December 20, 2002

2002 — An exciting year for VUMC

Featured Image

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson

Dr. Arnold Strauss, Monroe Carell Jr., Mayor Bill Purcell, and Dr. Harry R. Jacobson sign the final beam to be lifted atop the new hospital. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Dr. Arnold Strauss, Monroe Carell Jr., Mayor Bill Purcell, and Dr. Harry R. Jacobson sign the final beam to be lifted atop the new hospital. (photo by Dana Johnson)

John C. Gore

John C. Gore

Smallpox trials start

Vanderbilt was awarded a $12.6 million National Institutes of Health contract to conduct clinical trials and test new vaccines, including a smallpox vaccine to help prepare the nation for a possible bioterrorism attack.

VUMC’s first smallpox vaccine study was conducted in May and proved that both of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) stockpiles of Dryvax vaccine and the frozen Aventis Pasteur vaccine would produce an appropriate immune response at differing dilutions. Both lots of the vaccine, manufactured decades ago, have been in cold storage since the global eradication of the disease in the late 1970s.

VUMC researchers launched the second trial of the nation’s existing supply of smallpox vaccine. The trial, which began in October, evaluated the frozen stockpile of Aventis Pasteur smallpox vaccine, and measured the ability of the vaccine to stimulate immunity at three different dilutions. Another component of the study assessed potential risk of those vaccinated to other “vaccine naïve” individuals.

Hospital receives top ranks in nation

Vanderbilt University Hospital earned a place on the “honor roll” of the nation’s best hospitals in rankings released in July by U.S. News and World Report.

This is the first time in the 13-year history of the magazine’s annual survey that Vanderbilt University Hospital and The Vanderbilt Clinic have scored in the top tier.

VUH was also recognized in Solucient’s 100 Top Hospitals National Benchmarks for Success study released in December. This is the third year in a row VUH has been named to the Top 100 list.

The award recognizes the efforts of VUMC’s board, management team, employees and medical staff for providing high quality care, efficient operation, and superior patient results.

VCH reaches milestone for 2002

Vanderbilt University was awarded a $1 million challenge grant by The Kresge Foundation to help with construction costs of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in April.

The eight-story hospital, currently under construction on the Vanderbilt Medical Center campus, will be the only freestanding children’s hospital in Middle Tennessee. When completed in the fall of 2003, it will mark the first time in its 30-year history that Children’s Hospital will be able to offer comprehensive services in one building.

A campaign to raise funds for the new facility was launched in 1999 by a $20 million gift from Monroe Carell Jr., and a $2 million gift from the Junior League of Nashville. Carell, chairman of Central Parking Corporation, is leading the fund-raising effort.

In May Medical Center and community leaders gathered with hundreds of celebrants for the event observing the topping out of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The traditional ceremony commemorated the highest structural element of the new hospital being put into place and also marked the two-year anniversary of the groundbreaking for the new facility.

VUSN leads call for more U.S. nurses

A study linking nurse staffing and patient outcomes that was released a year ago by a Vanderbilt University School of Nursing researcher gained significant support, especially since its appearance in the New England Journal of Medicine in May.

The study, originally released April 2001 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is co-authored by Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Research and Valere Potter Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and Jack Needleman, assistant professor of Economics and Health at Harvard School of Public Health.

The findings from the study, the most comprehensive to date on the topic, show that low nurse staffing directly impacted patient outcomes ranging from urinary tract infections, shock and bleeding.

Competitive SPORE grants continue

Last spring, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center became one of only a handful of institutions in the country to be awarded more than one Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute with its award of a SPORE in gastrointestinal cancer. In 2001, a team of researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram was awarded a SPORE in lung cancer. SPOREs are awarded by the NCI to foster innovative, interdisciplinary research with clear implications for improving treatment and prevention of specific types of cancer. Dr. David Carbone directs the lung SPORE; Dr. Robert Coffey directs the GI SPORE. Each SPORE brings about $13 million in research support over a five-year period. A third SPORE in breast cancer, under the leadership of Dr. Carlos Arteaga, is pending funding by the NCI and Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators have submitted an application for a SPORE in prostate cancer.

