March 14, 2024

Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital President Mary Pawlikowski to retire

Mary Pawlikowski, MA, MEd, PsyDABD, president of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, will retire at the end of the fiscal year. A search will begin for the hospital’s new executive director.

Mary Pawlikowski, MA, MEd, PsyDABD

Mary Pawlikowski, MA, MEd, PsyDABD, president of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital (VPH) and Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, will retire at the end of the fiscal year. A search will begin for the hospital’s new executive director.

During her time as president, Pawlikowski presided over a period of significant growth and expansion of VPH, with the highest overall volume and throughput, as well as the single highest census day in the hospital’s history. The level of service at the hospital has greatly expanded, including Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient, Walk-In Assessment and outpatient care.

VPH also increased its inpatient bed capacity from 88 to 106 beds with the opening of VPH 4 and expansion of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“I want to express my appreciation to Mary for her service to VUMC and Vanderbilt Behavioral Health. In today’s environment, providing high quality mental health services is increasingly challenging,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Under Mary’s leadership VPH has advanced its mission as she and the facility’s physicians, nurses and staff have ably served the needs of a growing patient population.”

Pawlikowski joined VUMC in 2015 as Vice President of Operations for Vanderbilt Behavioral Health and had an immediate impact by joining with key stakeholders to design and launch the Psychiatric Assessment Service

She is recognized for the ability to build relationships that bridge between VUMC and external agencies such as the State of Tennessee, multiple community partners and members of the VPH Patient and Family Advisory Council.

In 2023, Pawlikowski, in collaboration with Stephan Heckers, MD, MSc, the William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Schizophrenia Research and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, along with other clinical department chairs participating in executive oversight, helped form the Behavioral Health Clinical Services Center (CSC).

The purpose of the Behavioral Health CSC is to provide a professional home for licensed and license-eligible, non-physician behavioral health providers who are delivering assessment, diagnosis and intervention to patients receiving services throughout VUMC, allowing them to focus on five principal areas: standardized models of care, education, professional development, workforce expansion and partnerships to provide support and guidance.

“Mary joined us nine years ago and immediately impressed us with her deep knowledge of and consummate expertise in managing behavioral health services. We have seen tremendous growth at VPH, and Mary deserves most of the credit,” said Heckers.

In addition to her leadership role at VPH, Pawlikowski has been closely involved in broader institutional activities such as serving on the executive committee that developed the new Mutual Respect policy.

After joining VUMC in 2015, Pawlikowski was promoted to the role of VPH Chief Operating Officer in 2017. She was named as the hospital’s interim president in 2020 and then president in 2021.

“During my years at VUMC I have had the privilege to work with extraordinary people who come together to care for the health care needs of individuals. I am extremely proud of our VBH leaders, faculty and staff who have accomplished so much during these challenging times. The foundation to continue improving access to behavioral health care throughout our clinical enterprise is in place,” said Pawlikowski.

Prior to joining VUMC she served as COO for Concord Behavioral Health and was vice president and COO for the Carrier Clinic in Belle Meade, New Jersey, where she helped plan and execute a major strategic facilities expansion effort and was focused on process improvement and fiscal management.

Pawlikowski earned a Master of Science in Education degree and completed her doctoral coursework from Pace University, a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science degree from Fordham University.

In addition to her responsibilities at VUMC, Pawlikowski serves the community through various volunteering projects such as being a mentor for youth with Dickson County’s Tennessee Promise. She is a former president of the NAMI Davidson County Board of Directors and a former board member on the Governing Council for Psychiatric & Substance Abuse for the American Hospital Association.

Pawlikowski currently serves on the National Association of Behavioral Health on three committees and is founding member of their Research & Education Foundation. She was also appointed by the mayor of Nashville to serve on the Behavioral Health & Wellness Advisory Council.

A search Process is beginning to identify a new Executive Director of VPH, led by Lee Ann Liska, President of Vanderbilt University Hospital. Expressions of interest in this position can be emailed to Katie Poeschel, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition,