January 22, 1999

Gaffney to direct Medicine’s patient care center efforts

Gaffney to direct Medicine's patient care center efforts

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Dr. F. Andrew Gaffney

Dr. F. Andrew Gaffney, professor of Medicine, has been named senior vice-chair for Clinical Services in the department of Medicine. His primary responsibility will be to coordinate the department's clinical activities into patient care centers.

Gaffney, a well-known cardiologist and former space shuttle astronaut, has served as clinical chief of Cardiology since joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1992 and interim director of the division of Cardiovascular Medicine for nearly two years. He helped lead the establishment of the Cardiology Patient Care Center, through the Vanderbilt Page-Campbell Heart Institute, one of the first such centers in this major restructuring in how patients are cared for at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"Expanding quality access to patients while improving accountability for the expenses of their care are important drivers in the formation of our Patient Care Center program at Vanderbilt," said Dr. Eric G. Neilsen, Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

"These primary care and specialty product lines will integrate their ambulatory practices with inpatient services. We are extremely fortunate to have Drew lead the further development of their formation for the department of Medicine. He has a creative, long-term view, in-depth knowledge of the medical center's workings and substantial process-related skills. With the assistance from superb senior leadership now in place in all our divisions, I have great optimism that our goal of even better patient care is at last in sight."

Patient care centers differ from the traditional approach to delivering health care in that the care revolves around a defined patient group, such as patients with heart disease or those with cancer, rather that around a specific clinic, service or department. Each of the designated centers brings together teams of related physicians, health care providers and resources – inpatient and outpatient – to treat the defined patient group in a more seamless fashion. Each center is led by one or more physician and administrative officers.

"The department of Medicine has enthusiastically embraced this new model, and within the next year, we plan to have virtually all the clinical activities of the department aligned in patient care centers," Gaffney said.

The process will evolve over the next six to eight months. "One of the first tasks for the department is to break up the large Medicine Patient Care Center into smaller, more manageable entities," said Dr. Allen B. Kaiser, professor of Medicine and vice-chair for Clinical Affairs at Vanderbilt University Hospital. "When we are done, we will have a Gastroenterology-Liver-Nutrition Center, an Allergy-Pulmonary-Critical Care Center, a Renal-Diabetes-Hypertension-Vascular Center, and a smaller Medicine Center comprising General Medicine, Primary Care, Rheumatology and Infectious Diseases. These, along with Cardiology and the Blood and Cancer centers will round out our initial medicine program for the institution."

Some patient care centers are division-based, while others cross divisions or even departments, and their success depends on cooperation and support across those lines, Gaffney said. His position was created to provide senior-level leadership to this effort, to allow for the greatest level of integration and coordination, he said.

Once in place, patient care centers allow caregivers to work as a team to establish goals and priorities, to communicate better and to minimize barriers to progress – all for the betterment of patient care, Gaffney said.

"This is truly a unique time in the history of our organization, with a great deal of change that provides a great opportunity to do things that are innovative and different," Gaffney said. "The patient care center model in an academic medical center is virtually unique across the country. We are breaking new ground."

Before joining Vanderbilt, Gaffney had spent 17 years at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, first as a cardiology fellow and then as a member of the faculty

An active researcher as well as clinician, Gaffney became a living science experiment in space in 1991 when he was blasted into orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia with a catheter inserted in his veins to within an inch of his heart. The experiment was designed to gather data about the body's behavior in space, information vital to the long-term goals of the nation's space program.

Gaffney, a native of Carlsbad, N.M., earned his medical degree in 1972 from the University of New Mexico and served his internship and residency at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.