December 15, 2011

Year in review 2011: Achievements, milestones abounded in past year

Featured Image

Dalton Waggoner, 6, signs the beam at last spring’s event kicking off construction for the expansion of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., right, and John Stein, president of Bank of America, Tennessee, look on. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Year in review 2011: Achievements, milestones abounded in past year

Editor's note — the following is a chronological roundup of the news that made headlines at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2011.


New department created

After a yearlong strategic planning effort, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine will create a new Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., was named the inaugural chair of the newly created department. He will join VUMC on April 1, 2012.
The new department will be headquartered within Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, and will provide clinical oversight for inpatient programs housed there.


Study proves benefits of spina bifida surgery

Results of a landmark, seven-year NIH-funded trial, Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS), demonstrate clear benefit for babies who undergo fetal surgery to treat spina bifida, the most common birth defect in the central nervous system.

The surgical procedure, in utero repair of myelomeningocele, was pioneered at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1997, with the first procedure performed on Corey Meyer of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and her unborn son Daniel.

Enrollment in the MOMS trial was halted in December 2010, because researchers at the study's three trial sites — Vanderbilt, the University of California San Francisco and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia — found the procedure demonstrates significant benefit over the current standard of care, surgical repair after birth.


Children’s Hospital expansion

Construction began in February on two expansion projects at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, including a 30,000 square-foot-addition and added space for pediatric clinics.

The construction is part of a multi-phase, multi-year expansion to ease the growing regional demand for care at Children's Hospital since it opened in 2004.

The larger project, a five-story, $30 million addition atop the third-floor surgery pre-op and recovery areas, will allow for 33 additional acute, neonatal intensive care and medical-surgical beds.

At the same time, a vacant 20,000-square-foot area on the 10th floor of the Doctor's Office Tower (DOT) is being developed to create more space for clinical services.


VICC launches online genetic research tool

In March,Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center launched the nation's first personalized cancer decision support tool, “My Cancer Genome,” to help physicians and researchers track the latest developments in personalized cancer medicine and connect with clinical research trials for their patients.

This Web-based information tool ( is designed to quickly educate clinicians on the rapidly expanding list of genetic mutations that impact different cancers and, at the same time, enable them to more easily research various treatment options based on specific mutations.


Drug discovery center focuses on brain disorders

VUMC established a new Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery in March to accelerate research that may lead to new treatments for Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and other disorders of the brain.

P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., the Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology, co-directs the new center with Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Chemistry, and principal investigator of the Specialized Chemistry Center for Accelerated Probe Development.


Grant bolsters molecular imaging resource

The National Center for Research Resources awarded Vanderbilt $10.3 million over the next five years to establish a National Research Resource for Imaging Mass Spectrometry.

Richard Caprioli, Ph.D., director of Vanderbilt's Mass Spectrometry Research Center, is leading the program.


Translational pathology shared resource created

In May, VUMC announced plans to build a “pathology powerhouse” to translate basic science discoveries into new treatments and prevention of human disease.

The Translational Pathology Shared Resource will consolidate and expand the existing Human Tissue Acquisition and Pathology Shared Resource and the Immunohistochemistry Core, and will add Comparative Pathology services and expertise.


Science departments merge

Vanderbilt's Departments of Pathology, and Microbiology and Immunology, merged into one department to be called Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PMI). The merger will allow closer collaboration among highly complementary disciplines.

Samuel Santoro, M.D., Ph.D., Dorothy B. and Theodore R. Austin Professor, chairs this merged department.


Preventive Medicine growth

After a storied history of achievement in the areas of teaching, research and advocacy in the fields of prevention and public health, Vanderbilt's Department of Preventive Medicine announced plans in June to expand and be re-named.

The new department to emerge will be a multi-disciplinary base for health policy research and design.

The current department's strengths in population-based epidemiology and prevention will blend seamlessly with cross-campus disciplines critically important to health policy debate such as economics, law and business.

The mission of the new department is to provide rigorous evidence and help drive public health decisions at the very highest level.


VUMC to lead national CTSA consortium

In June, VUMC was awarded a five-year $20 million federal grant to coordinate a national consortium that aims to advance biomedical research nationwide.

This Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Coordinating Center grant coincides with the National Institutes of Health’s announcement of five new CTSA awards.


Emergency Medicine research training

The Department of Emergency Medicine was named to receive one of the nation’s first training grants in emergency medicine from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The $3.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will fund the Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine Research Training program (VEMRT), proposed by co-program directors and principal investigators Alan Storrow, M.D., and Douglas Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D.


Gene test arsenal adds breast cancer

In June, breast cancer patients at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center began having their tumor tissue tested for gene mutations that are important for treatment decisions.

Information from genetic tests in the tumors will be used to match patients to the best cancer therapies available, including drugs that are in early clinical trial testing.

Tumor mutation testing for breast cancer is the newest addition to VICC’s Personalized Cancer Medicine Initiative (PCMI), which was unveiled in the summer of 2010.


School of Nursing sees largest incoming class

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing welcomed its largest class ever in August — 486 students who are pursuing master’s, Doctor of Nurse Practice or Ph.D. degrees.

The incoming class of master’s students included 254 students with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees who are pursuing their masters in the Science of Nursing degrees and 155 non-nurses who are participating in VUSN’s bridge program by taking three semesters of pre-specialty classes before beginning their formal master’s education.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program has 65 new students and the Ph.D. program has 12 incoming students.


Grant bolsters personalized medicine efforts

Vanderbilt University’s efforts in personalized medicine — health care that is tailored to each individual’s genetic makeup — got a boost from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in September.

NHGRI is awarding $25 million over the next four years to a network of institutions, including Vanderbilt, to discover links between genetic information and disease characteristics/symptoms in electronic medical records, and to use the findings to improve patient care.

Dan Roden, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Personalized Medicine, has led Vanderbilt’s participation in the eMERGE (electronic MEdical Records and GEnomics) network since its launch in 2007.


VUMC teams with three Midstate hospitals

Leaders of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Maury Regional Medical Center, NorthCrest Medical Center and Williamson Medical Center announced affiliation agreements in September establishing a partnership between these medical centers to work collaboratively to create new jointly operated programs and services in the counties where these hospitals reside.

These programs are intended to expand primary and specialty clinical services in Davidson, Maury, Robertson and Williamson counties, while at the same time augmenting specialty training and clinical research.

As a first step, the affiliation agreements create immediate opportunities for all partners to broaden the scope of health care delivery across Middle Tennessee with a broad array of services including, but not limited to, cancer care, primary care, cardiovascular services, diagnostic imaging services, ambulatory surgery and medical facility development.


Flulapalooza shatters world record

In October, Vanderbilt more than doubled the current world record for the total number of vaccinations given in an eight-hour period.

A total of 12,850 University and Medical Center faculty, staff and students received free influenza vaccinations at Flulapalooza, a mass vaccination drill that more than doubled the previous Guinness World Record of 6,215, held by San Diego’s Kaiser Permanente.