February 28, 1997

Robinson to step down as VUMC leader

Robinson to step down as VUMC leader

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Dr. Roscoe R. Robinson, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.

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Dr. Roscoe R. Robinson addresses members of VUMC's senior leadership on Tuesday about his decision to step down.

Dr. Roscoe R. Robinson, an internationally recognized physician and educator who for 16 years has been at the helm of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, will step down as Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs on July 1.

Robinson, 66, known as "Ike," will then begin an official university sabbatical. Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt will soon appoint a search committee to identify Robinson's successor.

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, will serve as interim head of the Medical Center after July 1, Wyatt said.

"Ike is one of the most distinguished leaders in American higher education and health care," Wyatt said. "We've had a relationship of complete trust.

"He has a unique gift to get things done which has made Vanderbilt University Medical Center a world leader in teaching, research and patient care. He pushes, and he pushes very hard. But he gets them done in the end with everyone believing that the result was always in the best interest of the medical center."

John Hall, president of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, said, "The progress of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center during Dr. Robinson's tenure has been remarkable. His leadership and enthusiasm have permitted the Medical Center to grow and excel in ways that are hard to imagine."

Robinson came to Vanderbilt in 1981 after more than 20 years at Duke University Medical Center where he had served as the Director of the Division of Nephrology and the Florence McAlister Professor of Medicine.

For five years he also served as associate vice president and Duke Hospital's chief executive officer.

"Ike Robinson has been a powerful force in placing Vanderbilt University Medical Center among the highest ranking on the national health care scene," said Edward G. Nelson, Chairman of Nelson Capital Corp. and Chairman of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Board.

"He has also reflected great credit on this university by his participation in civic affairs and built a strong foundation for those who will follow him."

Robinson said he has mixed emotions about his departure.

"I think it's timely that I step aside," Robinson said. "I've never had time for a sabbatical in almost 40 years of university service. I'm looking forward to it.

"I want to stay available and useful to this university in any way possible. And, I may look at other opportunities, I don't know. "I hope to catch up on some long neglected writing and spend some time looking closely at different approaches to health care delivery and the education of health care professionals, both here and abroad," he said.

"I feel really good about Vanderbilt University Medical Center. And, by any objective criterion, we've had a wonderful run over the last 10 to 15 years.

"I think the Medical Center is poised well for its leap to the next plateau. Despite the tumult and changes in health care delivery, I believe strongly that this Medical Center is exceedingly well-positioned to cope with those changes.

"I mainly wish to get out of the way of my successor," he said.

"The job is never done in a place like this. I said one time to (the late chairman of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust) Bronson Ingram, "You know, my successor will look around the place and say, 'Gosh, I wonder why ole Dr. Robinson didn't do this or that? Any idiot can see it needs to be done.'

"Well, I'm leaving several things at Vanderbilt that need to be done, that anyone can identify, including me. A lot of them are being addressed and in my judgment headed in the right direction. Others have yet to be addressed, but their time will come."

Robinson will remain on the Vanderbilt faculty as Professor of Medicine.

He is considered the master architect of what Vanderbilt Medical Center is today ‹ a first-rate comprehensive health care facility serving thousands of persons in the southeast region.

Under his leadership, VUMC has experienced phenomenal growth in its clinical and academic enterprises, its physical plant, and its financial strength.

The medical and nursing school faculties mushroomed from about 500 members in 1981 to more than 1,000 today, constituting a wide spectrum of physicians, nurses, scientists and educators selected to enhance the VUMC missions of high standards in education, research and patient care.

The VUMC skyline also took on new dimensions during those years. New faculty meant more specialty clinics and the need for more teaching and research space. Thus followed the multi-specialty Vanderbilt Clinic, Medical Research Building I, Medical Research Building II, the Eskind Biomedical Library, the Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, the Psychiatric Hospital at Vanderbilt, Medical Center East, and a health maintenance and rehabilitation facility, the Kim Dayani Center.

Along with the new construction, nearly all of the "old" medical center received a major facelift.

Robinson also changed the focus of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, which for years was part of the university's central campus. In 1984 it became a vital part of the medical center.

The financial picture also flourished. The medical center's annual operating budget, nearly $160 million in 1981, is about $700 million today.

Annual fundraising increased from $8 million to $37 million. The number of permanently endowed chairs underpinned by more than $1 million has risen from about 10 to nearly 50.