Master Teachers honored

As a way of rewarding excellence in teaching, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine named seven faculty members to its first group of Master Clinical Teachers in October.

Named to the group were: Drs. G. Waldon Garriss III, assistant professor of Medicine and Pediatrics; Joseph Gigante, assistant professor of Pediatrics; R. Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of Medicine; Corey M. Slovis, professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine; Anderson Spickard III, assistant professor of Medicine; John L. Tarpley, professor of Surgery; and John A. Zic, assistant professor of Medicine.

The program is designed to enhance medical education for the school’s third- and fourth-year students, to protect time for teaching, which too often takes a back seat to the faculty’s research and patient care demands, and to improve the teaching skills of VUSM faculty members, said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of VUSM.

‘Imagine’ campaign sets bar higher at $175 million

When the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center adopted its aggressive 10-year strategic plan and launched a $100 million fund-raising campaign to help fund it, the goal was to build strength in broad areas of research. A little more than three years — and more than $160 million — later, the strategic plan has been revised to seize new technologic and scientific opportunities that didn’t exist in 1999 when the campaign began. And the goal for the campaign to Imagine a World Without Cancer has been set even higher, at $175 million, with aggressive fund-raising to continue for at least another year.

Among the achievements made possible by the campaign, which has involved more than 7,000 donors, are recruitment of nearly 70 basic scientists; designation of Vanderbilt-Ingram by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center; enhancement of Vanderbilt’s work in cancer epidemiology; completion of the Frances Williams Preston Building as a focal point for Vanderbilt-Ingram activities; leverage of private investment in pilot projects and other innovative work to help more than double NCI funding from $16 million to more than $40 million; award of 17 endowed Ingram professorships and two new endowed chairs; launch of the Pain and Symptom Management Program; and creation of a historic partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt-Ingram.

Jacobson elected to Institute of Medicine

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, was elected into the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the organization announced in October.

Jacobson joins an elite group of 1,472 individuals who have been elected into the IOM on the basis of professional achievement and of demonstrated interest, concern and involvement with problems and critical issues that affect the health of the public. Election to the IOM comes by a vote of its current members and the competition is great.

Gabbe encourages ‘10 by ‘10’

Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine, summarized Vanderbilt’s five-year strategic plan — to be ranked in the top 10 U.S. medical schools by 2010 as “10 by ‘10 — at the Spring Faculty Meeting in April.

Gabbe outlined the key elements of the academic strategic plan: growing basic and clinical research; recruiting top students and faculty; rewarding excellence in teaching; expanding the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance; and increasing financial resources through philanthropy, technology transfer and clinical enterprise.

Hudson leads Matrix Biology

Billy Hudson, Ph.D., was named director of the new Center for Matrix Biology and the Elliot V. Newman Professor of Medicine in the division of Nephrology, with a secondary appointment in Biochemistry in March.

Hudson’s seminal discoveries of the chains of alpha 3 and alpha 4 type IV collagen contributed to the understanding of the molecular bases of Goodpasture syndrome and Alport syndrome.

Levitt heads Kennedy Center

Pat R. Levitt, Ph.D. assumed the position of director of the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development at Vanderbilt in June.

Levitt came to Vanderbilt from the University of Pittsburgh where he was Thomas Detre Professor and chair of Neurobiology and co-director of the Center for Neuroscience. Over the last several years, his research has focused on the interplay of genetics and environment — including the gestational and early-nurturing environment —in the development of the mammalian brain.

Shmerling named VCH CEO

James E. Shmerling was named chief executive officer of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Shmerling, former president of Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, assumed the duties at Vanderbilt in June.

The newly created CEO position signals the expected 2003 completion of Middle Tennessee’s first and only freestanding children’s hospital.

