and NICUs across the state.

The recent faculty recruitment to the department includes 64 new faces.

Outpatient clinic volumes — on campus and off campus — continue to see record growth with clinic visits increasing over the prior fiscal year by 6.1% in specialty clinics and 24.7% in primary care clinics.  In addition, ED visits and after-hour visits increased by 38% and 67%, respectively, over prior year, and the intensive care units (NICU and PICU) had their busiest year in the history of Monroe Carell.

“This has been our busiest clinical year ever. We are seeing more patients than we have ever seen before,” he said. “We also understand the critical importance of taking our VUMC pediatric care out into our communities. Providing care close to patients’ homes is the right thing to do.”

As the department cares for more patients than ever in more locations across the state, the faculty and staff are continuing the discovery mission to bring more therapies and better ways of diagnosing conditions.

The discovery work continues to be buoyed by strong research grant and contract awards, with more than $91.3 million from all federal and nonfederal sources. Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranked the department No. 6 on its annual list of National Institutes of Health grant funding for departments of pediatrics within schools of medicine.

The best and brightest minds are also seeking out the department for training and educational opportunities.

A decade ago, most of the trainees emanated from the east coast, especially the Southeast. A key goal in recent years has been to diversify the geographic region from where the department’s trainees are recruited.

Webber demonstrated how trainees now come from just about every state in the U.S. as well as from several countries across the globe.

This year’s 24 interns were recruited from a cohort of almost 1,300 applications. There are now 124 residents and 96 postdoctoral fellows, which are an increase over the previous year.

In the community, the department is committed to advocacy and service. Webber highlighted the impact that many faculty are making at the national level in roles within national organizations. He also stressed the continued importance of the relationship and partnership with community pediatricians and with the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation.

In his look ahead, he highlighted the upcoming build-out of the 12th and 14th floors of Monroe Carell and noted that planning is underway for those floors.

“It’s likely to be another busy fiscal year in the coming months. I am appreciative of all the teams that are working very diligently on strategies on how to best serve our patients and families,” he said.

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