November 2, 2001

Programs, people key to VUMC

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Dr. Harry Jacobson and Dr. Steve Gabbe listen as Norman Urmy outlines the financial status of the medical center at the Fall Faculty meeting Monday. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Programs, people key to VUMC

Academic and financial expansion was presented as the top priority for the upcoming year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center by Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. Jacobson addressed the crowd at the Fall Faculty meeting Monday, outlining major goals for next year.

Jacobson covered the Medical Center’s five-year plan in conjunction with the $1 billion University capital campaign, recruitment, research growth, clinical performance, and the teaching program.

Investing in programs, people, and space, the five-year plan will bolster research in genetics, developmental biology, structural biology, and neurosciences; provide for more clinical faculty and development of physicians; and allow for building the new Children’s Hospital, MRB III and IV, and the Vivarium.

“We have an aggressive plan of our cash flow to meet our needs,” Jacobson said. “We are on plan.”

Financial plan

Norman B. Urmy, executive vice president for Clinical Affairs, said that a strong clinic volume will directly influence hospital admissions. Length of patient stay has increased, thus helping revenue, Urmy said. However, length of patient stay also intensifies bed pressure, making it harder for doctors to find space for patients. The planned addition of 20 to 30 beds to the hospital is a way to overcome this problem. This and other areas of patient access, including parking expansion, are receiving the most focus from administration, Urmy said.

Urmy offered praised for a “remarkable growth” in Vanderbilt Medical Group collections. Collections for VMG rose 14 percent from 2000 to 2001. Urmy attributed the growth to the more efficient billing system now being used by VMG.

However, with the praise came the discussion of TennCare—a crucial part of Vanderbilt’s clinical practice, according to Urmy. “TennCare is 30 percent of VUMC’s volume,” he said. “Since the future of TennCare is shaky, this is not good.”

The state is currently addressing the problems of TennCare, recently taking control of Access Med Plus and possibly taking control of Xantus.

School of Nursing

The majority of VUSN students are still coming from Tennessee and other Southern states, said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., CNM, dean of the School of Nursing. According to Conway-Welch, the School of Nursing is working to develop and expand its recruiting efforts from other areas of country. “We are also actively recruiting a diverse student population,” she said, referring to the push to attract more Asian, African American, Hispanic and Native American students.

The School of Nursing continues to do community outreach work through nurse-managed clinics at Parthenon Towers and Madison Towers. The Vine Hill Community Clinic provides care for more than 8,000 people and is now offering Saturday and evening hours. “Folks seems very pleased to have our nurses there,” she said.

Conway-Welch said the Nurse-Midwifery Practice has delivered 91 babies at VUMC this year, averaging 15 to 17 deliveries per month.

VUSN is currently ranked 12th in the nation in private nursing schools with NIH funding. “We are working very, very hard to move up on this list,” Conway-Welch said. The School of Nursing is also working with other nursing schools and governmental agencies on the International Nursing Coalition on Mass Casualty Education.

School of Medicine

Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine, has a clear goal for Vanderbilt: recognition as one of the top 10 medical schools in the country. Gabbe believes this can be accomplished by recruiting and retaining outstanding students and faculty.

“We are working really hard to bring the best [students] to Vanderbilt,” he said. Gabbe mentioned the newly formed Office of Diversity in the School of Medicine as a great tool to help accomplish that goal.

In 2001, the average grade point average of the incoming medical students at Vanderbilt was 3.75, the highest in the last four years. “These scores are as good as any of the highest rankings schools in the United States,” Gabbe said.

The School of Medicine is planning an expansion of the activities of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance in undergraduate medical education, resident training, and clinical practice

“It is a very exciting time for Vanderbilt—a time of great change,” Gabbe said. According to Gabbe, by next year almost one-half of the faculty leadership will have changed over the last four years. The recruitment of new chairs and the establishment of two new departments will help usher in the change at VUSM. “And if that wasn’t enough, you also have a new dean,” Gabbe laughed.

Research growth

The increase of quality and impact of research at VUMC was the major goal outlined by Lee E. Limbird, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. The result will be to provide a service to society and an increase in Vanderbilt’s ranking.

The ingredients for high quality research include people and programs, extramural resources, and space.

Pat R. Levitt, Ph.D. has been named director of the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development at Vanderbilt. Though Levitt’s appointment will not officially begin until June 1, 2002, in the interim he will act as a special consultant to facilitate the Kennedy Center’s recently announced transition to a university-wide research center.

The establishment of the Stem Cell and Organogenesis Program, under the direction of Brigid L.M. Hogan, Ph.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Molecular Oncology, is another way to increase Vanderbilt’s status as a research leader in the international community.

Limbird also addressed the goal of increasing biomedical research funding to $320 million in 10 years. Based on current trends, Vanderbilt is ahead of schedule for achieving this goal and Limbird is confident that the $320 million mark is attainable.

In terms of national ranking for NIH funding, Vanderbilt was ninth in growth in research since 1998.

The issue of research space is being addressed with additional vivarium space in Medical Center North and the opening of MRBIII in 2002, along withplans for adding nearly 370,000 square feet in a fourth research building by 2004.