In the 1990s, when pediatric health care services were scattered in buildings across Nashville and strained by the demands of a growing population, health care leaders knew a dedicated children’s hospital was needed. But the vision required a champion, someone willing to lead the effort in the community as well as the large-scale philanthropic endeavor that would be required.
At the time, Monroe Carell Jr., a 1959 Vanderbilt graduate and CEO of Nashville-based Central Parking, was already generous with his time and support of what was then Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, which occupied three floors within the adult Vanderbilt University Hospital. Inspired by his frequent visits to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, he assumed the role of chair of the Children’s Hospital Board of Directors.
When he was approached about spearheading philanthropic efforts to support a freestanding children’s hospital, he and his wife, Ann, happily jumped on board and made a transformational gift. Influenced by his own childhood experiences with hospitalization in a sterile, uninviting atmosphere, Monroe Carell knew if he was going to be involved that the hospital must be inviting, bright, child-friendly and accommodating to families.
With much fanfare, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt opened to the public in 2004, and it remains the only freestanding, comprehensive pediatric facility in Middle Tennessee. Families quickly filled the space and sought the high-quality, compassionate care provided for everything from broken bones to childhood cancer.
An expansion that added 33 beds and 30,000 square feet in 2012 created additional capacity for acute, surgical and neonatal intensive care services. Those spots filled quickly.
Now the Carells’ daughters, Julie Carell Stadler, Kathryn Carell Brown and Edie Carell Johnson, are dreaming big too, with the latest expansion endeavor to add four floors of new space atop the existing hospital structure. A $10 million gift from the Carell daughters and their families served as the foundation of a fundraising campaign for the expansion.
“This hospital cares for all children, and this expansion is vitally important so that the hospital can see more children every year,” said Kathryn Carell Brown, who chairs the expansion’s philanthropic campaign—Growing to New Heights. “Children’s Hospital has such a fabulous reputation, and the expansion will allow us to do even greater things and to provide care for children and families in a loving environment. No child asks to be sick, and we need to do everything we can do to help them heal. These children are our future.”
Each floor of the expansion will add 40,000 square feet to Children’s Hospital. Once construction is complete the hospital’s total size will have increased to nearly 1 million square feet. With the architectural design and engineering phase nearing completion, construction is slated to begin in 2016.
The first two floors to be completed will add intensive care beds for newborns and other critically ill pediatric patients who need treatment for a wide range of serious conditions including organ transplantation, neurological and neurosurgical conditions and a host of other serious pediatric health issues that require the highest level of care.
“Through the hospital’s expansion, we are creating the promise of a brighter future for our most vulnerable patients. We will care for more children and families, train more physicians and nurses dedicated to the care of children, and discover more treatments and cures for devastating childhood diseases,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “I am deeply appreciative to the Carell family, to our campaign co-chairs, and to countless other generous supporters.”
Additional features that will be included within the expansion’s first completed floor are: family areas, a playroom, a large waiting room, educational space and patient consultation rooms. The expansion was planned and designed by Donald Blair of Blair + Mui Dowd Architects of New York. Blair has served as planning architect for many of Vanderbilt University’s patient care and research facilities.