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Growing to New Heights

Posted by on Monday, February 22, 2016 in From the Dean, Winter 2016 .

Dean BalserThe cover of this issue of Vanderbilt Medicine features Eli James, a courageous 5-year-old being cared for by the Program for Children with Medically Complex Needs through Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Eli was diagnosed in utero with rachischisis, the most severe form of spina bifida, and was given little chance of survival by the physicians in his hometown.

Sustained by their faith, Eli’s parents, Dawn and Will, saw the pregnancy through. Shortly after birth, Eli was transferred to Children’s Hospital and has since received 29 additional diagnoses and has undergone 34 surgeries to treat conditions such as chronic lung disease, hydrocephalus and major airway obstructions.

Despite many challenges he is thriving.

The care Eli receives through the team of experts who manage his complicated and interrelated medical conditions exemplifies the mission of Children’s Hospital—to provide the finest and most comprehensive resources for all children.

Through a generous gift from the Carell family, an amazing team of supporters leading the Growing to New Heights Campaign, and additional support from our community, including our terrific colleagues with the Country Music Association, approximately $34 million toward construction costs has been committed so that we can add four floors and an additional 160,000 square feet atop the Children’s Hospital’s current structure. Yet again, our community is coming through to help us do remarkable things, and I am so grateful. When construction is completed, this expansion will immediately add more than 70 new beds to serve critically ill newborns, toddlers and children, and will offer additional space for future growth, allowing us to strengthen our mission to care for more children like Eli.

The hardworking and compassionate people working at Children’s Hospital carry a profound responsibility, as they care for the children of this region with grace, passion and an unparalleled commitment to excellence. I believe everyone associated with Vanderbilt derives immense satisfaction from the impact we have on the hundreds of thousands of children and families from Tennessee and across the country who pass through our doors each year.

Each day, Children’s Hospital serves approximately 1,400 children. As Nashville grows, the additional space will allow us to offer world-class care to more children in our region, while advancing the scientific discoveries providing new treatments and cures for childhood diseases, and training the generation of pediatric specialists that give us hope for the future.

This issue of Vanderbilt Medicine provides a window into the caring spirits and unique expertise of the Vanderbilt people treating Eli and so many other children, no matter how complex their needs. Our people are here to do the extraordinary. And they do it every day.


Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine