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State of the Department of Pediatrics address highlights growth, achievements

Sep. 21, 2023, 9:52 AM

During his address, Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, talked about the past fiscal year and the journey ahead. (photo by Erin O. Smith)
During his address, Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, talked about the past fiscal year and the journey ahead. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

by Christina Echegaray

On the heels of a pandemic that created a lot of uncertainty in the health care industry, the Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics has excelled, caring for more children than ever before while continuing to see record-setting growth among its faculty, staff and trainees, said Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, chair of the department.

Delivering his annual State of the Department address in a hybrid in-person/virtual format, Webber celebrated the department’s people, highlighted the achievements of the past fiscal year and provided insights into the journey ahead. He remained steadfastly focused on the department’s four core mission areas — clinical care, discovery, education, and advocacy and service — as drivers of success while ensuring that each area has an intentional focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“It has been a challenging year for health care in general, but despite all these challenges, you can see that you have excelled in all our core missions and come together as an amazing team. It’s has been a really busy year and you have all risen to the occasion,” said Webber, James C. Overall Professor and pediatrician-in-chief of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

In clinical care, almost all specialties now provide care off campus at 30 locations across Tennessee with the goal to provide care closer to where patients and families live. Nearly 870 faculty and staff are involved in that network of care which includes clinics, after-hours care, specialty care, and support for several nurseries and neonatal intensive care units across the state.

“It was truly hard to predict what would happen coming out of COVID, but as you can see, there has been an acceleration in our clinical volumes in the last two years, and everyone has been busy, and of course, our patients benefit from this,” said Webber.

“New patient visits have increased 20% over the last two years, emphasizing the enormous demand for your services, and we are now providing care at 30 locations across the state. Providing care nearer to patients’ homes is the right thing do for patients and families.”

As a leading pediatric research institution, the department remains a top contender of total research grants and contract awards with more than $101 million from all federal and nonfederal sources. The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranked the department No. 4 on its annual list of National Institutes of Health grant funding for departments of pediatrics within schools of medicine.

The department’s robust programs and discovery mission also continue to attract the best and brightest trainees across the country, and even globally, with five resident trainees originating from other countries. Drawing from 1,200 applications, the training program includes 127 residents and 92 post-doctoral fellows.

“Our trainees are also contributing greatly to our discovery mission as represented by a record number of presentations and publications. This year alone, there were 73 oral presentations, posters and publications by residents and 181 by fellows,” Webber noted.

Webber also acknowledge the increasing number of faculty recognized for their service contributions and advocacy as leaders with some of the premier national medical organizations and associations across the country. He also stressed the continued importance of the relationship and partnership with community pediatricians and with the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation.

Looking ahead, Webber highlighted the buildout of the final two floors of the four-floor expansion atop the existing Monroe Carell facility. Additionally, he previewed the Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks pediatric ambulatory expansion and noted efforts to support pediatric rehabilitation initiatives.

“Thank you for a fantastic year, and I hope this gives you a better sense of how successful each and every one of you are each and every day,” Webber said in his closing.

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