November 22, 2002

Eating Disorders Center planned at VCH thanks to $500,000 Junior League gift

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Dr. Ovidio Bermudez will direct the new center at Vanderbilt. (photos by Dana Johnson)

Eating Disorders Center planned at VCH thanks to $500,000 Junior League gift

Sally Smallwood with the Junior League presents Dr. Ovidio Bermudez the symbolic key to the new Eating Disorders Center on Tuesday.

Sally Smallwood with the Junior League presents Dr. Ovidio Bermudez the symbolic key to the new Eating Disorders Center on Tuesday.

The Junior League of Nashville this week announced a $500,000 capital gift to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to create the Junior League Eating Disorders Center at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

The gift represents the beginning of the Phase II development campaign to raise funds for the completion of the inpatient adolescent unit and outpatient tower, adjacent to the new Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, scheduled to open in fall 2003. The Junior League was the first organization to make a gift to Phase I and now will play a significant part in Phase II.

“The Junior League of Nashville has always played a pivotal role in the ongoing growth and success of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital,” said Monroe Carell Jr., campaign chair and lead contributor. “When we started this campaign to build a new freestanding hospital, they were the first group to say yes to the concept. This additional gift is further evidence of their incredible generosity and we are most grateful.”

Eating disorders are a serious health problem in the United States, affecting up to 10 million people a year, many of whom are adolescents. Approximately 1 percent of adolescent girls are affected by anorexia nervosa and 2 percent to 5 percent are affected by bulimia nervosa. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness with cardiac arrest and suicide as the leading causes of death.

Noted Adolescent Medicine physician Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, associate professor of Pediatrics, will play a key role in the Junior League Eating Disorders Center. The Junior League gift will provide dedicated space. The new center will provide a family-based, multidisciplinary team approach and will be the only eating disorders center within a 500-mile radius.

Currently, Bermudez sees about 90 patients each month, 20 of which are new referrals. On average, 50 percent of those patients suffer from anorexia, 25 percent from bulimia, and 25 percent from eating disorders not otherwise specified. The average age of the patients is 17, with patients as young as 10 and 12. Only 5 percent of the patients are male. Because of the scarcity of eating disorders programs, patients travel from as far away as Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Bermudez, who attended the announcement on Tuesday, is excited about the Junior League’s gift, recognizing that it will allow VCH to expand its services to children suffering from eating disorders.

“The gift will give us the opportunity to expand our services and offer comprehensive, state-of-the-art treatment to those who need it,” Bermudez noted. “Comprehensive, meaning that we will be able to offer each young person affected by an eating disorder the level of care that they require, from multidisciplinary outpatient services to day treatment or partial hospitalization to full inpatient services.”

Dr. Arnold Strauss, James C. Overall Professor of Pediatrics and chair of the department, also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive program and expressed his gratitude to the Junior League for their gift.

"Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia, affect a large and growing number of adolescents and young adults," Strauss explained. "Because there is no comprehensive eating disorders treatment center in our region and because the complications and mortality for eating disorders are very substantial, with 5 percent to 10 percent of patients dying, it is essential that Vanderbilt Children's Medical Center have a thoughtful program to evaluate and treat these problems. The Junior League has recognized this great need and made a substantial contribution to create the facilities and program necessary to treat eating disorders. This wonderful gift will have a tremendous impact on our ability to care for these patients."