Pioneers of Hope

Published on June 13th, 2018 by Christina Echegaray.

At Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt our work extends beyond patient exam rooms. We are also searching for discoveries to offer better treatments, provide quality care and train the next generation of clinicians. The profiles here represent only a sampling of the tireless work performed daily to make Children’s Hospital a place of unwavering hope. In each issue, we also include a profile to highlight our longstanding partnership with our community pediatricians who help ensure all children receive the best care each and every day.


Elizabeth Humphreys, PharmD, MMHC Pharmacy. Photo by Susan Urmy.

When Elizabeth Humphreys, PharmD, MMHC, was a child she would often go to work with her father, a Memphis pharmacist. Sometimes he let her count pills.

“He told me, ‘Elizabeth, do something meaningful with your life — something that means something to someone, including yourself.’”

He’d be proud of his daughter.

She took his advice, became a pharmacist herself, and since 2009 has directed the pharmacy at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, responsible for all inpatient, clinic and retail pharmacy operations, direct supervision of the management team and indirect supervision of about 100 pharmacy employees who handle the medication needs for the thousands of children who pass through the hospital and clinics each year — about 220 prescriptions a day in the retail outpatient pharmacy and 120,000 doses a month for inpatients.

Being a pediatric pharmacist is challenging work, Humphreys said. “You have to manipulate more doses since most medication comes in adult-sized doses. We have tiny NICU babies and 4- and 5-year-olds who can’t take a tablet. Many of our patients are so sick. We have to do workarounds to make treatments for our patients. They’re not just little grownups.”

Humphreys joined the Children’s Hospital staff in 2007 as a staff pharmacist. Previously she had been a staff pharmacist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and before that a staff pharmacist, pharmacy systems manager and interim director of pharmacy at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis.

A graduate of University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy in Memphis, Humphreys also earned a Master of Management in Health Care degree from Vanderbilt University in 2015.

At work, Humphreys often jumps in to fill staffing spots when there is a need, serving as a staff pharmacist on evening shifts, one out of six weekends, and occasional holidays, to ensure she does her share and remains up-to-date on practices and understands the roles of her staff.  It’s something she loves to do.

“At the end of the day, I love being a pharmacist,” Humphreys said. “That’s what I’m passionate about. If I had to pick one of my roles, I’d be a pharmacist. No doubt about it. But being a pharmacist also enables me to make good decisions for my team and it helps me build relationships. I like to work side by side with my staff, drawing up medication. I want people to know me as more than just the leader of the department.”

Her life outside of the hospital is equally busy. She and her husband, Mark, who works at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a program manager in the specialty pharmacy, have seven children, ranging in age from 6 to 22 — “one at every stage of life,” Humphreys said. Her eldest child, Austin, is married and works at VUMC in Health Information Technology. The youngest is in kindergarten.

Humphreys, a former competitive figure skater, said that she works hard to balance a demanding job with spending quality time with her family. Mark and her mother, Jane, who lives with them, have provided “incredible support.”

“My family is my priority. They always are. But when my job is pressing I have to make a decision. Do I miss an event with my family or take care of the issue at work? I’ve had frank discussions with my children and they know my job affects a lot of sick children. They’ve always been very receptive. They understand and they get it,” she said.

– by Nancy Humphrey


Jill Kilkelly, MD, Pediatric Anesthesiology. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Mentoring matters to Jill Kilkelly, MD.

It’s been a crucial building block of her own professional journey and is a cornerstone of her leadership philosophy as chief of the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology and medical director of Perioperative Services at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Whether it’s with the other anesthesiologists in her division, residents, students, nurses or perioperative support personnel, Kilkelly strives to help people create roles they’re able to thrive in and enjoy.

“Relationships and mentoring are so crucial; nobody is an island, that’s for sure,” Kilkelly said. “The folks here are already amazing self-starters, so I see my chief role as being to help them grow the way they want to, whether that’s with resources or connecting them with other people.”

In addition to working with surgical teams and managing the Children’s Hospital operating rooms, helping educate fellows, residents and student nurse anesthetists, and performing administrative work for her division and Perioperative Services, Kilkelly serves on the Children’s Transformational Healthcare Committee, a diverse group of stakeholders who conduct strategic planning and brainstorm next phases of growth for Children’s Hospital.

