December 19, 2008

Year in review 2008: Year of growth, transition for VMC

Featured Image

The story of Amenah Al-Bayati, 2, who was brought to Vanderbilt from Iraq for heart surgery, touched people around the globe. The girl, here being examined by Thomas Doyle, M.D., is back home and doing fine. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Editor's note — the following, in no particular order, is a roundup of the news that made headlines at Vanderbilt Medical Center in 2008.

Research strength

Vanderbilt reached a milestone in funding from the National Institutes of Health in February — the School of Medicine ranked No. 10 among U.S. medical schools for NIH funding in fiscal year 2007 (FY07).

While many of last year's top-ranked medical schools experienced flat or even decreasing funding, Vanderbilt's grant funding increased from $245.6 million to $282.3 million, an increase of $36.7 million — the largest increase among the top 10 schools of medicine.

While the NIH no longer publishes rankings of individual schools or departments, the NIH Web site provides a database that lists all grants and contracts awarded to schools of medicine in the United States.

Campus smoking ban

Vanderbilt Medical Center banned smoking on campus by staff, patients, visitors and contract employees, effective Sept. 1.

The ban is the result of a strong statement by Medical Center administration that smoking, linked to the development of cancer, heart disease and stroke, should not occur on a hospital campus.

The Medical Center's smoking policy has been revised to reflect the changes, and additional “smoke patrol” employees have been added to adequately enforce the smoking ban, and for longer periods of time each day.

VUSN Centennial

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is turning 100 during the 2008-2009 academic year, and is holding a series of activities to celebrate its rich history. The school developed a yearlong calendar of special events designed to highlight both the past and future of nursing.


VMC signed an agreement in September to be the new health care and emergency medical services provider for the Nashville Predators, Nashville's National Hockey League team.

The multi-year partnership will include a strategic business partnership, encompassing marketing and charitable involvement, as well as Vanderbilt assuming the role of official health care provider of the Predators and the Sommet Center, the team's home venue.

New policy

In a major policy shift announced in January, VMC no longer allows faculty, staff, residents and students to accept personal gifts from the health care industry, regardless of the nature or value of the gift.

The new conflict of interest policy was approved by the School of Medicine's Executive Faculty and applies to all of VUMC's affiliated entities.

Metro partnership

In August, William Paul, M.D., medical director of the Nashville Metro Public Health Department, announced an innovative new partnership between the Health Department and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The partnership gives students the chance to venture into the Nashville community with Health Department professionals. The students are doing field work in such public health areas as animal and mosquito control, infectious disease prevention and restaurant and tattoo parlor inspections.

New nursing degree

VUSN began offering a Doctor in Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree this fall. The School of Nursing has been working for two years to develop a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program to address increased complexity in health care, the explosion of knowledge and technology, and national issues related to patient safety and quality improvement, all of which call for fundamental changes in the education of health care professionals.

Generous gift

Three generations of the family of the late Monroe Carell Jr. pledged a gift of $20 million to the fundraising effort for a new facility to care for children and mothers.

The Campaign for Children and Mothers, with a goal of $45 million, will support the building of a 400,000-square-foot facility adjacent to and connected with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Research protection

In May, Vanderbilt University's Human Research Protection Program received full, three-year re-accreditation with high marks.

Three years ago, Vanderbilt became the 13th research institution in the country to attain voluntary accreditation by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP).

Shade Tree Family Clinic

VUSM students received grants in August to improve dental care and diabetes management at the Shade Tree Family Clinic.

The Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society will provide support in establishing a Dental Partnership Project. Beginning in 2009, basic dental care will be provided on-site at Shade Tree. The clinic will also provide financially supported referrals to the Meharry Medical College Dental Student Clinic and to community dentists.

Genomics research effort

In August, a team of VMC investigators was awarded a four-year, $7 million grant to “take the next step” in genomics research.

The group is one of four in the country that will use existing epidemiology studies to gain a better understanding of how specific genetic variants influence a person's risk for common diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The National Human Genome Research Institute is supporting the effort.

Chemical probe network

Vanderbilt University joined a new federally funded effort to develop chemical probes that may lead to new therapies for disease.

The Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network, is made up of nine U.S. centers, including the Vanderbilt Specialized Chemistry Center for Accelerated Probe Development, led by Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology.

Vanderbilt's portion of the network grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will total $17.6 million over the next six years, Lindsley said.

Renewed funding

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer received a new round of grant funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in October.

The NCI will provide $12 million over the next five years to support and expand Vanderbilt-Ingram's translational research efforts in breast cancer.

Childhood illness study

In October, VMC was awarded $12 million in funding over the next five years to provide leadership in an unprecedented search for the causes of childhood illness.

The award is a part of the National Institutes of Health's National Children's Study, a comprehensive look into the interaction of genes and the environment and the impact of that interaction on children's health. The study will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21.

Uncompensated care costs rise

Figures released by Tennessee's Department of Health in its most recent Joint Annual Report of Hospitals (JAR) confirm that VMC continues to provide nearly half (47.9 percent) of all uncompensated medical care delivered by the 10 major hospitals within Davidson County.

The most recent JAR, containing self-reported data from 2007, showed VMC provided a total of $225,064,399 in uncompensated care for that year. Uncompensated care is a combination of three categories: charity care, medically indigent care and bad debt.


• VMC featured prominently in several of the rankings conducted throughout the year by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

The Medical Center landed on its “Honor Roll” of hospitals — an honor reserved for a select group of institutions labeled by the magazine as the “best of the best.” Vanderbilt ranked 15th in the nation in the 2008 issue of “America's Best Hospitals.” Only 19 hospitals made the honor roll. To be eligible for the honor roll an institution is required to have high rankings in at least six specialties; Vanderbilt earned its inclusion with 12 points in seven specialties. Eight VMC specialty programs ranked among the top 50 in their respective fields, including Gynecology (9), Kidney (9), Urology (10), Cancer (14), Ear Nose and Throat (14), Endocrinology (15), Respiratory Disorders (18) and Heart (23).

The School of Medicine ranked 16th out of 126 accredited medical schools, according to the magazine's annual ranking of graduate education programs and health disciplines released March 28. VUSM jumped two spots from 18th to tie for 16th place with the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt was again named one of U.S. News and World Report's best children's hospitals, and two specialties within the hospital were recognized for their excellence. Overall, Children's Hospital held steady from last year at No. 23. Neonatology was ranked No. 14 and Neurology and Neurosurgery at Children's Hospital was ranked No. 20 in the nation.

• VMC's technological savvy continued to garner national acclaim, as the institution once again was named among the nation's 100 “most wired” hospitals and health systems.

The 2008 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study was conducted by Hospitals and Health Networks magazine, Accenture, McKesson Corp. and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

• The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt was named one of seven pediatric “Top Hospitals” in the nation for providing excellent patient safety in an annual survey by the Leapfrog Group.

Leapfrog provides consumers with scores and assessments for more than 1,200 adult and pediatric hospitals.

• VMC was recognized for the first time among the top 100 U.S. hospitals that are setting the nation's benchmarks for cardiovascular care in a study by Thomson Healthcare.

The study — 2008 Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals: Cardiovascular Benchmarks for Success — examined the performance of 970 hospitals by analyzing clinical outcomes for patients diagnosed with heart failure and heart attacks and for those who received coronary bypass surgery and angioplasties.