More recently, two new projects have produced major results. Under the leadership of Norman Urmy, a five-year crusade to save money called Operations Improvement sliced a whopping $50 million from Vanderbilt Hospital expense, thereby resulting in lower costs and charges to patients. Last year, the 580-physician Vanderbilt Medical Group (VMG) was created. It is Tennessee's largest physician-led multi-specialty group practice, and one of the largest in the Southeast.

"This is an exceedingly strong medical center," Robinson said, "and if I have one regret, it is that I did not work hard enough to acquaint the rest of the nation with the fact that this Medical Center is such a major player in research, education, and patient care . . . [and failing to explain] to all constituencies outside the Medical Center just what an academic medical center really is.

"This institution is a major player on the international scene in medical research, far more than has been recognized, locally or regionally," he said.

Robinson said he was attracted to Vanderbilt because of its "collegiality" and the fact that unlike many other institutions, the medical center was on the main campus.

"In 1981, when you looked at Vanderbilt, you could see that it had a core of faculty that really understood the meaning of the most abused word in the English language ‹ 'excellence.' That core was identifiable. You could get your hands around it."

Robinson said he saw coming to Vanderbilt as "an opportunity to participate in the renewal of the faculty and reaffirmation of the rich traditions of this great institution."

There have been several high points in Robinson's career at Vanderbilt. Accomplishments that he is proudest of are:

€ That VUMC's research enterprise ‹ the amount of grants and contracts in support of research ‹ has grown from almost $20 million to $120 million, with the actual annual investment in research perhaps twice as much.

€ That U.S. News and World Report lists Vanderbilt Hospital as the best in Tennessee and ranks the medical school 14th among 125 American medical schools.

€ That Vanderbilt Children's Hospital has strengthened its position of unquestioned leadership in the treatment of children in our region, and now includes 17 specialty services, including specialty units for neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care, pediatric surgery, a children's kidney center, a lung center, a long-term care unit, and more.

€ That visits to The Vanderbilt Clinic have continued to grow, from about 165,000 outpatient visits a year in 1981 to almost 500,000 today.

€ That the latest edition of The Best Doctors in America lists more than 50 VUMC faculty members, many of whom have been highlighted in other publications like Good Housekeeping and American Health.

€ That the Medical School under the leadership of Dean John Chapman and his team has maintained a remarkable commitment to the prosperity of individual medical students.

€ That the Medical School was recently ranked number one among all 125 schools in terms of student satisfaction.

€ That Vanderbilt is at the national forefront in the production of advanced nurse practitioners and that the school of nursing, under the leadership of Dean Colleen Conway-Welch is a leader in creating nurse-managed primary care clinics.

€ That the Medical Center contributes well-over $1 billion to the Nashville economy; is Nashville's largest private employer; and has thus far been able to maintain a commitment to serve the region's poor.

Robinson grew up in Oklahoma, the son of an educator who had studied in Nashville at George Peabody College and later served as president of Central State University, now known as the University of Central Oklahoma.

In 1950, despite acceptance to Vanderbilt's Medical School, Robinson remained home after the death of his father and for financial reasons attended the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Three years ago that university recognized the internationally known internist and nephrologist with an honorary doctorate degree.

Except for a research fellowship at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, and a medical stint in the U.S. Air Force, Robinson never left the Duke University Medical Center between 1954 and 1981 when he came to Vanderbilt.

He has remained active and has headed or served on boards of directors of various national organizations and societies, among them the American Heart Association, American Society of Nephrology, International Society of Nephrology, Association of Academic Health Centers, American Board of Internal Medicine, the Nephrology Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the Society of Medical Administrators.

Robinson was the founding editor of Kidney International, serving as Editor-in-Chief from 1971 to 1984 (he is now Editor Emeritus); for 10 years he was on the editorial board of Archives of Internal Medicine.

From 1970 to 1988, he was the national consultant in Nephrology to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force.

Recently, friends of the medical center established the Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Chair in Nephrology in the couple's honor.

Past honors include membership in Alpha Omega Alpha, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Duke University Medical Center, the prestigious John P. Peters Award bestowed by the American Society of Nephrology for contributions to clinical Nephrology, and inclusion in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare.

He is currently a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees, and serves on the boards of Montgomery Bell Academy, First American Corporation and Bank and the Nashville Health Care Council.

Robinson also has served on the boards of United Way of Nashville and Middle Tennessee (Chairman 1990-1991), Nashville YMCA, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Hospital Hospitality House.