Posted by: getthenac | April 1, 2011

Moving on

from Wayne Wood

The home of Get the NAC has moved to our home at Vanderbilt University. The new location is:

Please go there to follow new posts (the old ones are archived there, as well).


Posted by: getthenac | March 7, 2011

Fairy Godmother Project of Music City

A few of the Fairy Godmothers at last year's Boutique Day.

from Leslie Hill:

The fairy godmothers of the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute have put their magic wands to work again this year helping local high school girls get to the ball.

Merideth Cooper, Amy Doyle, Beth Glascock, Heather Skaar, and Laura Zimmerman formed the Fairy Godmother Project of Music City in 2010 to offer prom dresses and accessories to local students in need.

Their first Boutique Day last year matched 100 girls with the dress of their dreams. Read more about in House Organ.

Now the fairy godmothers are at it again, partnering with the Northwest YMCA of Middle Tennessee to hold the second annual Boutique Day on March 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Find out more about the project and sign up to volunteer or donate at


Posted by: getthenac | March 2, 2011

Tender care for a tender heart

Nathan and mom

Nathan and his Mother, Mandy Roberts

from Carole Bartoo:

I may be a little biased, but I don’t think we give our nurses enough credit.

Recently I experienced evidence of the hard work and incredible caring of nurses— people who are the “face” of day-to-day medical care— and came to understand them a little better, and to appreciate them more.

Nathan Roberts’ father, James, was looking forward to his son finally receiving a new heart. It was January and his toddler boy had spent most of his first year and a half of life at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Finally the wait was over, but James said something a little unexpected: “Leaving here is going to be hard. It’s like family.”

Leaving the hospital meant leaving the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU). Leaving the nursing staff who had been there for them over the last eight months. Leaving something that had been a lifeline to him and his family in a deeper way than most people could ever know.

Because Nathan had an experimental device—the Berlin Heart—implanted in his chest to keep him alive and healthy, the toddler had been confined here for more than half his life. Every move meant a possible kink in an air hose that kept the pump going. Even a trip outside his room was off limits for most of his stay because a tug at the wrong tube at the wrong time could mean death.

Nathan’s mother, Mandy, only left the hospital a handful of times during that stretch to return to Alabama where the family and her two older daughters reside. This was a family that could not, and would not leave Nathan, in this time of stress.

So they leaned heavily on bright and caring staff members who were right there– in that small critical care room with them, living literally elbow to elbow with them as they kept Nathan healthy, stable, and well enough to receive a heart.

And the staff leaned on them a little too. Time and time again I heard staff talk about their love for Nathan. In a unit where babies are often unconscious, and children struggle with life or death situations day-in-and-day-out… Nathan was always there, hanging out in his crib: a ‘normal,’ playful baby.

Nurses would pop their heads around the corner as they passed by his room just to illicit his little expression of delight.

Nathan had his favorites, and his favorites knew it. (There were a lot of favorites). One of them was Ashley Sterling, R.N., one of the family’s “primaries” (nurses assigned to Nathan’s care most often). On the very night of Nathan’s transplant surgery, Ashley was among several nurses who came to the hospital during her off hours to cheer the family.

Ashley and a colleague

Ashley and a colleague wait with the family

But that night Ashley belonged to Lauren and Hannah Roberts. Ashley sat with the girls, who hugged her like a favorite aunt. Lauren and Hannah got to stay up late as their little brother finally received his new heart. So there they were on the empty 3rd floor surgical waiting area at 10pm on Jan. 12.

The worried parents and grandparents sat near by, but Ashley had the girls occupied. The girls broke out into a dance (you can see it here on the video)


Image from the video

Ashley interviews the girls

“Now dip her just like we showed you,” Ashley said as the girls twirled by hand in hand, breaking into giggles after an awkward dip.

It was such a fun and ordinary moment to see at such an extraordinary time.

But I knew what Ashley had in the back of her mind. Just down the hall, Nathan’s chest lay open, waiting for the donor heart that was on its way from somewhere down south. Anything could happen. No one knows that better than a critical care nurse or staff member.