Hill named to lead diversity initiative

George C. Hill, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology at Meharry Medical College, was appointed to a newly created position at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine — Associate Dean for Diversity.

Hill, who began his new role on July 1, oversees efforts to promote Vanderbilt as a “receptive, positive environment” for minority faculty, house staff, students and patients.

Hill is also a tenured professor of Microbiology and Immunology, holding the newly created Levi Watkins Jr. Professorship for Diversity in Medical Education at Vanderbilt. The professorship is named for the renowned Johns Hopkins University heart surgeon who was the first African-American to earn his medical degree from Vanderbilt in 1970.

VICC pioneer directs new VU initiative

Earlier this year, a pioneer in the development of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center turned his sights to a new initiative at Vanderbilt University, and one of Vanderbilt-Ingram’s first recruits took his place as associate director for basic science programs. Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, succeeded Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., in the position that Marnett has held since the cancer center was born in 1993.

Marnett, who remains as Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research and director of the A.B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratories, was named director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology. As a bridge of the schools of Medicine and Arts & Sciences, the institutes is designed to apply chemical approaches to important biologic problems and provide rapid translation of basic research into treatment advances for all diseases, including cancer.

As associate director for basic science programs, Pientenpol serves on the executive committee that sets Vanderbilt-Ingram’s course. She also oversees seven research programs that include more than 250 faculty members and receive more than $40 million in research support from the National Cancer Institute alone

Sternberg accepts Ophthalmology chair

Dr. Paul Sternberg Jr., currently a professor at Emory University, was named the George W. Hale Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, filling the position held by Dr. Denis O’Day who retired this spring.

Sternberg, a retina specialist with focused interest in age-related macular degeneration, will bring with him an NIH RO-1 grant titled “Antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration” worth $1.3 million.

New division formed to study reproductive biology

The division of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, staffed, at the outset, by a team of four independent research scientists recruited from the University of Kansas Medical Center was launched July 1.

The new division is under the direction of S. K. Dey, Ph.D., Dorothy Overall Professor of Pediatrics and professor of Cell and Developmental Biology.

The three other principal investigators in the group include Dr. Jeff Reese, Bibhash C. Paria, Ph.D., and Sanjoy K. Das, Ph.D., all associate professors in the department of Pediatrics. Collectively, the group brought eight federally and privately funded research grants with them.

Proteomics conference draws hundreds

More than 200 scientists attended a VUMC-sponsored national proteomics conference in May.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Leroy Hood, who is nationally known for his scientific innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Hood played a major role in developing the technology for sequencing the human genome, and he has helped create a number of biotech companies. He recently founded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Wash., which aims to understand how genes, proteins and other factors work together in complex biological systems.

Gore directs Imaging Science institute

John C. Gore, Ph.D., internationally recognized for his magnetic resonance imaging research, joined the faculty in July as Chancellor’s University Professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering and director of the new institute. He and a team of more than a dozen scientists moved to Vanderbilt from Yale University.

The Institute of Imaging Science is a university-wide initiative that will bring together engineers and scientists whose interests span the spectrum of imaging research — from the underlying physics of imaging techniques to the application of imaging tools to study the brain’s inner workings.

Gore’s joint primary appointments in the schools of Engineering and Medicine reflect the trans-institutional scope of the new institute, which is being supported by the participating schools and by the Academic Venture Capital Fund, a novel Vanderbilt program set up to provide financial backing for academic initiatives that will have national impact.

Wente chairs Cell and Developmental Biology

Susan R. Wente, Ph.D., was named professor and chair of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Wente, who assumed the new post July 1, was a member of the department of Cell Biology & Physiology at Washington University School of Medicine.

In order to reflect the internationally recognized research in developmental biology among the faculty, the department recently underwent a change in identity from the former designation of Cell Biology. Wente’s appointment provides a solid foundation for continued growth in that area.

VUMC teams with Meharry to study asthma

Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center teamed up to try to understand why some minority and low-income groups suffer disproportionately from asthma.

