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Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt celebrates 20 years of service

Feb. 8, 2024, 8:41 AM

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is celebrating 20 years as Middle Tennessee’s first full-service children’s hospital and is commemorating its mission of caring for children and their families.

Feb. 8 marks the 20th anniversary since Monroe Carell opened its doors to serve its first patients in 2004 when it expanded from three pediatric floors within Vanderbilt University Hospital to what is now a 12-floor, 325-bed state-of-the-art hospital, with more beds coming later this year.

Since opening, Monroe Carell, one of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, has experienced two decades of tremendous growth, cared for thousands of children and families, and achieved numerous milestones in its mission to provide exceptional, compassionate health care to children.

“We are proud of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital’s legacy of service to generations of children and families, and hope the Middle Tennessee community will join with us to recognize this important milestone. Through ongoing investments in talented, caring people and in new programs, we continue to strengthen our commitment to the most vulnerable patients we serve,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Viviana Ramirez, 6, celebrates the 20th anniversary of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with hospital mascot Champ. (photo by Brian Hallett)

The demand for pediatric health care in Nashville has surpassed all projections, leading to expansions in the size and scope of programming and in facility space at Monroe Carell. In the hospital’s first year, there were 9,500 inpatient admissions and 106,000 clinic visits. By end the of 2023, the numbers had increased to 17,150 admissions with 428,600 clinic visits. In 2004 there were 34,000 Pediatric Emergency Department visits, with a number that is on pace in 2024 to approach 54,000. Patients come from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Monroe Carell has nearly 4,000 employees, with more than 500 physicians trained in 31 medical and surgical specialties from advanced fetal diagnostics to dedicated pediatric cancer care, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, orthopaedics, neurology, neurosurgery and urology.

“We are privileged to care for children and families from across the nation. On Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital’s 20th anniversary, we are celebrating the millions of young lives that have been saved or improved by our talented physicians, nurses and staff. Through their efforts, these dedicated individuals are having an enormous impact each day,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC.

Through innovation, advocacy and research, the hospital has made significant contributions to the health and well-being of children including pioneering research in fetal surgery; leading gene therapy treatments for diseases like spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy; innovating personalized medicine therapies for childhood cancer; establishing Centers of Excellence for the treatment of diabetes, congenital heart disorders and sickle cell disease; and advancing specialized neonatal intensive care, with a 116-bed NICU, among the largest and oldest in the country.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime career to watch and partake in the journey of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. I am incredibly grateful to the leaders and teams, past and present, who have worked together to advance our programs on- and off-campus,” said Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, President of Monroe Carell. “This work has been further enabled by our many partners in the greater Nashville community, starting with the Carell family. We truly would not be the beacon of hope and healing that we are today without this support. Monroe Carell set our vision for this hospital, and here we are today realizing how far we have come, yet also appreciating his vision remains the foundation of our work going forward.”

The hospital is named for the late Monroe Carell Jr., former chairman and CEO of Central Parking Corporation. Carell and his late wife, Ann Scott Carell, were noted philanthropists, passionate champions of child health and visionaries for the creation of a full-service children’s hospital. Their family continues this legacy with their three daughters, Julie Carell Stadler, Kathryn Carell Brown and Edie Carell Johnson, and their families.

“More than 20 years ago, our parents had a dream for a world-class children’s hospital that cared for children as well as their families,” said Julie Carell Stadler, a Monroe Carell Advisory Board member. “They envisioned a leading pediatric health facility and research institution that was also full of empathy and even fun. My sisters, our families and I are grateful for the dedicated hospital staff who bring this place to life, translating our parents’ passion into compassionate care for families. On behalf of the Carell family, we know our parents would be delighted to see this beautiful celebration of 20 years of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and a century of caring for our community’s children. We are honored to carry on their legacy.”

The foundation for the Monroe Carell facility and pediatric health care in Nashville began in 1923 when the Junior League of Nashville opened the Home for Crippled Children, establishing a partnership with Vanderbilt, to provide convalescent and rehabilitative medical care for children with polio and other diseases.

Monroe Carell, designed by and for families, has seen two major physical expansions on campus over the past two decades: first in 2012, with a 33-bed 30,000-square-foot addition; and then a second in 2016, with the current, ongoing four-floor, 160,000-square-foot expansion atop the existing building. Once the latest expansion is complete, Monroe Carell will have 401 beds and more than 1 million square feet on the main campus.

To bring care closer to where patients and families live, Monroe Carell has also expanded its footprint across the entire state and into Kentucky and Alabama to include 30 off-site and affiliated locations, including several long-standing partnerships with regional hospitals. As part of this effort, in 2019, the hospital opened the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt Surgery and Clinics Murfreesboro.

Quickly established as a leading pediatric health care facility, Monroe Carell has consistently earned accolades as a best children’s hospital in the nation. In 2023 Monroe Carell was ranked the No. 1 children’s hospital in Tennessee and was one of just 23 hospitals in the nation ranked in 10 out of 10 pediatric specialty programs in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals. Monroe Carell has made the Best Children’s Hospital list for 17 consecutive years.

In 2022, Monroe Carell achieved its fourth Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This is the highest honor an organization can receive for the provision of nursing care and interprofessional collaboration. The Department of Pediatrics has also earned the distinction as a top-four pediatric academic research institution.

The hospital was also once again named a Leapfrog Top Hospital for 2023, earning the designation among an elite group of children’s hospitals across the nation. Monroe Carell is the only one of eight children’s hospitals in the U.S. and the only children’s hospital in Tennessee to make the 2023 “Top Children’s Hospitals” list.

— by Christina Echegaray

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