On Feb. 8, 2004, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt opened its doors with much fanfare as Nashville’s and Middle Tennessee’s first full-service children’s hospital. Until that time, Nashville was the only city among the top 25 in the nation that didn’t have a freestanding hospital dedicated to serving children and their families.
Monroe Carell, named after the hospital’s most passionate advocate whose philanthropy with his wife led to its construction, opened as an eight-floor, 206-bed state-of-the-art hospital with 616,785 square feet. The first year exceeded all expectations with hospital teams seeing an incredible demand for children’s health care services, and soon leaders realized that the need for an expansion and continued growth of programming were imminent.
Two physical expansions followed, first in 2012, with a 33-bed, 30,000-square-foot addition, and then with the current four-floor, 160,000-square-foot expansion atop the existing building. Once the latest expansion is complete, Monroe Carell will have 401 beds and more than 1 million square feet on the main campus plus its 30 off-site and affiliated locations, including several long-standing partnerships with regional hospitals.
Quickly established as a leading pediatric facility, Monroe Carell has consistently earned accolades as a best children’s hospital in the nation and has earned the distinction as a top-four pediatric academic research institute. In 2023, Monroe Carell was ranked the No. 1 children’s hospital in Tennessee and was one of just 23 hospitals in the nation ranked in 10 out of 10 pediatric specialty programs in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals report.
The vision for the hospital began with two champions for children’s health, the late Monroe Carell Jr. and his wife, the late Ann Scott Carell, and has continued with their three daughters, Julie Carell Stadler, Kathryn Carell Brown and Edie Carell Johnson, and their families.
“This facility was a dream for so many for so long. Because of their vision and dedication to children and our entire community, the Carell family created what I call the most important building in this part of the world,” said John W. Brock III, MD, the Monroe Carell Jr. Professor, Surgeon-in-Chief Emeritus and longtime family friend. “The entire Carell family truly embodies the compassionate spirit and mission of this special hospital. I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of this journey as our extraordinary health care teams, along with incredible community support, provide children with the quality care they deserve at a premier comprehensive pediatric facility.”
More than 20 years ago, Ann and Monroe Carell dared to dream big — and to share that dream with others.
Frequent visitors to and advocates for what was then two pediatric floors plus a NICU within Vanderbilt University Hospital, they felt compelled to realize a decades-long community goal to build Middle Tennessee’s much-needed and first-ever stand-alone children’s hospital.
The Carells believed so strongly in that mission that they kick-started the fundraising efforts for a freestanding children’s hospital with a cornerstone transformational gift in 1999. Additionally, Monroe signed on as chair of the “Shape the Future” Campaign to create a building for what he called the community’s “most precious asset — children.” Every aspect of the Carells’ philanthropy was rooted in causes that supported children.
Nashville’s first dedicated pediatric hospital wouldn’t just be any building. Indeed, Monroe Carell, founder of Central Parking Corp. and former chair of the then-Children’s Hospital Board of Directors, had a grand vision for what a pediatric hospital could and would be: a brightly colored and welcoming facility that cared for not only children but also for their families; a place full of compassion, empathy and even fun; and a top pediatric health facility and research institution devoted to enhancing health outcomes and the well-being of all children.
“Caring for children meant everything to our parents, Ann Scott Carell and Monroe Carell Jr., and this hospital was the result of that sincere compassion for others. Our family cherishes being connected with their legacy and all that Monroe Carell has accomplished for children already,” said daughter, Julie Carell Stadler, a Monroe Carell Advisory Board member. She has also served as executive producer of the Nashville Christmas Parade and Nashville Holiday Music Special which benefited the hospital.
Carrying on their parents’ legacy
Ann and Monroe always instilled in their daughters the importance of giving, both in time and philanthropy.
That included involving them in activities and sharing stories about visits to the hospital. Monroe recounted one of his visits with them, sharing how a family couldn’t afford to call long distance to get updates on their baby when they couldn’t be at the hospital. So, he paid for the long-distance calls between the family and the nurses because he wanted to help.
Part of the Carell family’s long tradition of giving includes funding endowed chairs, and that has been carried on by Julie, Kathryn and Edie. Chairs funded include: the Ann and Monroe Carell Jr. Family Chair in Pediatric Cardiology, the Julia Carell Stadler Chair in Pediatrics, the Monroe Carell Jr. Chair, the Ann Scott Carell Chair, and the Edie Carell Johnson Chair in Pediatrics.
“The hope this hospital provides through dedicated researchers and by training leaders and the healing happening through patient-focused care is astounding. We are proud to be part of this community — from those who trust Monroe Carell to care for their children to the many who volunteer, give back or take part in events to further the hospital’s impact,” said Edie Carell Johnson, who has served as chair of the VUMC Board of Directors since it was formed in 2015.
Following in their parents’ footsteps, the Carell daughters and their families made a cornerstone gift in 2014 that launched the Growing to New Heights expansion effort to build the current four-floor expansion.
Kathryn Carell Brown also led the campaign, which exceeded its fundraising goal of $40 million to support the four-floor expansion and included recognition of their mother with the Ann Scott Carell Pavilion.
Continuing the tradition
The family continues to be active in shaping the hospital’s future, including making a lead gift to support the vision to build the first inpatient pediatric rehabilitation facility in Tennessee.
“The creation of a freestanding children’s hospital was only the beginning. It remains so important to our family to continue to support children in the region. Even more, we’re touched to be joined by others in growing the hospital to serve more families and energized as we look ahead to an inpatient pediatric rehabilitation unit,” Kathryn Carell Brown said.
The passion and commitment to the health and well-being of children has truly become a family affair that now encompasses not only Julie, Kathryn and Edie, but also their six children and their families. There are also six great-grandchildren. Together, the second and third generations (and eventually the fourth) have carried forward the dream of and dedication to caring for young patients, volunteering and serving the community.
In May 2023, the family gathered at the hospital with leaders to celebrate and reflect on its tremendous impact on health care over many decades.
Julie’s son, Monroe Stadler, volunteered for several years at the hospital when he was younger and recently joined her and Kathryn on the Monroe Carell Advisory Board, representing the commitment of the family’s next generation to children’s health care.
“It’s an honor to partner with everyone at the hospital and others who believe in its mission and share my grandparents’ enthusiasm for helping children. By building on their vision, families will receive the care they need and benefit from advances for years to come,” Monroe Stadler said.