John W. Brock III, MD. Photo by Donn Jones.

Growth Along a Journey

Published on September 14th, 2020 by Christina Echegaray.

Expanding the footprint of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has long been a goal of John W. Brock III, MD.

A veteran of Children’s Hospital with more than 30 years’ experience, he’s been prepping for opportunities to showcase the expertise and services of the hospital.

His first foray into outreach — widening the scope of pediatric urology beyond the main campus located off of 21st Avenue South — came nearly 25 years ago. The concept, a first for the health care facility, was a success. And Brock began to shepherd other specialties in the move toward community-based services.

“What I realized along the way is that we can no longer be a children’s hospital,” said Brock. “We have to be a children’s system. That required taking our brand to the patient, to the individual communities.”

Brock’s innate desire to build on the solid foundation created at Children’s Hospital developed into a newfound strength for him. That strength led to the hospital’s newest endeavor — Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt Surgery and Clinics Murfreesboro which opened in December 2019.

Brock oversaw the $27.2 million state-of-the-art project that expanded pediatric specialty care, outpatient surgery and imaging services to children in Rutherford and surrounding counties.

The 37,500-square-foot facility’s footprint reaches far beyond Middle Tennessee.


“This is the way of the future,” said Brock of the outpatient facility. “Taking our providers to the patient; meeting families where they are, closer to home; making access to our services easier; bringing our brand to the communities that seek our expertise. It is a longtime goal realized — taking our resources from this one building on Children’s Way and sharing it throughout the region.

“Patients and families assume quality,” he said. “We provide that with no question. What they have asked for is convenience. And we are not stopping with this one building.”

The reviews of the Murfreesboro facility have been resoundingly positive from community members, patient families and employees. Its volumes have shown the kind of impact off-site accessibility can have on patients. In the six months of opening the clinics and outpatient surgery services, there were 16,000 visits, which is ahead of projections even with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brock pauses in his reflection on the immensity of the Murfreesboro project, one that his friend, the late Luke Gregory, former CEO of Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, worked closely on.

“We talked about how to leverage our brand, our name and take it farther out to garner new business and increase our influence. Therein lies the job that Luke and I designed around growth of the enterprise. If we were going to grow, we had to increase our footprint.

“You know people used to say that I wanted all the business that was touching the business that I already had,” he said. “I only know one way to do things.

“I miss my friend Luke,” he said with a hard swallow. “He always called me his point guard,” Brock said chuckling. “I was always out in front and pushing, pushing, pushing the ball down the court and he’d say to me, ‘Uh, we don’t need to run the fastbreak quite so fast.’ That was our lingo.”

That partnership helped move the concept of off-site care facilities to fruition. One that Brock is immensely proud of.

A few months before he died in the fall of 2019, Gregory commended Brock for his dedication and vision of the Murfreesboro facility.

“As we continue to expand our pediatric specialty care out into the community and across the region, Dr. Brock serves a vital role in leading these efforts to ensure we meet the same standard of excellence for patients and families as we provide on our main campus,” Gregory said at the time.

What’s Next?

The big box model, providing care that is more convenient to the consumer, is expanding to include adults.

Brock is leading projects for the adult enterprise in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Belle Meade at the request of C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Hendersonville facility, slated to open in early 2021, is a 31,000-square-foot facility that will offer adult outpatient specialty care, along with limited pediatric specialty care and imaging services to the citizens of Sumner and surrounding counties.

The Belle Meade facility, a 50,000-square-foot building, is projected to open in 2021 and will house outpatient specialty care for adults only.

Brock said there was no question that there was a need to have a presence outside of the traditional walls of the hospital setting and into the community. There was a lot of work around growth patterns, opportunities for patients, needs assessments and the like in preparation for expansion possibilities.

“I strive to be a really good team member,” said Brock of his involvement with the Murfreesboro and Hendersonville expansions. “There are some incredibly bright people who led this team to get that location ready to take care of patients. I stand in awe of the way the team worked to make this happen. We all had to work in lockstep.

“One of my strengths is having the vision to see the big picture and latching on to really talented people and advocating to help them get what they need to succeed,” admitted Brock.

Three decades of service at the same institution has taught Brock a lot about his specialty, the community and himself.

His ties to Vanderbilt are deeply rooted — starting with his time as an undergraduate. After obtaining his degree in history from Vanderbilt University in 1974, he received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in 1978. He returned to VUMC to complete his residency training, where he served as chief resident in Urology and has remained at Children’s Hospital since.

Brock is highly respected throughout the region. His commitment to excellence is well known. The author and co-author of more than 220 scholarly publications and book chapters, Brock has been an invited presenter at nearly 300 gatherings.

After successfully serving as Children’s Hospital’s first Surgeon-in-Chief for 17 years, he began the transition to focus on his role as Senior Vice President of Pediatric Surgical Services and became Surgeon-in-Chief Emeritus in 2019.

“I like where I am headed,” said Brock. “I have been very lucky to have had tremendous success where I am. Growth along this journey and self-reflection about who I am has been really important.

“I’ve been here a long time and learned what really works. I’ve lived through when the hospital was on two floors in the adult hospital. Now we have more than 340 beds, 20 locations in the community (clinics and urgent care) and now this big box facility. This is just the evolution of a children’s hospital system that matches the growth of Nashville and beyond.”

— by Jessica Pasley

Hope – Summer/Fall 2020