2023 Service Awards: VUMC Employees Celebrate 40 Years of Service and Dedication

Four decades of service is an impressive accomplishment, worthy of praise and recognition. This year’s honorees have ushered in many of the Medical Center’s triumphs — new buildings, new services, employee growth are just among the things the folks below have had a front row seat to witnessing here at VUMC. Some choose to grow their career but pursuing opportunities in other areas of the business while some have been a fixture in their department their entire tenure at VUMC.

They all deserve our congratulations and gratitude. Below are a few of their stories.

What Marlee Crankshaw, DNP, RN, CNML, remembers most about her first day at VUMC is that it was Halloween and she was worried she wouldn’t make it home in time to take her four young children trick-or-treating. Fortunately for her, she made it in plenty of time. Fortunately for us and for her patients, that began a stellar 40-year career working in pediatrics.

Marlee said she has always worked in the NICU and Neonatal Services. She began as a staff nurse then charge nurse before moving into case management. She was promoted to manager, then director and now serves as Associate Nursing Officer.

“I work with a dedicated team of folks who provide expert care to critically ill newborns,” she said. “Our NICU is a very large ICU with 116 beds plus a special care unit as well.  We have a very large team of 400 plus staff — the very best.”

Marlee said the biggest change she has seen in her career has been the vast amount of knowledge and equipment that allows her team to now care for infants born as early as 23 weeks.

“My greatest accomplishment here at work is that I am a small part of the success of the NICU. It has sincerely been a privilege to be a part of this,” she said. “I love the diversity, the clinical challenges we face, and the outcomes for our patients. I’m blessed each day to see all the faces that care for our patients and their families.”

Marlee says another blessing is her family — four children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren — and when she’s not at work, she most enjoys spending time with them.


Ellen Donnert, research assistant in the PMI Renal Department, picked a perfect day to begin her 40-year career. 

“It was President’s Day, which in 1983 was a holiday and most people took off. I started that day so that I could better fit into this new job without being thrown into the business of a usual working day,” she said.

Ellen began her career in Pathology as a clinical histotechnologist and served in that role until 1995, at which time she transitioned into her current role as a research assistant doing kidney research.

She said what she enjoys most about her work at VUMC is the people.

“The people at VUMC are fun, colorful, smart and kind. I love the opportunities I get to meet, engage with, learn from and sometimes teach others that come here from all around the world,” Ellen said.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Ellen said her greatest personal accomplishments are her children.

“I would say that I raised truly good humans (my children) but honestly, I just got out of their way.  It was definitely an achievement to learn not to micromanage them,” she said.

When she’s not at work, Ellen said she enjoys spending time with her family and working on her aquariums.

“Most people just like the beauty of aquariums, but I like getting into the nitty gritty of cleaning them. I also enjoy creating natural environments for the species I'm keeping,” she said.


“Forty years is a long time, yet it seems like yesterday I started at VUMC as a new graduate nurse,” said Donna Hereford, RN, a nurse at the Vanderbilt Preoperative Evaluation Center. “I was hired there as a new grad, and on my very first day, I could not contain my excitement (and some trepidation!) at being a part of something brand new and so vitally important to the community. I can remember my new colleagues and how we were all so thrilled and excited to help build a brand-new unit.”

Donna said prior to the existence of the Vanderbilt Burn Center, major burn victims were treated in the surgical ICU'S at area hospitals.  However, as a result of the devastating Waverly train derailment and explosion in February 1978, local authorities recognized the need for specialized care for burn victims. 

“Vanderbilt and its dedicated leaders — surgeons and administrators and other interested parties — lead the way for fund-raising and public awareness — in short, all things necessary to open a new Regional Burn Center,” Donna said.

Donna spent 20 years at the Burn Center before continuing her career at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Holding Room/PACU in the adult hospital and the Vanderbilt Surgery Center in Franklin.  She currently handles medical records in VPEC at One Hundred Oaks, “working with colleagues that I have known and respected for many years.” In fact, she said her colleagues are the best thing about working at VUMC.

“What I enjoy most about working at VUMC is the people! Vanderbilt is a community full of caring individuals dedicated to the well-being of others.  I am better because I work here,” she said. “Over the years, I have been on lots of committees, done lots of projects and have received a few awards for my clinical practice.  But I believe my biggest accomplishment is just being a caring individual who happens to be a nurse and who cares a great deal about my patients, friends and my family.  I like to think that by the way I live daily I make a positive difference in the lives of those around me.”


Pamela Kilian, BS, CNMT, EMR, Pediatric Nuclear Medicine Lead Technologist with Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, has worked in Nuclear Medicine for 40 years — as a technologist, supervisor, and lead technologist.  She also serves on several VUMC committees, including the VUMC Radiation Safety Committee and the VUMC Nuclear Medicine Technology Advisory Committee.