Anyone with less courage would be far away; perhaps holding their breath hoping it all would come out ok, perhaps trying to stay distracted and not think about it. But Ashley was right there. She and the other staff members from the unit face risks like this head on, somehow able to express love, comfort and a sense of playfulness to help others while a life they love too hangs in the balance.

It seems to me to be an especially courageous kind of love. After all, you’d have to assume that if Nathan was among the sickest of the sick, he might die. And if lucked smiled and they succeed in getting him better, the family would head home to Alabama and would try to forget this awful time, and so he’d be gone.

Either way a nurse like Ashley knows she’ll have some measure of pain to face real soon. Even if it’s a sweet goodbye as a healthy toddler heads home to live life.

Still, Ashley and her colleagues are right there, choosing to go beyond being a nurse and become an extension of family… unconditionally.

It’s a good thing too, because without caring people like Ashley, who see their work as much more than just a job, the Roberts family, with no other option, would have had to face this alone.

from Wayne Wood:

Brian Cruz, a fourth year medical student at Vanderbilt, was the president of the planning committee that put together this year’s Levi Watkins Jr., M.D. Pre-Medical Conference, and he sent some news along about the event, which was held Feb. 19 at Vanderbilt. Here’s some of what Brian wrote:

Forty-five attendees representing 14 different colleges and universities came to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine to attend the third annual Levi Watkins, Jr. MD Pre-Medical Conference. The one-day, student-run conference represents a collaborative effort between medical students at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College. The conference brings together a diverse array of undergraduate students from various schools to provide them with practical information designed to assist them in their application to graduate school.

Joyce Johnson, M.D., professor of Pathology at VUMC, demonstrates anatomic pathology to a group of participants.

Earl Stewart, Jr., a member of the conference planning committee and medical student at Meharry Medical College, answers questions from conference attendee Sheliseya Edwards.

The ultimate goal of the conference is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities within the health professions, including medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and biomedical research. While we work to promote ethnic and racial diversity, we do not restrict any students from attending. Rather, we work to spread the recognition that diversity of healthcare providers leads to better health outcomes for all of society, and therefore is something that students of every race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, and all other differences should aim to foster.

The conference was started in 2009 by two Vanderbilt medical students, Vernon Rayford (VUSM 2009) and Jason Castellanos (VUSM 2009). It is named in honor of Dr Levi Watkins, Jr. (VUSM 1971), the first African-American graduate from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in recognition of his role in integrating Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and his continued efforts throughout his career to increase minority representation in the health professions.

The conference continues to be run by medical students: this year’s Planning Committee consisted of seven student members who came from Vanderbilt and Meharry. The conference is also made possible every year by generous student volunteers from both schools who lead workshops and conduct mock interviews for the attendees. Furthermore, faculty members from Vanderbilt and Meharry graciously donate their time serving on panels, giving talks to the participants, and demonstrating anatomical pathology.

from Wayne Wood:

March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and, as usual, the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center has a lot going on to raise awareness of this very preventable kind of cancer.

These efforts include having a giant polyp greeting people in Vanderbilt’s Courtyard Cafe. Really.

Dave Barry takes note of this in his blog.

And my friend Cynthia Manley does even better, scoring an interview with the angry polyp near the cafeteria serving line.

from Wayne Wood:

A. Scott Pearson, M.D., associate professor of Surgery at Vanderbilt, this week will publish his second medical thriller, “Public Anatomy,” a follow-up to Pearson’s well-received 2009 book “Rupture,” which is about to be released in paperback.

“Public Anatomy” has the same central character as “Rupture,” Memphis surgeon Eli Branch, and, as Branch is drawn further into the labyrinthine plot, a knowledge of centuries-old anatomical drawings may give him clues to solve a series of murders.

The book trade publication Publisher’s Weekly has chosen “Public Anatomy” to be included in its Spring Announcement issue for the coming season.

“I was glad to be listed with authors like Michael Connelly, Lisa Scottoline and Harlan Coben,” Pearson said.

Pearson’s first bookstore appearance in support of the new novel will be at the Barnes and Noble in Cool Springs on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m.

