From left are Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt members Vera Lee, past president, Wendy Gatto, president-elect, and Leigh Rogers, president, with Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, chair of the Department of Pediatrics. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Wrapped in the Arms of Friends

From left are Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt members Vera Lee, past president, Wendy Gatto, president-elect, and Leigh Rogers, president, with Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, chair of the Department of Pediatrics. Photo by Susan Urmy.

For 47 years, pediatric patients at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt have been wrapped in the arms of Friends.

Over that time, the 3,700-member Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a volunteer organization, has supported the hospital through fundraising, outreach and patient and family support programs.

The group recently committed to support two crucial pediatric programs at Children’s Hospital: Diabetes and Palliative Care. The group’s most recent gift helped support two Children’s Hospital programs: The Program for Children with Medically Complex Needs and Pediatric Cancer. 

The group’s other past efforts and contributions include support for a pediatric ambulance, the Music Therapy Program and a nurses’ station in the hospital’s recently opened Pediatric Heart Institute on the 10th floor. Friends continually supports a bereavement committee, a grant program addressing immediate hospital needs and Flashes of Hope, a program that creates powerful portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

 “The Friends contributions and support for Children’s Hospital over the years have been truly remarkable. From philanthropic efforts to thousands of volunteer hours by Friends members, the group has made a lasting impact on children, families and our pediatric programming,” said Steven Webber, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, pediatrician-in-chief and James C. Overall Professor. 

“Friends has given several transformative gifts over the years, supporting vital clinical programs and advancing research in prematurity, behavioral health support in hemoatology-oncology and for complex medical care. The latest gift will allow us to provide those same program enhancements and discoveries for children with diabetes and for children entering our palliative care program.” 

The Children’s Diabetes Program at Vanderbilt is one of the largest in the country, caring for almost 3,000 children and young adults with diabetes from Tennessee and eight surrounding states at the Vanderbilt Eskind Pediatric Diabetes Clinic and five other off-site locations. About 85% of patients treated in the program have the autoimmune form, Type 1 diabetes. 

Support from Friends will allow the three young clinician scientists to advance their research to improve the tools used to treat Type 1 diabetes, care for the children and their families and develop methods to predict, prevent, reverse and cure the disease. 

Pediatric palliative medicine is a specialty that focuses on quality of life and helps children with serious medical conditions and their families live their best life. It looks at the whole person — physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological — and addresses anything that detracts from a child’s ability to just be a child, despite their illness.

They work with children with a variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, congenital heart disease and genetic conditions, some of which are survivable but others that are not.

There are currently two physicians and a nurse practitioner on Children’s Hospital’s pediatric palliative care team. Children are seen in the hospital, in outpatient clinics and at home. The Friends gift will allow the growth of an interdisciplinary team, so they can provide more comprehensive care to the children and families they serve.

Friends president Leigh Rogers said the two programs are both deserving.

“Our thoughts, after meeting with the hospital leadership, were that these are two compelling programs involving patients: those with diabetes who come here from all over Tennessee and other states for the best treatment in this region and palliative care for children diagnosed with serious illnesses, allowing them to live their best lives possible with their medical conditions,” Rogers said.

– by Nancy Humphrey

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