Pamela said in the 40 years she’s worked for VUMC, the biggest changes she’s seen are the advances in technology and the growth of the hospital. During her tenure, Pamela has achieved many things, but she said she is most proud of her work as an educator.

“One of my greatest accomplishments is getting to teach Nuclear Medicine to so many students over the past 40 years through the Nuclear Medicine Technology Program here at Vanderbilt,” she said.

Pamela’s dedication to helping others does not end after the workday. In her spare time, she is a volunteer Emergency Medical Responder/firefighter for her community’s volunteer fire department. She has also served as the department’s secretary/treasurer for the past 30 years.


Teresia Knight, Business Process Manager for Vanderbilt Pathology Lab Services, said the best thing about her 40 years of service at VUMC is “the relationships and friends that I have gained over the years.”

In fact, Teresia said what she remembers most about her first day was the warm welcome she received from colleagues.

“Of course, I was excited and somewhat nervous.  I think what I remember most were the two ladies — Debbie Scales and Betty Cain — who trained me before I went to my assigned department. They made me feel comfortable and equipped me with the tools I needed to do well,” she said.

Teresia began her career as a Medical Receptionist in the Rehab Department. Since then, she has served as a Lab Technician I/Phlebotomist, Client Services Representative/Lab Technician II, Administrative Assistant and Billing Services Coordinator — all for the Vanderbilt Pathology Lab Services.

When she is not at work, Teresia said she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, listening to music, singing and working with non-profit community organizations. She said her greatest accomplishment both professional and personal has been “learning to love myself and truly understanding my worth.”


Janet Lucas, RN, MSN, said a lot has changed since she first started working at VUMC 40 years ago, but the biggest change has been the growth of the medical center both on campus and in the community.

“I’m also amazed at the growth of the Cancer Center.  I remember when the cancer clinic was one room in Medical Center North,” she said.  “The changes in protocols for our patients and the strides we have made in cancer research resulting in improved patient outcomes is a result of that growth.”

Janet began her career in cancer patient care and continues that work to this day. She has served as a nurse, a charge nurse, assistant nurse manager and is the current nurse manager in the Adult Hematology Oncology unit in the adult hospital.

“Professionally, I’d say one of my greatest accomplishments is becoming the manager of the Hematology Oncology unit and obtaining my MSN degree in my 50s,” she said. “Personally, my greatest accomplishment has been watching my son grow. He is now in a leadership position in nursing at VUMC.”

When not at work, Janet said she enjoys travel, going to football games —she’s been a Vanderbilt football supporter through good and bad seasons — spending time with her family and “spoiling my grandbaby every chance I get!”


Like most people, Katherine (Renie) Meyer, RN, remembers being overwhelmed on her first day at VUMC some 40 years ago. But she quickly acclimated herself and got down to the business of caring for our smallest and most vulnerable patients.

“In 1983, I started straight out of nursing school into the PICU — which they blessedly don't allow you to do anymore,” Renie said. “I worked there about eight months, transferred to 5th Floor Peds, which became a sprawling 45-bed unit in the main hospital. After a bit, I became a charge nurse, and then an assistant manager.”

Renie said she is proud that her consistency has allowed her to play a big role in VUMC’s care for patients.

“Being a strong, consistent, and well thought of leader has been a big accomplishment,” she said. “I enjoy fellow coworkers and being part of a team that is important, appreciated, and skilled, in caring for our patients.  Knowing I make a difference to the patients that I care for and to my coworkers makes me proud.  And the smiles from babies and kids; well, seeing them smile makes me smile.”

When she’s not at work, Renie said she puzzles and game, spending time with her dog Jasper and her husband, Fritz, skiing in the winter, and bowling. “And always, good food and good friends.”


Cindy Hager Nochowicz, Senior Research Specialist in the Medicine/Infectious Disease Division, began her 40-year  career at VUMC as a Research Asst I in the Microbiology/Immunology department before being promoted to a RAII and transferred to the Medical Oncology department. She moved to the Pediatric/Infectious Disease division as a RAIII before transitioning to her current role.

Today she manages the Medicine/Infectious Disease BSL2+ and BSL3 facilities and also performs basic scientific research on M. tuberculosis, COVID19, Influenza, HIV and other infectious agents as needed. She also works in the HIV Vaccine Trial Network (HVTN) lab.

Cindy said the biggest change she has seen over the years of working at VUMC is the addition of multiple research buildings.

“When I began working at Vanderbilt things were very different!  The cafeteria was still located in Medical Center North, and the only research buildings in the Medical Center were Medical Center North and Light Hall. The first thing I remember is how confusing it was to get around in Medical Center North. Obviously not much has changed there!,” she joked.