In November The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute announced the awarding of a five-year, $6 million grant to Meharry and Vanderbilt to establish a new Center for Reducing Asthma Disparities.

Dr. Ruben Pamies, chairman of Internal Medicine at Meharry, and Dr. James R. Sheller, associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt, will direct the Meharry/Vanderbilt center, one of five in the country.

Wood considered for FDA top position

On Feb. 20, after months of speculation in the national media that Dr. Alastair J.J. Wood, assistant vice chancellor for Research, would become the commissioner of the FDA, the newswire service Bloomberg reported that he was “out of the running.” A wild ride of late-night White House meetings and hushed, yet intense, lobbying in support of and against him, had ended.

Reports pointed fingers at the drug industry, saying Wood would be seen as too conservative; ironic, because Wood’s more efficient, more effective style would probably have made more room in the market for drugs, just as Vanderbilt’s own IRB is allowing for more clinical research under his leadership. Others said he would be too liberal on certain issues. The bottom line, they say: he was true to science, not politics.

A paperless clinic

During 2002, Vanderbilt Medical Group staff and physicians, supported by the Informatics Center, undertook to improve quality and efficiency by using computers in place of paper-based clinical processes. The project, called E3 (as in electronic by 2003), was begun in 2001 and is scheduled for completion by February.

E3’s eventual impact on patient care quality can’t be overstated, as the project sets the stage for automated clinical decision support, automated outcomes tracking, and greater standardization of practice. The more immediate impact is in terms of efficiency gains. E3 is projected to bring $1.7 million in labor savings this fiscal year, and by paving the way for electronic documentation tools, the project will eventually save additional millions in transcription costs.

The driver for E3 is StarPanel, a Web-based electronic medical record system linked with clinic scheduling and hospital admission systems to support management of individual patients and patient groups. For patients, E3’s salient feature is that, instead of a paper chart, nurses and doctors use computers in the exam room to view the medical record.

A busy year in the hospital and clinic

When admissions and visits are all counted, 2002 will no doubt be found to have been the busiest year on record for the hospital and clinic. In the midst of caring for all those patients, faculty and staff found time to make major changes and establish far-reaching improvement initiatives. Here are a few highlights:

• The Leapfrog Group, a consortium of Fortune 500 companies and other large private and public health care purcharsers, commended Vanderbilt University Hospital for key patient safety measures. Leapfrog’s initial survey of 241 hospitals focused on computerized physician order entry and physician coverage of intensive care units. VUH was one of only two institutions that met Leapfrog’s highest standards for both these safety measures.

• The Emergency Department launched a fast-track program to allow patients with minor injuries to get in and out more quickly.

• A new Web site,, was launched this summer to give patient’s password-protected access to their scheduling and account information. The long-term plan for the site includes display of test results and other highlights of the patient record, submission of medical history, bill payment, prescription renewal and other features.

• In July Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital instituted a 22-week nursing internship. In addition to ensuring that new nurses are well prepared to take care of children, the innovative program is expected to help improve recruitment and retention. The program took the place of a three-month on-the-job training period.

• In a move that allows new efficiency in patient care, education and research, the department of Radiology phased out use of film, capturing virtually all images in digital format for examination via computer monitors.

• With its September move to a new location on the third floor of the Vanderbilt Clinic, the Vanderbilt Preoperative Evaluation Center doubled its capacity and set its sights on evaluating all adult presurgical patients. At its previous location, VPEC had been seeing only about 55 percent of these patients.

• Operative Services implemented a major upgrade to its management information system, setting the stage for improved surgical instrument control, easier cost analysis, easier management of surgeon preferences for equipment and supplies, and historic case scheduling, that is, automatic review of scheduled cases against previous case duration for a given surgeon and a given procedure or combination of procedures.

• To improve coordination of services, the hospital’s 137 service associates transferred out of their respective patient care centers and into three ancillary departments: environmental services (house cleaning), patient transport and nutrition services.