November 2, 2007

Polk outlines Pediatrics’ strong year

Featured Image

Brent Polk, M.D., outlined the Department of Pediatrics’ performance over the past fiscal year at this week’s meeting. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Polk outlines Pediatrics’ strong year

Brent Polk, M.D., detailed the Department of Pediatrics' major accomplishments during the past year at Tuesday’s state of the department address at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

In the section on education, Polk, interim chair of Pediatrics, reminded attendees of the high national rankings of Vanderbilt's undergraduate and medical school programs by U.S. News and World Report, and reported that 15 percent of Vanderbilt medical students choose pediatrics or medicine-pediatric residencies.

The 22 pediatric residents who were selected from 765 applicants represent the most diverse group of ethnicities and geographic locations ever. Pediatric residents came to Vanderbilt from as far away as Pakistan, Egypt and South Africa, while 18 hailed from within Tennessee.

Polk noted that despite the fact the department is still currently without a permanent chair, pediatric residency applicants for 2008 are already up 15 percent. Also, this year Vanderbilt is at the top of the American Board of Pediatrics pass rates, at 97 percent.

The fellowship program continues to grow, currently with 48 clinical fellows and 31 research fellows

Goals for pediatrics education include inspiring medical students to enter Pediatrics, expanding the residency program by two positions each year, continueing training community pediatricians, enhancing resident exposure to sub-specialty and research careers and enhancing fellowship training.

In the area of academic affairs, the number of full-time pediatric faculty has increased by four to 174 since last year, which includes recruiting 34 new faculty and the departure of 30 existing faculty.

Current searches include the chair of Pediatrics; the associate Vanderbilt Medical Group director for Children's Ambulatory Services; and division chiefs for Rheumatology, Pulmonary and Infectious Diseases.

In clinical services and programs, Polk recognized the recent U.S. News ranking of Children's Hospital as one of the best in the nation.

Children's Hospital continues to see rapid growth. Inpatient days have increased over the past fiscal year from 71,257 in FY ‘06 to 75,352 in FY ‘07. Admissions have also increased to more than 12,500.

Visits to the Pediatric Emergency Department continue to rise, with approximately 42,500 visits in FY ‘07, more than doubling visits since FY ‘00. Surgical visits have also doubled in the last seven years, with 8,000 surgical cases in FY ‘07. The Doctors' Office Tower has seen a 10 percent increase in the past year, at 165,000 visits in FY ‘07.

In 2009, new offices are projected to be opening on the seventh and 10th floor of the DOT. This month, more than 11,000 square feet of new pediatric research space has opened in Medical Research Building IV. Other areas being looked at to increase capacity in outpatient settings include the new One Hundred Oaks development, Williamson County and Metro General. Polk said the planned expansion of the Children's Hospital could be completed as early as 2012.

Many achievements have been made in pediatric research, and National Institutes of Health funding was more than $15.8 million. Polk says there will be a continued emphasis on increasing NIH funding as well as boosting innovation, visibility and training for emerging physician-scientists.

In community relations, several new programs have launched in the past year promoting fitness and nutrition, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs called “Commit to Be Fit” and the “Veggie Project.”

Other initiatives include a family literacy program and working with Nashville Public Schools to help get more fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.

Polk closed with several goals for the department which include expanding the research portfolio, building and strengthening partnerships to achieve hospital missions, growing the support from endowment and fund raising, maintaining values in a collaborative, embracing atmosphere and focusing on outcomes and impact.

Polk is also Dean's Professor of Pediatrics and Cell & Developmental Biology.