Cindy said while raising two children and watching them become amazing adults has been the greatest accomplishment in her personal life, there are many things about her work of which she is proud.

“The one accomplishment that I am especially proud of is our work on a M. tuberculosis vaccine.  When our work was completed, the Gates Foundation purchased the rights to that vaccine patent for future development as a potential Mtb vaccine,” she said. “I love that every day I learn something new, so work at VUMC in research is never boring and always challenging.”

Outside of work, enjoying time with her family is at the top of her favorites list.

“I love traveling and listening to live music with my husband, Chris. I love cooking, hanging around the fire pit, watching sunsets, and celebrating every birthday and holiday together as a family,” Cindy said. “In addition to family time, over the years I have enjoyed running (I ran the Music City Marathon and Half Marathon several times), and Chris and I love hiking waterfalls! Hopefully there are many more adventures ahead, but, currently, I am enjoying being a grandmother more than anything else!”


When financial analyst Karen Thompson began her career at VUMC 40 years ago, she said it was a beautiful, bright, sunny day.

“I was very excited and nervous at the same time.  Everyone was very welcoming,” she said.

Karen worked for several years in the Department of Finance before transitioning to the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, and during that time, she said she has seen several changes, including the initiation of the LifeFlight program and hospital expansions — “two of the biggest being The Vanderbilt Clinic and Children's Hospital.”

What does she do when she’s not helping keep the medical center’s books?

“I love motorcycle rides with my husband on the back of his Harley, attending live music events, fishing and spending time with family and friends,” she said.


Barbara Watson, a nurse in the Discharge Lounge Department of The Vanderbilt Clinic, doesn’t remember much from her first day at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. But she does remember her first patient.

“I do not remember my first day, but my first patient was overwhelming – even though he was my only patient,” Barbara said. “We did not have the trauma unit back then, so he probably came to the Ortho unit from SICU. It seemed like he had drains and tubes everywhere!”

Barbara began her tenure at VUMC 40 years ago as a nurse in Orthopedics, where she also served as a Clinical Staff Leader. After more than 30 years in Orthopedics, she moved to the Urology Clinic as Lead RN before serving in her current role in the Discharge Lounge.

“I handle patient education and arrange for transportation of patients in and out of the DCL. I also review all discharges and bring appropriate patients into the DCL, and I educate units on appropriate patients for the DCL,” she said. “Helping patients is what I enjoy most about working at VUMC — the patients and the all the great people I’ve worked with. This Iowa farm girl has learned a lot over the past 40 years!”

“Barb shows up ready to work. She will never ask anyone to do something she is not willing to do herself,” said Schiara Gonzalez Parker, MBA, BSN, RN, Senior Director of Patient Flow for Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital. “As a shift leader, she has always been a resource for her staff. Any time she was called to action she would respond with a can-do attitude and expects the same level of excellence from others. Barb is always honest with her staff about what she needs to complete tasks and reach goals.”

When she’s not working, Barbara said she enjoys “spending time with my grandkids and being out on the water on our boat.”


Joyce Wiseman, Supervisor of Revenue Cycle Services in the Department of Finance, began her 40-year career at VUMC as a patient representative in Revenue Cycle (formerly VPPP), before being promoted to supervisor of the patient representative area and then supervisor of patient representatives and collections. Once the refunds department was formed, Joyce said she was brought on to supervise that department — a position she holds today.

“The growth I’ve seen while at VUMC has been unbelievable.  When I first started at VUMC in 1978, the new hospital and TVC on the main campus weren’t even built,” she said.

Joyce said what she enjoys most about working at VUMC is being able to assist patients with their accounts and help resolve their issues “especially when they result in getting money refunded back to them.  I will say that I truly enjoy working remotely now and never dreamed that would be an option after this many years of driving.”

Joyce said she is also grateful and proud that working at VUMC has allowed her to raise her daughter and put her through for years of college. When she’s not working, Joyce enjoys spending time with her daughter, Brittany, and her two dogs, Bentley and Ziggy.

“I also. I enjoy antique shopping and hanging out with friends when not working,” she said.  


Tonya Yarbrough, RN, began her 40-year career in Medical Stepdown in May of 1986 as a graduate nurse. 

“I left bedside nursing for my first research job in Cardiology and stayed in research the remainder of my career,” she said. “Since 1995, I have worked with Gordon R. Bernard, M.D. in various roles, from research nurse to research administration.”

Currently, as director of Clinical Research Fiscal Support Services, Tonya develops and implements programs that optimize the initiation and conduct of research and that support compliance — making participants safer and protecting research teams and the institution.

Tonya said what she enjoys most about her work at VUMC is the collaborative environment.

“One of my biggest accomplishments has been establishing a department and leading a team that has become a vital resource for research at VUMC,” she said.

When not leader her team, Tonya enjoys kayaking and reading.