She’s also clinical director of the Pediatric Complex Coordination of Care Program, an initiative she helped create in 2011 that combines multiple procedures or radiological studies a child may need with the goal of minimizing separate episodes of anesthetic care when possible.

“We all love the kids more than anything else. They haven’t done any of this to themselves, so anything we can do to make them less afraid, have less pain and have a more positive experience seems to me like a great reason to get up in the morning,” Kilkelly said.

Born and raised in Albany, New York, Kilkelly attended Cornell University, where she received both her undergraduate and medical degrees.

She always loved science growing up, but it was a summer job following her freshman year that convinced her to pursue medicine. That year, her parents moved to Marietta, Georgia, and Kilkelly worked as an orderly at Kennestone Hospital, cleaning the operating rooms.

“There was a surgeon there, Dr. John Kennedy, who learned I was interested in becoming a doctor. During evening hours, when my shift was done, he would invite me into his operating room to observe and would talk me through anatomy. He took me under his wing, took my enthusiasm seriously and showed me why he loved what he did,” Kilkelly said.

Kilkelly came to Vanderbilt in 1997 for General Surgery residency. She did three years of surgery training, then two years in the surgical oncology lab of R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD. Ultimately, she chose a career in anesthesiology. She pursued a year of adult critical care fellowship, then anesthesiology residency — during which she fell in love with the care of children — and then stayed on to complete a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship.

She was invited to remain as an attending physician in Pediatric Anesthesiology following her fellowship in 2007, and became clinical chief of the division as well as medical director of Perioperative Services in 2012.  She was appointed division chief in 2017.

The mentors she credits with influencing her career include her parents, who she says raised her to take great joy in every day, with teachings of, ‘in all things, PMA (positive mental attitude)’ and that, ‘you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, just the most committed and perseverant;’  John W. Brock III, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief for Children’s Hospital and Senior Vice President of Pediatric Surgical Services;  Jay Deshpande, MD, chief medical officer, professor of Pediatrics and Anesthesiology, Arkansas Children’s Hospital; and John Tarpley, MD, professor of Surgery, emeritus, Vanderbilt.

“When anybody asks, what I always say is that, without the support of fantastic mentors, you’re going nowhere,” Kilkelly said.

Kilkelly, along with her husband, fellow anesthesiologist Shannon Kilkelly, DO, enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, exercise and spending time with her 16-year-old stepson, Lochlan.

– by Doug Campbell


Daphne Hardison, MSN, RN, ECMO. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Daphne Hardison, MSN, RN, grew up on her family’s ancestral farm in Scotts Hill, Tennessee (pop. 984), with cows, pigs, chickens, fields of soybeans and a horse named Demon.

“Have I driven a tractor? — yes; was I good at it? — probably not so much,” she says. Less of a farmhand than her sisters were, Hardison instead helped with the cooking. “I can remember cutting up a chicken at the age of 12, with my grandmother talking me through it over the phone.”

Her father, a truck driver, didn’t finish high school. Her mother was the secretary at Scotts Hill High School, where Hardison’s graduating class numbered 41 students. “I couldn’t date anybody who was from the town because my mother knew them all,” she says. Hardison worked as a nurse’s assistant while in high school.

“I loved biology, adored it. I looked at medicine; I thought I might become a doctor, but once I got to college I decided I wanted to have kids, and for that reason I began to think medicine wasn’t for me.” Thinking it would give her more time to devote to raising a family, she studied nursing instead.

“I believe in having a job and I knew nursing would provide that. And I really, really like nursing,” she said.

A week after graduation from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, she married Steve Hardison, who works as an information specialist. The newlyweds moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where Daphne Hardison’s successive jobs included staff nurse on an adult neurology unit, staff nurse on a cardiac intensive care unit and scrub nurse for an orthopaedic surgery practice.

“Then I went into my love of nursing, which is the neonatal ICU. I am an ICU nurse at heart. I like adrenaline; I like moving. I also wanted to be doing something that I thought was making a difference,” she said. “You get to know the families and the patients, then you get to see the infant grow up.”

