September 21, 2001

New Wilkerson Center approved

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An artist’s rendering of the new Bill Wilkerson Center, from the view of 21st Avenue South. The building is expected to be completed in 2003.

New Wilkerson Center approved

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trust has approved the $61 million Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences and Musculoskeletal Institute.

Construction of the eight-story building, atop the hospital parking garage between the Oxford House and Medical Center East on 21st Avenue South, is expected to begin this fall and completed in 2003.

“The entire staff is extremely pleased that the new building is proceeding as planned,” said Dr. Robert H. Ossoff, Guy M. Maness Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology and professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences. “It is our goal to create the state-of-the-art facility of its kind in the world; one that can stand as a symbol of hope for our patients, a model for other programs, and the next stage of our development as an integrated health care resource.”

In 1997, the Bill Wilkerson Center merged with VUMC’s Department of Otolaryngology and the combined institution was named the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences. The department of Otolaryngology and the division of Hearing and Speech Sciences make up the Center.

The Center treats individuals challenged by the entire range of communication-related and otolaryngological diseases and disorders like deafness, autism, head and neck cancer, accidental brain injury, vocal disorders, sinus diseases, speech and language delays, balance disorders and other debilitating conditions of the head, neck, ear, nose and throat.

This world-class program will be one of the most comprehensive clinical, educational and research-focused programs in the country and integrate services currently housed in four separate locations.

“This will create a synergy of knowledge and research to better benefit our patients,” said Ossoff. “It also allows for more efficient patient care. With more than 50,000 patient contacts a year, it is vital that we have coordination and integration of services that are not now possible.”

The Center will occupy five floors in the nearly 300,000 square-foot building, which will also house 12-15 labs, including an anechoic chamber. This chamber is specially designed to eliminate echo and reverberation, allowing for pure sound. The 25 square-foot box will be placed within three floors of the new building to ensure complete isolation. Currently, Vanderbilt houses the only in-house chamber in the country.

“We are very excited about this new building,” said Fred H. Bess, Ph.D., professor and chair of the division of Hearing and Speech Sciences and senior fellow, John F. Kennedy Center. “When the Bill Wilkerson Center was built in 1956, it was the finest facility in the world at the time,” Bess said. “I was a student here and we would take tours of the building because there was nothing else like it in the country. The new facility will enable us to again be one of the finest Centers in the world.”

Programs that will be offered in the new site include the Speech-Language Pathology Clinic, which includes the Mama Lere Home and the Center for Childhood Deafness; the John S. Odess Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery Clinic; the Audiology Clinic; the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute; the Vanderbilt Voice Center; the Hearing and Speech Graduate Education Program; the Otolaryngology Resident Program; research facilities and administrative offices.

The new building will also be the home of the Musculoskeletal Institute. Clinical activities include nine subspecialties: Arthritis and Joint Replacement Center, Foot and Ankle Center, Hand Center, Oncology, Pediatric Center, Research, Spine Center, Sports Medicine Center and Trauma Center. It will occupy more than 100,000 square feet of the new building, connecting to the existing third floor operating room suites in the Medical Center and Medical Center East.

Vanderbilt Orthopaedics was ranked 22nd in the country by U.S. News and World Report and has earned a growing market share within the area.

“This is a vision we’ve had for at least seven years,” said Dr. Dan M. Spengler, professor and chair of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. “This will allow us to get to the next level – in the top 10 programs in the country.”

“We needed the space and opportunity to grow and now we will be able to enhance our research programs and improve our clinical care to patients,” he said. “The MSI will allow for one-stop shopping for our patients, which is a top priority.”

Dr. Kurt P. Spindler, associate professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, said there is tremendous excitement over the new building.

“We are all excited and committed to this tremendous opportunity to develop a top 10 level Orthopaedic Department,” he said. “This new facility will vastly improve patient access and allow us to recruit and retain the best faculty in the country.”

Earl Swensson and Associates is the architect of the brick and glass building that will also feature an outside play area and outdoor terraces.

“The Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center has always provided the highest quality of care to its patients,” said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “Our partnership with the Center creates an optimal opportunity for us to forge ahead as leaders in the fields of otolaryngology and communication sciences.

“The Vanderbilt Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation is one of the most active and growing services at the Medical Center. The creation of this new facility that will incorporate all of these medical services will further enrich and strengthen already well-recognized and respected programs.”