June 13, 2003

Sergent has new role in Department of Medicine

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Dr. John Sergent takes a last turn leading the annual meeting of the Vanderbilt Medical Group Tuesday afternoon in Light Hall. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

Sergent has new role in Department of Medicine

It was announced this week that, effective July 1, Dr. John S. Sergent is stepping down as chief medical officer of Vanderbilt Medical Group and senior associate dean for clinical affairs to become vice chairman for education and program director for the residency training program in the department of Medicine.

Sergent will be replacing Dr. John M. Leonard, who has decided to step down after 20 years as department vice chairman/residency program director. Leonard will continue his role as professor of Medicine.

“Through a succession of roles, and most recently in his eight years as the founding leader of VMG and a member of our leadership team, John Sergent has been a stalwart, energetic and discerning advocate of our institution and its mission,” said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “I would like to thank Dr. Sergent and Dr. Leonard for their continued service and offer my congratulations as they each undertake new work here at Vanderbilt.”

“Dr. Sergent is among the most multi-talented individuals on our faculty,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine. “He not only has the ability to provide outstanding patient care and represent our clinical faculty in negotiations with insurers, but he also serves as an outstanding role model and educator for our students, residents, fellows and faculty. We’ve been so fortunate to have John as chief medical officer for the past eight years and senior associate dean for clinical affairs for the past two years, and we will continue to benefit from his contributions in the years to come.”

“John Sergent has been an integral part of our organization for many years; I’m delighted that he has chosen to accept this important role with our department,” said Dr. Eric G. Neilson, Hugh J. Morgan Professor and chairman of Medicine. “As we congratulate John Leonard on a job well done, we also take assurance that the quality of the leadership of our house staff program will remain intact for years to come.”

“I’ve really enjoyed working with VMG. I feel like the organization is in reasonably good shape at this point,” Sergent said. Under his leadership the medical group’s major achievements have included a more concerted and effective contracting strategy, improved performance of the business office, the recasting of organizational culture in a more patient- and family-centered form, and tremendous growth in patient volume.

“The VMG chief medical officer job has given me a unique opportunity to see the enormous clinical strength of Vanderbilt, and I have particularly enjoyed representing these outstanding physicians in meetings with third-party payers, regulatory bodies, and the public at large,” Sergent said. “I have no problem saying to anyone that the quality of care at Vanderbilt is as high as any institution in the country.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had the help of David Posch, who is one of the most creative people I’ve ever worked with, and is constantly working to make Vanderbilt the employer of choice in this region. I will miss our close personal relationship, and I very much appreciate all I’ve learned from him. A job like mine depends heavily on support from the top, and I’ve enjoyed the confidence of both Harry Jacobson and Steve Gabbe. I’ll miss working closely with them and the chairs, but am looking forward enthusiastically to this new phase of my career.

“I’m stepping down because I miss teaching very much, especially hands-on teaching in clinical settings,” Sergent said. Immediately before leading VMG, Sergent was chief of medicine at St. Thomas Hospital (a School of Medicine appointment), a role largely devoted to teaching. “I didn’t realize how much I would miss the individual relationships with students and residents, getting to know them and see them mature,” he said. “It’s hard to describe the pleasure of watching a class of green interns come in so full of anxiety and doubt, and then see them mature into competent, sophisticated doctors.”

Among the 125 departments of medicine in the United States, Vanderbilt’s is ranked ninth in NIH research funding. “If we’re not already in the top 10 in competing for house staff, we should be,” Sergent said. He added that he looks forward to working with the department’s education program directors, Drs. Alfred L. George Jr., Michael Rodriguez and W. Anderson Spickard III.

VUMC leaders will convene an advisory group to develop a succession plan and find a successor to Sergent. In the interim, Dean Gabbe will work directly with the VMG and its Executive Committee.