December 18, 1998

Bold plans, generous gifts among year’s top stories

Bold plans, generous gifts among year's top stories

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On the afternoon of April 16, VUMC personnel braced for the worst in the aftermath of the tornado and accompanying storm that devastated parts of Nashville. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

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Thousands of walkers swarmed the Vanderbilt campus in September for the American Heart Walk, hosted by VUMC. The American Heart Association event raised money for heart disease and stroke research, education, and community service programs. (Photo by Tim Gilfilen)

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Nurse Joy Wheeler showed Michelle and Jason Kell around at the grand opening of the new Pediatric Emergency Department earlier this year. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

As 1998 draws to a close, the staff of the VUMC Reporter looked back and compiled a list of some of the year's top stories. The stories are recapped here in no particular order.

Growth track

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is on the verge of what will be a very large growth spurt. At this year's Fall Faculty Meeting, institution leadership revealed details to accompany previously announced plans to build additional space and expand various aspects of the medical center.

Some of the additions and improvements are already under way, approved or in the planning stages. They include:

o the free-standing Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, which will be located on what is now parking lot 42, across from the Kim Dayani Human Performance Center, and will be connected to both The Vanderbilt Clinic and the Capers parking garage;

o an office building, which will house Human Resource Services, Sports Medicine, Health andvarious administrative departments currently spread across the medical center and is slated to be constructed at the corner of 25th Avenue South, between Highland and Garland avenues, adjacent to Olin Hall;

o a new home for the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, which probably will be built as a twin of Medical Center East;

o a four-level, 4,000-space parking garage already under construction at the corner of Highland Avenue and 25th Avenue South, across from the Vanderbilt Tennis Center;

o and a third research building, a 150,000-square-foot building, which will be shared with the university, and will be located between Medical Center North and the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

Growth ‹ in people, programs and business opportunities across all areas of the institution ‹ is what will ensure that VUMC can continue providing the Middle Tennessee region with vital health care services while at the same time dealing with the harsh economic realities of managed care and TennCare.

"To continue doing the things that we do well, we must become a more balanced institution," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. "More funds need to come from other areas besides the delivery of health care. We can't depend exclusively on the clinical enterprise to fund VUMC's three missions."

Ingram gift

The Ingram family of Nashville provided Vanderbilt University earlier this month with the largest gift in its history.

The Ingram Charitable Fund Inc. received 20 million shares of stock in Ingram Micro Inc., currently valued at more than $300 million, to support Vanderbilt's programs in teaching, biomedical research and education, public service and athletics. Specific designations for the gift have not yet been announced.

The Ingram Charitable Fund was created by Martha R. and the late E. Bronson Ingram, who was president of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust from 1991 until his death in 1995. Mr. Ingram also chaired the University's last capital campaign, "The Campaign for Vanderbilt," which raised more than $560 million in gifts, pledges and planned bequests by the time it ended in 1995. He played an important role in the history and founding of Ingram Micro Inc.

Martha R. Ingram, who succeeded her husband as chairman of Ingram Industries, is a member of the Vanderbilt board.

Spinal help

Mice paralyzed with spinal cord injuries recovered some walking ability after treatment with a compound discovered and initially developed as an anti-cancer drug at VUMC.

The work with bacterial toxin CM-101 was reported in the Oct. 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The drug works by blocking a "pathoangiogenic" process that creates new blood vessels in an inflammatory response to injury or to support the growth and spread of tumors, the researchers say.

"The key to preventing serious damage in spinal cord injury appears to be blocking the inflammatory process, which is the body's effort to clean up the damaged tissue but which becomes self-destructive," said Dr. Carl G. Hellerqvist, associate professor of Biochemistry and Medicine and senior author of the PNAS article.

Co-authors of the article are Dr. Artur W. Wamil, research assistant professor of Anesthesiology, and Dr. Barbara D. Wamil, research assistant professor of Biochemistry.

CM-101 was initially discovered during the study of group-B streptococcus infection in infants. CM-101 is a toxin produced by the bacteria that attacks newly formed blood vessels in the lungs and causes deadly lung disease in infected infants.

Frist Hall

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing added 25,000 square feet of space for student education and faculty research this fall.

The school¹s newest building, Patricia Champion Frist Hall, is a three-story brick structure that houses needed additional classrooms and office space to augment the school's mission.

The building was made possible by a $2 million gift from Patricia Champion Frist and her husband, Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., both of whom are graduates of Vanderbilt University.

Frist Hall includes a new student lounge, funded by the late Dorothy Goldstein, former chair of the Nursing School¹s Julia Hereford Society; an 80-seat, multi-media classroom; two multi-purpose rooms; and an additional 30-seat classroom.

"It is a dream come true because more space will allow us to advance our research interests," said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing.

Children's Hospital

Several developments took place this year in the effort to build Vanderbilt's proposed new free-standing Children's Hospital. Among them were:

o The Junior League of Nashville announced in April it will contribute $2 million toward the proposed new Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

The grant will be earmarked to defray costs of constructing and operating the Junior League Home in the new facility, which is expected to be open by 2001.

o The architect will be Earl Swensson Associates (ESa) of Nashville, which has designed more than 1,500 health care projects since 1965, including several in Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Acting as design consultant will be Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, which has designed several leading children's hospitals at academic medical centers across the country.

o Monroe J. Carell Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Central Parking Corporation, will lead the Campaign for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital as campaign chairman.

