Report to the Medical Center Board
November 13, 2003

Janet C. Staley
President, Medical Center Staff Advisory Council

Medical Center Staff Advisory Council representatives are elected to serve rotating two-year terms, and monthly meetings are open to all staff. We eat cookies, listen to talks and reports and take care of business, which, basically, means serving as liaison between Medical Center non-faculty staff and Medical Center and University administration. In the past, reports to the Board of Trust have expressed our continuing gratitude for the high level of administrative support enjoyed by staff, and have included facts, figures and concerns, including the perennial issues of parking and short-term disability benefits. Dr. Jacobson tells me these are being addressed. Even so, we choose to work at Vanderbilt. We are here because we are committed to the Credo. We value our patients and one another and I am honored to represent this amazing collection of dedicated people. Let me tell you about them.

Once a year, in October, the Council hosts the Needles and Pins Crafts Fair, with artists and craftsmen from across Middle Tennessee. Last year, we netted almost $5,000, and are grateful to Dr. Jacobson for matching these funds, which benefit Vanderbilt benevolent causes that usually are not supported by institutional funding. The single exception is the Employee Hardship Fund of Work/Life Connections. Approximately half the funds raised are designated for this purpose; the remainder are allocated based on grant submissions from various areas.

One such request came from the Department of Admissions. Every year, Vanderbilt arranges approximately 120 cremations for stillborn or newborn infants, at no cost to the families. The remains are returned to their family in sealed plastic bags. Jane Alger, Bereavement Liaison, applied for and received a grant from the Council, and today, remains are returned in lined boxes with an appropriately-colored key chain as a memorial to the lost child. The response from families is overwhelmingly positive.

In December, JoGale Ray, in Patient Affairs, helps her husband Jerry, from Home Health, bleach his beard to match her snow-white hair and they take vacation time to visit pediatric and adult patients throughout the Medical Center. They also play Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the children who visit the Hospital lobby. Each child receives a gift and a picture with Santa. For years, JoGale and her coworkers baked cookies and provided refreshments for holiday visitors, until the project became overwhelming and JoGale applied for and received Council funds to supplement those donated by Patient Affairs staff. On December 5, JoGale and Jerry will be Vanderbilt goodwill ambassadors to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, and on December 16, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will again welcome children in the Hospital lobby from 2:00-4:00. Bring your children or grandchildren; it’s a lot better than going to the mall.

In addition to the Employee Assistance Program, Work/Life Connection sponsors Project Elf, which provides certain Vanderbilt families with assistance during the holidays. Last year, Lisa Ellis spearheaded the effort in the Department of Pathology and adopted three families on the Project Elf list. Working together, the department planned, shopped for and wrapped gifts for each family member and had funds left over to provide Kroger Cares certificates to EAP for use with late requests. In 2003, the department has chosen a family with nine children and is already planning and shopping for the holidays. Lisa Ellis and JoGale Ray are former Council presidents.

Debbie Vandegrift works in my department - Radiology - and is this year’s recipient of the Commodore Award. Some time ago, Debbie’s daughter asked if she could do something to help the children who, because of chronic and serious health problems, were regular visitors in the department. Debbie began buying and collecting appropriate toys to comfort the little ones as they underwent their procedures. Eventually, soliciting help from Department staff, and later, using Council grant money, Debbie organized the first Radiology STARS party in December 1992. It was held in the Radiology Conference Room with 50 attendees. Today, the STARS attend Fan Fair as guests of some of the artists and enjoy a total of three outings a year. Last year’s holiday party at Loew’s Vanderbilt Plaza hosted over 500 guests, with special appearances by well-known country music stars and a visit from the Jolly Old Elf, himself.

Debbie’s efforts have had a broader effect than an occasional party and a toy for each visit. Our pediatric patients sometimes even look forward to their Radiology appointments and now require 90% less sedation for CT scans and 50% less for MRI.

This year, the party is December 17, from 4:00-7:00 PM, and you are all invited. I hope you will come; it’s an event you’ll never forget.

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