NASHVILLE, Tenn. “What happens when everyone cares?” Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) and Vice President for Health Equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) asked the crowded auditorium. “What happens when we care for each other?”
Dr. Wilkins stood before the institution's gathered leaders in Langford Auditorium, where she served as the Keynote Speaker for VUMC’s February 2020 Leadership Assembly. Her presentation, “Respect and Communication in the Community,” emphasized the overall theme of the assembly, “Nurturing Our Caring Spirit.”
Caring within VUMC’s walls
“Our caring spirit is at the heart of what we do,” she said. “Our caring spirit is represented by more than 25,000 people and their families.”
She recalled one of her early memories at VUMC, when she was still new and unfamiliar with the vast campus. While scouring Vanderbilt’s Clinical Research Center (CRC) in search of the correct room, she met a Lead Environmental Tech named Daryl who offered to help.
Daryl, Dr. Wilkins noted, didn’t know she was a physician. He had no idea she held any position within VUMC. He just saw someone in need, and he helped.
“He helped me find the room I needed,” Dr. Wilkins recalled. “He walked me there.”
Caring beyond VUMC’s walls
That caring spirit, she said, does and must exist at all levels.
VUMC recently released the findings of its latest Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), which identified key health needs in Nashville and the surrounding area.
“How do we care for others beyond our walls?” Dr. Wilkins asked.
The CHNA – which was mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – seeks to better understand community health concerns and priorities, while also working to create strategies that address them. It acts as a health profile for the communities where VUMC patients live.
It resulted, Dr. Wilkins added, in strategies driven by both VUMC and the community to improve health equity.
“I’m always looking at trust,” she said, with regard to the community.
Fostering positivity was key in improving trust, she explained. She then referenced community health efforts like the Clinic at Mercury Courts and the Faith & Health Collaborative.
The clinic was established by the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in collaboration with Urban Housing Solutions. Its goal is to provide care for an often-overlooked part of Nashville, while also educating future healthcare providers.
The Faith & Health Collaborative’s mission is to engage Nashville’s faith-based community through outreach and networking. Its overall vision is an established culture of wellness in communities and congregations.
“It’s amazing to see what is happening there,” Dr. Wilkins said. “All of these are necessary if we truly want to be one VUMC team.”
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.