In 1995, Hardison joined what was then known as Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as a NICU nurse, and in 2003, she joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Unit, becoming manager of the unit in 2008. She earned her master’s degree in nursing from Loyola University in New Orleans in 2012.

The first use of ECMO in Tennessee was at VUMC in 1989. ECMO provides inpatients with ongoing cardiac and respiratory support; blood drained from a vein via tubing is oxygenated outside of the body, then pumped back through a tube placed in a vein or artery. For patients on ECMO at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a specialist from the ECMO Unit is at the bedside 24 hours per day.

Hardison first encountered ECMO as a NICU nurse. “I just remember the adrenaline. It’s wonderful to watch a patient who has a 10 percent survival rate or less be put on this machine and given time to heal. They don’t all make it, but when they do, it’s like, ‘wow, we’ve really done something great here.’”

ECMO specialists at Children’s Hospital are required to have at least two years of ICU experience.

“I watch them and I’m amazed. They really know what to do with the patient. They have the experience of working in the critical care unit and they have all these ideas of ways to improve the patient that you wouldn’t have in someone without that background,” said Hardison.

This year, Vanderbilt ECMO split into adult and pediatric services, and Hardison remained with the pediatric team. With a staff of 25 nurses and respiratory therapists, the ECMO Unit at Children’s Hospital also provides continuous renal replacement therapy (kidney support). This year Hardison took on an additional role as manager of the Vascular Access Team at Children’s Hospital.

The Hardisons have three sons: Spencer, 21, Zach, 18, and Noah, 16.

– by Paul Govern


Scott Brooks, MD, Community Pediatrician. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Scott Brooks, MD, grew up knowing the importance of higher education, helping patients heal and caring for family.

As a child, he often visited Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as his late father, Arthur L. Brooks, MD, a renowned Vanderbilt orthopaedic surgeon who developed several innovative orthopaedic surgical techniques, instilled in him these important qualities.

“I’d go with him when he would do rounds at the hospital. (Those moments) introduced me to the practice of medicine and helped guide me in my future choice to become a physician,” Brooks said.

Brooks knew early in life he had a love for science and through his own educational journey decided to work in pediatrics. He’s practiced at Pediatric Associates of Franklin since June 1984.

“Every age is a wonder,” he said. “From early to late (development), it’s a new adventure. It is great to see how they grow through their lives, follow them longitudinally and make sure they are happy, healthy citizens of this world.”

Brooks, a Nashville native, received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences in Memphis in 1981 after completing his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Vanderbilt University.

He completed his residency in pediatrics at what was then known as Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in June 1984, and now provides care through roughly 3,800 patient visits annually at Pediatric Associates of Franklin.

“When I first started, we saw most of the patients in Williamson County on Medicaid,” he said. “We’ve grown to seven doctors and two nurse practitioners. We have a big practice, and are now one of the many pediatric offices in Franklin.”

Brooks, who is board-certified in pediatrics, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and an associate clinical professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, has a passion for caring for children’s health.

“I enjoy the interactions with the patients and the parents and being a good educator and resource of information to help parents as they raise their babies, toddlers, school-age children and then send their children off to college,” Brooks said. “I really enjoy it.

“What has been truly fulfilling is that now I am taking care of the children of some of my former patients. I call them my grandpatients.”

He has received the Physicians Recognition Award from the American Medical Association and the James C. Overall Award for his contribution to the residency program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as an outstanding instructor.

Brooks is a member of the National and Tennessee chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation. He is actively involved with Children’s Hospital and previously served as a member of the Emergency Department Committee and the Performance, Management and Improvement Council as well as numerous other committees at Williamson Medical Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Brooks and his wife, Cindy, have been married for 42 years and have two children. Their son, Westley Brooks, lives in Pittsburgh and has three sons, Owen, Miles and Quinn. His daughter, Emily Bray, is a third-grade teacher at Percy Priest Elementary, in Nashville, and is the mother to 2-year-old, Benjamin. Brooks and his wife find their greatest joy in being grandparents to their four grandsons.

Brooks, who grew up on a farm, tends to a basement garden with his wife using grow lights for various heirloom tomato varieties. On Thursdays — his day off — he and his grandson, Benjamin, pick tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from the garden.

– by Tavia Smith