September 16, 2010

Pediatrics on journey to excellence: Gitlin

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Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., delivers his annual State of the Department address. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

Pediatrics on journey to excellence: Gitlin

In his annual State of the Department address last week, Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., James C. Overall Professor and Chair of Pediatrics, discussed what he termed the department’s journey to excellence in child health.

The talk focused on excellence in teaching, clinical care and research and contained literary analogies for all these areas.

Gitlin’s first literary reference was to the book Mayflower, which details the journey of families in quest of religious freedom and retells a story of enduring importance about community, diversity and tolerance as the path to excellence.

From that, Gitlin launched into a review of recognitions awarded to teaching faculty in the past year, including Michael Warren, M.D., who was named a 2010 Emerging Leader in the Nashville community.

Gitlin mentioned all 28 incoming pediatric residents by name and said 46 new faculty members had been added in the last year.

Gitlin thanked Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, for his support in efforts that have dramatically increased the number of endowed chairs in Pediatrics.

Gitlin remembered John Lukens, M.D., and Harris “Pete” Riley, M.D., with a poem by Robert Frost and memorialized the late David Karzon, M.D., with a reading of the poem “Digging” by Irishman Seamus Heaney that evokes Heaney’s memories of his own family’s journey through hard times.

“It is those who dug before us who set the course. We stand on Dr. Karzon’s shoulders for everything we do in excellence here,” Gitlin said, announcing a special service for Karzon at Benton Chapel on Oct. 17.

A number of programs dedicated to excellence in clinical care were mentioned, including the highly successful NICU effort to reduce central line infections. Gitlin said the NICU’s infection rate is now below the lowest quartile among Child Health Corporation of America (CHCA) children’s hospitals, and that the goal in the NICU is to halve that.

He said another goal is to lead the system-wide effort to achieve 100 percent compliance in hand washing or sanitizing before patient contact.

“I know this is the place that can do it. Hand washing is children’s lives saved because we are careful and thoughtful,” Gitlin said.

The success of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, under the direction of Kevin Churchwell, M.D., CEO and executive director, was noted in a number of charts.

The charts showed growth in patient services and profits maintained in a difficult economy. Gitlin praised the efforts of the department’s practicing pediatric clinical faculty, saying the 260 faculty are vital for educational efforts.

Among the programs Gitlin said have had a positive impact are Palliative Care, led by Karen Cassidy, M.D., the Pediatric Cardiology clinic, which was recognized with a national service award and the leadership offered by William Cooper, M.D., who has been named vice chair for Faculty Affairs.

Gitlin outlined a list of four major departmental goals: service excellence in ambulatory clinics; better use of Vanderbilt’s electronic medical records to ease patient documentation and sustain improvements in research and clinical services; clinical educator faculty leadership and scholarship; and clinical research leadership and infrastructure. Gitlin said a series of workshops will address these goals this fall.

Partnerships with community pediatricians have made a great deal of outreach possible. Gitlin praised Mumtaz Darbar, chief financial officer for Pediatrics, for her leadership in developing relationships that have led to very successful practices in Jackson-Madison County’s General Hospital, and in Franklin on Edward Curd Lane, among other places.

In the final portion of Gitlin’s address, he praised the department’s top researchers and said Pediatrics now ranks fifth in the nation for NIH research funding among its peers.