Dr. C. Wright Pinson is CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System in Nashville and deputy vice chancellor for health affairs and associate dean for clinical affairs at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Pinson, a hepatobiliary and liver transplant surgeon, oversees 1,500 physicians, four hospitals, 100 outpatient clinics and a budget of $2.6 billion. He co-founded and co-directs the Masters in Management in Health Care program. As a sidelight, Pinson plays drums in a rhythm and blues band with other Vanderbilt colleagues that has shared the stage with stars such as Charlie Daniels and Delbert McClinton. Modern Healthcare editor Merrill Goozner recently spoke with Pinson about federal funding cuts for academic centers, quality-improvement efforts and Vanderbilt's efforts to build a broader integrated network. This is an edited transcript.
Modern Healthcare: How is the federal freeze on funding for graduate medical education and National Institutes of Health research grants affecting your institution?
Dr. Wright Pinson: So far, we're weathering the storm satisfactorily. Our grants amazingly are up 5%. But the difficulty comes in creating enough bottom line to support (our mission). Our outpatient growth has been near 10% for years and that continues. The inpatient growth is less, though we still have growth. The bottom line, though, continues to get compressed. Serving the underserved, medical education and biomedical research do not have bottom lines. They require some transfer from clinical-care revenue. The shrinking bottom line creates tension for those programs.