Posted by: getthenac | February 23, 2011

Cell Phones and Brain Changes: More on Nora Volkow

from Wayne Wood:

A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that cell phone use, because of the proximity of the antenna by the side of the head, can cause subtle changes to the brain. Here is a PBS News account of the study.

The lead scientist on the study is Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For at least the next day or two, she will be the most-talked-about scientist in the U.S. Our Vanderbilt University Medical Center science magazine, Lens, published a profile of Volkow a few years ago, written by Bill Snyder. She is one of the most interesting profile subjects you could imagine: she was born in Mexico, is devoted to science and athletics and the wonder of life. She is also, amazingly enough, the great-granddaughter of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, and, one of her colleagues says, “The smartest person I know.”

Bill’s profile of this amazing person is here.

A link to our new online research magazine, which Lens is now a part of, Research at Vanderbilt, is here.

Even as a teenager, Nora Volkow displayed an amazing mind. Photo courtesy of Nora and Natalia Volkow.

Posted by: getthenac | February 17, 2011

2011 Pet Poll Winners!

from Wayne Wood:

The winners of the 2011 House Organ Pet Poll, conducted in conjunction with the annual “Pets of Vanderbilt” issue, are in after voting closed at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.

The winner in the Dog category was Duke, the European Doberman who lounges in the driveway of Wendy Ashe of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Duke ran away from the pack with 551 votes, 23.8 percent of the total. Second place came from the other end of the canine size range, Lee Ann Jarrett from the School of Nursing’s Chihuahua named Chihuahua.

The Cat winner was Tahoe, the extremely relaxed-looking gray tabby lounging on the armchair of Elizabeth Campos Pearce of Otolaryngology, with 225 votes, or 18.4 percent of those cast. Runner up was Pheebee, the photogenic kitty of Danica Partin of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

In the Duo category, voters were taken with Porter and Millie, a little boy and little dog keeping an eye on each other, photographed by Janet L. Hardison of Cardiothoracic Anesthesia. The boy and dog received 271 votes, or 20.9 percent of those cast in the category. Second place went to another boy-and-dog photo, 4-year-old Will with Maggie the boxer, taken by Jackie Kolb of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

More than 5,000 total votes poured into the House Organ website over the almost two weeks of voting. Thanks to those who submitted photos, thanks to those who had fun with the voting, and congratulations to the winners, who now have the only prize the poll offers: eternal bragging rights.

Here are the winners and the final vote totals in each category:

Posted by: getthenac | February 7, 2011

Readers who care

from Wayne Wood:

The new edition of Vanderbilt Medicine, edited by Kathy Whitney,  has a story by Nancy Humphrey on a rare and terrible disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which, as Nancy says in her story, replaces “soft tissue like muscle and ligament with bone and, at its worst, turning bodies into living statues.”

Nancy’s story focuses on Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Cell and Developmental Biology, whose drug discovery research has uncovered a compound that could prevent the progression of the disease, and on Sharon Kantanie of Brentwood, who is now 41, and who was diagnosed with FOP when she was 6.

Only about 3,000 people in the world have FOP, but in the week or so that this issue has been online,  people with FOP and their family members have been reading the story, posting it on Facebook for others to read, and also posting comments on the Vanderbilt Medicine home page. They thank Dr. Hong for his work, they speak in support of Sharon Kantanie. Nancy’s story offers support and hope to people who are affected by this disease, while also serving as an excellent example of a feature story AND a report on scientific research.

Posted by: getthenac | February 4, 2011


from Wayne Wood:

The annual Pets of Vanderbilt issue of the employee magazine House Organ is out. There were almost 1,000 individual emails with photographs submitted for the pets issue and for the calendar contest that we conduct at the same time, and many of those had multiple files. It was a big job to sort through the pictures. There are 45 photos of award nominees, and another 125 or so on the web exclusively.

There are 15 nominees for Dog of the Year, 15 for Cat of the Year, and 15 for Duo of the Year. Voting begins today, and will continue until 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.

For those of you who just can’t get enough Vanderbilt pets, there are even some pet videos.

For the inside story on the first House Organ Pet Poll, two years ago, in which voters were so enthusiastic that University servers were endangered, read here.

For the results of last year’s Pet Poll, read here.


Older Posts »