September 22, 2011

Balser outlines achievements, goals at annual address

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Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., delivers Tuesday’s State of the Medical Center Address to a packed audience in Langford Auditorium. (photo by John Russell)

Balser outlines achievements, goals at annual address

Vanderbilt University Medical Center will stay focused on its mission in a year of unprecedented environmental challenges.

The institution will continue to grow in a highly strategic manner, with special emphasis on needs for physical space, investments in people and new programs that continue to enhance the Medical Center’s national reputation.

Those were the themes touched on by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, at his annual State of the Medical Center Address Tuesday in Langford Auditorium.

Balser said the Medical Center will achieve these goals, despite a tumultuous climate associated with the federal budget deficit driving lower reimbursement for health care services and funding reductions for the National Institutes of Health.

Savings are critical in turbulent times, Balser said. Through hard work and sacrifice on the part of all faculty and staff, VUMC has now replenished its days of available cash on hand back to pre-recession levels.

Continued growth of savings and sound financial stewardship will remain major priorities for VUMC. Fitch Ratings has recently upgraded Vanderbilt University to an AA+ rating, noting the upgrade is supported by improved performance throughout the University, including health care services at VUMC.

In the area of physical space, a 33-bed expansion for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt is anticipated to be complete in July 2012.

This expansion is expected to help meet increasing demand for a variety of children’s programs, including ICU services in neonatal intensive care, heart care and expanding stem cell transplant facilities for childhood cancer.

A buildout of the 10th floor of the Doctors’ Office Tower, expected to be finished in December, will add 21,000 square feet of added outpatient pediatric services. The fifth floor of the tower will also be renovated, doubling the outpatient space for the pediatric heart program.

Also under way is the buildout of floors 2, 7 and 10 of Vanderbilt University Hospital’s Critical Care Tower, adding surgical family waiting areas and amenities, 34 surgical and transplant patient beds and 34 bone marrow transplant and immunosuppressed patient beds.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, left, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., and Richard McCarty, Ph.D., share a laugh after Tuesday’s State of the Medical Center Address. (photo by John Russell)

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, left, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., and Richard McCarty, Ph.D., share a laugh after Tuesday’s State of the Medical Center Address. (photo by John Russell)

VUH basement renovations will support growth to Clinical Engineering, Dietary, Laboratory, Perioperative Services, Pharmacy, Radiology and Supply Chain services.

Additional elevator support will be provided by vertical expansion of the third floor TVC elevators to access all floors of the Critical Care Tower.

In the area of new research programs, Balser noted the launch of the nation’s first Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, under the direction of Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., Lee E. Limbird Chair in Pharmacology.

Conn and the center’s director of Medicinal Chemistry, Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, are developing compounds for drugs to treat fragile X syndrome, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

Balser also highlighted the leadership of Gordon Bernard, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. Vanderbilt was recently named the coordinating site for the nation’s network of NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), involving clinical research activities at 60 academic medical centers with a combined annual budget of $500 million.

Bernard, who serves as principal investigator of the new CTSA Coordinating Center Programs, was awarded a five-year, $20 million federal grant to direct the national consortium, which will advance biomedical research nationwide.

Overall, the Medical Center is making great strides toward greater national recognition and visibility of its many programs in research, education and clinical care. The National Academies now include 20 full-time Vanderbilt faculty, an all-time high, which is creating leadership and reputational opportunities on a worldwide scale.

VUMC’s reputation has increased both locally and nationally, according to recent consumer surveys. VUMC is the regional provider of choice, overall and in nearly all specialties, including home health. Nationally, the association of research, teaching and specialty care with VUMC by consumers in major cities across the country has significantly increased.

Balser closed his address by recognizing the Vanderbilt Commodores football team for its 3-0 start, highlighted by a feature story in the current issue of Sports Illustrated, saying the team’s commitment to values and resilience to win is an inspiration for all of Vanderbilt.

To view the State of the Medical Center address, go to