Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital Marks Milestone, Honors Past

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First Row, right to left: Joni Johnston, Patty Henley, Amber Shrum, Earl Scruggs, Jessica Richardson and Connie Greer during orientation on the Opening Day of Vanderbilt University Medical Center - Wilson County. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt University)

To honor Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital’s (VWCH) 45 years of service, and their fifth as Vanderbilt Health, C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer, and VWCH president Scott McCarver presented a State of the Hospital address to the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

By: Danny Bonvissuto

In 1975, a group of physicians and local businessmen in Lebanon, Tennessee, led by Robert Carver Bone, MD, applied for a Certificate of Need for a 65-bed hospital. In 1977, Al Gore Jr., then a U.S. representative, attended the groundbreaking, which was done with a mule and plow. On April 2, 1979, University Medical Center, named for its association with Cumberland University, admitted its first patient.

Tom Keifer was a year out of pharmacy school when he got a call that a new hospital in Lebanon was looking for a pharmacist.

“They said if I was interested, I should come down and meet, and I was basically hired on the spot by the board of directors,” Keifer said. “I was the first pharmacist and the only pharmacist for about a year until we grew as a hospital. When I started out, my only piece of technology was an IBM Selectric Typewriter.”

Keifer thought he’d work for a few years and move on to another position in another town but ended up staying for 45 years. Though he semi-retired two years ago, Keifer works an average of one day a week, which he said keeps him in touch on a personal and professional level.

“I just like the people I work with, and I like the hospital,” he said. “I love what I do.”
Keifer has “survived” four corporate transitions “and about 10 Joint Commissions.” Though it changed ownership many times between 1979 and 2016, University Medical Center didn’t change names until 2016, when it became Tennova Healthcare. The name changed again in September 2019, when Vanderbilt University Medical Center acquired the hospital and named it Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH).

“Corporations are always buying and selling hospitals,” he said. “Though this was the first hospital Vanderbilt had acquired, they had everything planned and worked out, making it a very smooth transition. Vanderbilt brought a new and better culture and breathed life back into our hospital.”

Marking A Milestone
To honor VWCH’s 45 years of service, and their fifth as Vanderbilt Health, C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer, and VWCH president Scott McCarver presented a State of the Hospital address to the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and community on May 23.

“We saw the need to reach out beyond where we were,” Pinson said. “We were doing fine as an academic medical center — and had been doing fine for a century and a half — but the fact of the matter is, people don’t like to come to downtown Nashville and that busy campus unless they have to. Most people would prefer to get their primary care within 15 minutes of where they live, and their secondary care as close as they can to home. And, lo and behold, we also figured out that people would just as soon be in a hospital that is close to their home than to come to downtown Nashville.”

According to McCarver, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has invested more than $40 million in the facility, and the community has noticed: Emergency room visits have increased 26%; deliveries are up 42%, and 46% more surgeries are being performed.

“The No. 1 cause of death in the United States is heart disease. More than two years ago, we hired an interventional cardiologist so we could start doing interventions in our cath lab,” McCarver said. “The number two cause of death in the United States is cancer. The Vanderbilt- Ingram Cancer Center at Wilson County is a full-service cancer center. If you’ve had a loved one go through cancer treatment, you know oftentimes those treatments are daily and go on for weeks at a time. To have that care close to home instead of driving to Nashville every single day is outstanding for the folks who live here.”

Pinson pointed to VWCH’s Leapfrog rating as one of the top 35 general hospitals in the United States as another significant sign of growth.

“I think it sums up all the work that has been done here. All the improvements and investments that have been made, the teams that have been built, the services that have been added, the quality of care we are now providing,” Pinson said. “We are not done. We are not done by a long shot.”

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