June 3, 2010

Message from the Vice Chancellor: From the Suggestion Box

 At my State of the Medical Center Address last year, I announced the debut of the Vice Chancellor’s Suggestion Box, a way for staff, faculty and students to anonymously give feedback and suggestions for ways we can work together to make the Medical Center better.

Every single suggestion is read and evaluated. Many lead to action of one kind or another, and all are appreciated by me. A great institution isn’t afraid to admit it can improve, and improvement comes when we listen to each other.

Here, edited for brevity and clarity, are a few examples of suggestions that have come in, and responses provided by Medical Center officials.

Suggestion: It would be nice if there were some mirrors on the South Garage exit to Pierce Avenue.
Suggestion: Can mirrors be installed at all intersections of the 25th Avenue Parking Garage?

We have recently added caution signs for both pedestrians and drivers to the South Garage exit, and it may be that these signs, rather than mirrors, are the best solution to a difficult situation. Research shows that in some circumstances, mirrors can actually make accidents more likely by providing another distraction for drivers. It’s too easy to take your eye off the road to look at the mirror, and the convex mirrors necessary for the purpose distort the image and are not easy to intuitively read from a vehicle.

In the 25th Avene Garage, there are mirrors at some intersections and not at others, based on the suitability of the location. Again, research by traffic experts indicates that in some situations, drivers who see an oncoming car in a mirror actually speed up in an effort to clear the curve — which is not good. The Medical Center Office of Parking and Transportation has stepped up speeding enforcement in the garages. Slower and more careful drivers would be the best safety improvement of all.

We are always evaluating ways to make our garages safer for pedestrians and drivers, but at present we don’t think that additional mirrors are the best way to do that.

Suggestion: In recent months there have been two crosswalks added to the streets surrounding the Medical Center. These are marked with yellow signs, one on Blakemore Avenue and one on 25th Avenue. They are plainly marked, but numerous times I've seen pedestrians get stuck in the middle of the road because traffic won't stop for them. A couple of times people have just missed being hit. Can we put something in a newsletter to remind people to slow down and be aware of both foot and vehicle traffic?

That’s a great idea, and by printing this suggestion we’re doing just that. Our trauma center treats enough traffic accident victims without generating more from around our campus. All of us who drive around the Medical Center should always yield to pedestrians, and be aware that this is a congested area. Additionally, people driving to a hospital or doctor’s appointment often have other things on their minds, and we should be extra mindful. Both drivers and pedestrians should be aware of the new crosswalks on Blakemore and 25th Avenue. Thanks for the reminder.

Suggestion: I would like to see a broader application of recycling at the Medical Center.

The first thing to acknowledge is that there are a number of initiatives already under way. For several years, the Medical Center has recycled cardboard, totaling more than 450 tons per year. Through our confidential paper shredding company, we recycle approximately 354 tons of paper annually. We also have plastic and aluminum collections sites in all areas of the School of Medicine, in many public areas and staff break rooms in Vanderbilt University Hospital, and in some areas of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. We also are aware that many staff groups have taken the initiative to implement recycling programs in their work areas and we are very grateful for those efforts.

I have asked Andrea George, director of Sustainability and Environmental Management for Vanderbilt, to provide recommendations on how we might expand our efforts to include the entire Medical Center campus. The Medical Center should be a community model for demonstrating environmentally conscious practices, and it is through the interest and commitment of faculty, staff and students that these efforts will continue to expand.

Have a suggestion? The suggestion box can be reached online at www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/suggestionbox.