The campaign will be formally launched next spring. Carell is a long-time member and past chairman of the Children's Hospital board of directors.

An ER of their own

Emergency medical care for children in the region took a leap forward earlier this year when Vanderbilt Children's Hospital opened its new Pediatric Emergency Department.

Now, sick and injured children can receive emergency medical treatment in a completely separate, child-oriented environment, all supported by the expert specialized pediatric services of VCH. Since 1994, Vanderbilt has provided a separate treatment area for pediatric emergency patients during the busy evenings and on weekends; however, the area was temporary space used by other adult services on weekdays.

Viagra connection

The pharmaceutical story of the year was the success of the debut of the anti-impotence drug Viagra.

Reports of the drug's ability to restore sexual function are widely known. Less well-known is that most of the basic science research done to identify and clone the enzyme responsible for Viagra's effect was conducted at Vanderbilt by Jackie D. Corbin, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and Sharron H. Francis, Ph.D., research professor in Molecular Physiology.

Viagra works by inhibiting an enzyme called PDE5, which is responsible for preventing or stopping a man's erection by destroying the protein cyclic GMP.

Shuttle science

A little bit of VUMC went a long way in April as the shuttle Columbia rocketed into space to perform the Neurolab Mission ‹ a series of life-sciences experiments designed to evaluate the effects of weightlessness on the human nervous system.

VUMC's team of investigators ‹ along with scientists from 25 other universities in seven countries ‹ spent four years designing and refining its experiments performed by NASA astronauts during the mission; the most complex human experiments ever attempted in space.

VUMC scientists, under the direction of Dr. David Robertson, professor of Medicine, director of the Clinical Research Center and co-director of Vanderbilt's Center for Space Physiology and Medicine, were part of Neurolab's Autonomic Nervous System Team, which focused on blood pressure regulation, gravity and a condition known as orthostatic intolerance.

Family Re-Union

Vanderbilt and the concept of family-centered care was the focus of national attention in June when President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton joined Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore at the seventh annual Family Re-Union conference, held at VUMC's Langford Auditorium.

The annual forum is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy and the Children, Youth and Family Consortium at the University of Minnesota. VUMC's family-centered care initiatives were central to the conference, as it concentrated on strategies aimed at improving health care as it related to families.

Ranking high

Several programs at VUMC were ranked among the nation¹s best by U.S. News & World Report magazine.

The ninth annual assessment of health care facilities, dubbed "America¹s Best Hospitals," ranked institutions by 16 different specialties. Vanderbilt University Hospital and The Vanderbilt Clinic were ranked in seven of the 16 specialty areas surveyed, including cancer, endocrinology, gynecology, otolaryngology, pulmonary medicine, rheumatology and, for the first time, urology.

No other hospital in Tennessee was included in the national rankings of the 16 specialty areas.

Trauma unit

VUMC's commitment to providing the region's highest level of care to critically injured patients was bolstered by a new 31-bed unit dedicated to trauma care.

Located on the 10th floor of VUH, the new Trauma Care Center is designed to enhance the critical care services Vanderbilt already provides ‹ services which long ago led to its designation as the region's only level-one trauma center, the highest level attainable.

The space on 10 North, formerly an adolescent care unit, has been renovated to include 14 intensive care beds and 17 stepdown beds. A room for radiological testing has been installed, saving patients from transit to the first floor, and the 10th floor central waiting room has been enlarged. The Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) will remain on the hospital's third floor.


After ending a 13-year partnership with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., VUMC became the sole owner of The Psychiatric Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The transition is expected to be finalized by the end of the year. The decision was made largely due to the fact that it would be better for the hospital to remain in university hands to conduct its academic programs.

"Vanderbilt has to have an inpatient service to have a training program," said Norman B. Urmy, executive vice president for Clinical Affairs. "In the end that was the single factor that drove the decision. We need to have strong programs in behavioral medicine and we had many discussions about maintaining our academic programs. It was one of the things that was vitally important that we maintain."

VCC President

Orrin H. Ingram II last month took over as chair of the Vanderbilt Cancer Center Board of Overseers. He succeeded Dr. Benjamin F. Byrd Jr., clinical professor of Surgery, who served in that role since the board's inception and the creation of the VCC five years ago.

Ingram, a 1982 graduate of Vanderbilt University, is chairman and CEO of Ingram Barge Co. He also has served, along with his brother John, as co-president of Ingram Industries since the death of their father, E. Bronson Ingram, from cancer in 1995. He has been a member of the VCC Board since 1996 and chairman of the board's development committee.

During Byrd's tenure, the VCC grew in size and stature, achieving designation by the National Cancer Institute as one of the nation's leaders in cancer care and research.

The 20-member board has provided essential guidance for a number of VCC activities, including planning and implementing community outreach and education programs; assisting development and fund-raising efforts; advising on care delivery and patient support in the clinic; and advocating for the VCC and cancer research at the federal level.