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Discover, Learn and Share

Posted by on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in From the Dean, Winter 2017 .

Photo by Anne Rayner

I write to thank you for your incredible support of our missions, for so many wonderful accomplishments in 2016, and to share some aspirations for 2017 and beyond.

By any measure, 2016 was a year that brought a multitude of challenges and opportunities. We completed a historic, two-year process that made Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) a separate and independent legal entity, with its own finances and governance.

Along the way, we witnessed horrific acts of violence across America and overseas, borne out of intolerance for the distinctions in race, gender and religious identity that we honor and cherish. And we celebrated stunning accomplishments: the announcement made by former President Obama and the National Institutes of Health locating the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program’s largest component, the Data and Research Support Center, at Vanderbilt; and seeing our Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (VHAN) expand to include one of the nation’s largest public hospitals, Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga. We welcomed and trained students, residents and fellows with record-setting qualifications in the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, bolstering top 20 rankings for many of our programs. And as we celebrated the success of the $40 million fundraising campaign chaired by Kathryn Carell Brown, we began construction of four floors atop Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, expanding our capacity to care for the children and families all across the region who need us most.

This year promises to be no less fulfilling, yet no less challenging. Nashville continues to thrive as the “It City,” with 80 new residents each day. The huge demand for our services, reflecting the unmatched reputation we work every day to nurture, is nonetheless straining the capacity of our clinical programs. As such, new inpatient space for adult patients, in addition to the construction already underway at Children’s Hospital, will be a major priority. “Design for Patients and Families,” a foundational Strategy Direction for VUMC, will be our touchstone. So beyond inpatient beds, we will open dozens of new after-hours, walk-in, employer-based and specialty clinic facilities in the greater Nashville area, while expanding our telemedicine capabilities for virtual visits, and growing Vanderbilt Health OnCall nurse practitioner home visits—ordered through a free downloadable app. We will also complete EpicLeap, fundamentally advancing our clinical delivery platform including: enhanced features for patients, with improvements to the online portal, billing and appointment scheduling; more integrated application support for clinicians while documenting patient care; and greater interoperability with VHAN hospitals, patients and clinicians.

VUMC is an Academic Medical Center with a Capital “A.” So as we “Discover, Learn, and Share,” also a cornerstone Strategic Direction, patients coming to VUMC will see expanded clinical trial opportunities across all clinical service lines. We will make new investments in fundamental basic science, including areas of immunology and infection as we recognize that these subjects inform our understanding of more diseases than ever imagined. We will “double down” on our worldwide leadership in translating discovery to practice, while increasingly personalizing care to each individual’s genetic (DNA), social and behavioral circumstances. And as a leader in health care training for almost 150 years, we will support the learning of not only students and residents, but also practicing clinicians through innovations such as QuizTime, a “once-a-day” micro-CME offering for smartphones. We are also developing social networking tools (consider “Facebook for health”) so that patients who desire to connect with “people like them” can better understand, manage and cope with day-to-day health challenges.

The year 2017 will be a busy one to say the least. We are energized and confident by what we can imagine. And our imagination has no limit.


Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.
President and CEO, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine