Monroe Carell Jr. and his wife, Ann, had a vision for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt—to create a place that wouldn’t be scary or intimidating to the children it served; a place that was built not just for those children, but for their families too; a place that not only represented excellence in medical research, but was also a model of empathy, compassion, and family-focused care. Today, 10 years later, it is one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals.
While chairing Vanderbilt’s “Shape the Future” campaign, Carell and his wife made the lead gift to build Nashville’s first freestanding children’s hospital, which opened in 2004, bearing his name.
The Carells supported many important efforts at Vanderbilt including endowed scholarships for undergraduate students and three endowed chairs in the Department of Pediatrics, one of which is held by John Brock III, M.D., director of Pediatric Urology, surgeon-in-chief for Children’s Hospital and Monroe Carell Jr. Professor.
But perhaps their greatest legacy was their daughters—Julie Stadler, Kathryn Brown and Edie Johnson. Each continue to be involved at Vanderbilt and in the Nashville community. Edie, following in her father’s footsteps, serves as a member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust. Julie and Kathryn are members of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Board.
They recently sat down with writer Nancy Humphrey and Brock on what would have been their father’s 81st birthday to talk about what the Monroe Carell Jr.
Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt means to the Carell family.
What were they like as parents?
Edie: Our parents were very loving and supportive of each of us. We learned a lot from their example.
Kathryn: Mom and Dad were very involved in our lives growing up, and also in their grandchildren’s lives.
Julie: They were all about the family and we spent a lot of time together, whether it was family dinners or annual beach trips to Destin (Fla.).
Why was Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt so important to your father?
Julie: Mom and Dad both believed in helping children— whether it be children here at the hospital who were sick or through funding their education. They were very interested in the health and development of young people. That was the focus of their philanthropy. Dad was passionate about everything that he did—whether it was their philanthropy, or his work, or his family, everything in his life was full on.
Kathryn: Dad had a great love for Vanderbilt, for children, and for helping others. If he was interested and committed, you got him 100 percent. Mom was a great supporter of his passion for Vanderbilt.
Edie: Dad thought it was important for the children of this area to have access to a world class hospital. This was his vision and it turned out to be his legacy.
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has received many accolades. This year it was again named among the top pediatric health care hospitals in U.S. News and World Report magazine’s annual Best Children’s Hospitals, achieving national rankings in nine out of 10 of its pediatric specialty programs. But it sounds like it was the little things that impressed your dad—comfortable beds, the ability of the parents to stay in the room, etc.
Kathryn: He thought everything was important, down to the smallest detail. He didn’t want it to look or feel like a hospital. For instance, there is a performance theatre for entertainment as well as interactive art placed throughout the hospital.
Julie: He thought a sick child disrupted the life of the whole family. So it was very important for him that the parents could do their work from the workstation in the room, and could sleep at night in the room with their child, and that there be a room for the siblings to come to—all that was part of taking care of the child. That is one thing that Dad was really passionate about when they built this hospital.
Kathryn: He remembered his own mother and father having to sleep sitting up when he was in the hospital as a young boy. He believed that mothers were so important to a child’s well-being, and he believed in family-centered care.
John Brock: Julie has heard me say this many times, how important it was to Monroe that parents were comfortable here. He came here when we were building the new hospital and tried different beds. He’d tell us “this one is not comfortable.”
Edie: He wanted the public spaces to be cheerful and inviting, like the whimsical staircase at the entrance. Everything is so geared toward the child: the design of each floor, the height of the bathroom fixtures, and the size of the chairs.
What did your parents instill in each of you about giving?
Edie: We saw the pleasure from their giving. My parents enjoyed doing good for others. Helping people. We were very involved in that growing up. And he loved Vanderbilt. He wanted us all involved here.
Kathryn: They didn’t just write the check. They had a real interest in people they were supporting. They wanted them to be successful, whether that meant getting well or getting a college education.
Julie: As you know, Tom Doyle, M.D., holds the Ann and Monroe Carell Jr. Family Chair in Pediatric Cardiology and when Dad died, the first thing we wanted to do was establish a chair in his name, which Dr. John Brock holds. We couldn’t think of a better chair holder. And that’s the first thing we wanted to do for Mom. (James Crowe Jr., M.D., holds the Ann Scott Carell Chair).
Would your parents be proud of this hospital on its 10th anniversary?
Julie: Our parents’ vision for this hospital was the creation of a place that was actually hard for many people to conceive of in its early planning. Now, 10 years later, it would be hard to imagine it not being here.
Kathryn: They so believed in the doctors and nurses here. They knew the team here would make this Children’s Hospital the best it could be. And the community pediatricians are proud of this Children’s Hospital and feel there is a real partnership between the specialists and doctors here at the hospital and the pediatricians in the surrounding area.
Edie: Both Dad and Mom were very proud of what the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt became and they would be so pleased about this 10-year milestone. It continues to be a place others measure against across the country. Its combination of excellence and empathy continue so strongly and its mission to serve is now expanding (to satellite clinics). All of that is what they wanted, long before the first shovel of dirt was moved to build the children’s hospital.
John Brock: Mrs. Carell did a wonderful job of being in the background when Monroe was alive. That was how she grew up and how she was. But when he passed away, don’t kid yourself, she came right out front. I got to know her very well in the years after Monroe passed away, and boy, what an advocate. That’s a lasting memory.
John Brock: This hospital is the greatest gift ever to Nashville. Period. End of story. The new convention center is great, but this is the greatest gift—for economic development, for children, for the future. This is the greatest gift that could ever be given to this city.