Stories, moments and impact – the ripple of medicine

From the Fall 2019 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Photo by David Bailey

In our profession, people matter. It sounds trite, yet with busy clinics and bustling personal lives it’s an axiom that may fade into the din of emails, calls, obligations and deadlines.

We work in an age of sea change in medicine, and sometimes, with expanding technology and growing demands for efficiency, it’s crucial to remind ourselves to be attentive — to listen and observe.

It’s imperative we strive to remember that everyone is valuable — whether they wear a nametag or a wristband. Everyone has a story influencing how they think, how they work, and why they came to you for treatment.

As an institution committed to improving health, we are an influential part of people’s stories — even when they are not in our clinics. More than ever, we understand that health is influenced by lifestyle, and that we must increasingly be relevant in the lives of our patients if we want to be successful in supporting their health.

Sometimes we are guides to healthier living and in other instances we are investigators — such as when two specialists collaborated across disciplines to pinpoint why a 26-year-old man with no prior medical conditions kept suddenly breaking bone after bone, allowing him to be cured (read story here).

VUMC is privileged to play a role in stories that unfold across the state and globe each day. Our Vanderbilt Forensic Psychiatry faculty members are routinely retained by defense and prosecution in cases at all levels of the judicial system (read story here).

And Nashville’s marquee billing as a destination city is an opportunity for VUMC to explore new, and sometimes unexpected, ways of delivering care (read story here).

We have an opportunity to seize the demands of this era and make them into change agents that aid our mission to treat and heal. Technology and protocol should support people — not the other way around. We constantly iterate to ensure we’re helping our patients be as healthy as they can be. To that end, a new “prehabilitation” program (read story here) is working with patients before surgery so they have better outcomes after surgery.

Every so often we witness stories that stand out in retrospect as being special. We’re proud to introduce you to a group of neurosurgery residents who represent a notable milestone in the department’s history: the three doctors in the third year of a seven-year journey as neurosurgery’s first all-female class (read story here).

Join me in using this copy of Vanderbilt Medicine as a chance to unplug from screens and reflect on people who inspired you during your time here, or that patient who stands out among the rest and wonder at how our actions today ripple well beyond those we work alongside or treat.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD
President and CEO, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dean, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine