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 – from vital research in cancer care and clinical training to helping modernize our technological systems. They all deserve our congratulations and gratitude. Below are a few of their stories. Click here for a list of all staff members celebrating 40 years of service.
Shirley Johnson-Crook has worked in Central Sterile Processing her entire 40 years at VUMC – at both the main medical center campus and the Briley locations. Shirley said she is proud of the knowledge she’s gained from “working in the field I am in now.”
She says the best thing about working at VUMC is “the people I have formed a bond with” and her funniest memory is “when I realized just how many years I have work at Vandy.”
Linda Fenoglio has worked her entire career as a nurse in Children’s Hospital. “When it was in the main hospital, I worked on the fifth floor and sometimes floated to Step Down PICU. When we started a transplant unit on 5-South, I cared for a wide variety of pediatric patients. That’s when I fell in love with oncology. Since the move to Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, I have worked on the sixth floor in the myelosuppression unit,” Linda said.
Linda said the best thing about working at VUMC is caring for sick children because it gives her a better perspective on life and a great deal of personal fulfillment, no matter the outcome of a patient’s illness. “I love the days when the children are feeling good and are up, out of bed and playing, singing, dancing, and having fun,” she said. She said she is proud to be a part of the multi-disciplinary team that supports the patient and family in their journey. “I love the times when our entire team (doctors, nurses, CP, MR, housekeeping, Child Life, etc.), each with our different skills and experiences, contribute to the patient’s care,” she said.
Linda’s fondest memories involve the patients she’s cared for and making memories for them, despite their many days or even months on the floor. “We’ve held weddings, proms, senior portraits, and celebrations of life. One day a patient called me ‘Mama Linda,’ a nickname overheard by one of our doctors and spread throughout the floor. I’m so proud of it. For a cancer patient who undergoes chemotherapy, there is no happier occasion than when they receive their last chemotherapy treatment. I will always remember lining the hallway with fellow staff nurses to sing ‘The Last Chemo Song’ as the patient and their family walk through and celebrate!”
During her 40 years at VUMC, Sheryl Mangrum, a principal application analyst for LIS, has worked in the Clinical Labs – Chemistry and Special Chemistry -- LIS before it was part of Health IT and Health IT-Lab Information Systems. Sheryl said she remembers when the labs were still in Medical Center North and Special Chemistry was on the 3rd floor “back by the U corridor. We definitely had some fun days. Back then the U corridor was ‘special;’ you never knew who or what you might find back there.”
Sheryl said the best thing about working at VUMC are the friends she’s made throughout the years —many of whom she’s still friends with, even those no longer at VUMC. She said she is most proud of her longevity and loyalty to VUMC. “When I first came here, I was only going to stay a couple of years,” she said.
For the past 18 years, Kimberly Newsom has worked as a Senior Research Specialist and lab manager for the Pietenpol Laboratory. Before that, she worked in the Pathology Department and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “When I started here, we were in the old hospital that is now Medical Center North,” she said.
Kimberly was one of the first employees hired during the establishment of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and played a significant role in building the founding tissue acquisition core, which is now the Translational Pathology Shared Resource at VICC.
Kimberly said the best thing about her tenure at VUMC has been relationships she’s formed with colleagues and with students throughout the years. “I have special memories of all the graduate students we have trained in the Pietenpol Lab. Through my senior position in the lab, I have enjoyed the role I play in training and nurturing them into the scientists and world citizens they become,” she said.
Dale Plummer, who has worked in the Department of Preventive Medicine/Division of Biostatistics and the Department of Biostatistics during his 40-year tenure at VUMC, said he is most proud of the fact that he has contributed to projects that have had positive impacts on the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
“Because of the nature of grant funding, I have experienced a lot of change in the type and focus of the work over the years. It feels like I have had many different jobs,” he said.
Dale said he feels lucky to have worked with so many intelligent, creative, thoughtful and kind people. “I am challenged daily to think, learn, and grow.”
Most people know Brenda Plunkett as Senior Executive Assistant for Dr. Pinson, but Brenda has served in many roles during her 40 years at VUMC, serving in Army ROTC, Pulmonary Medicine (Respiratory Therapy), VMG Admin and finally VUMC Executive Leadership. Brenda said she’s been fortunate
to be able to train and help new staff acclimate to VUMC through the years.
“I think it is important to make them feel welcome and to know there is a friendly face willing to listen and answer their questions,” she said. “I am proud that others across the various departments at VUMC consider me a ‘go-to’ person. In addition, I have been honored to assist many patients who have reached out to me for assistance with an array of needs.”
Much has changed in the 40 years since Brenda started working at VUMC. She recalled that when she worked in Pulmonary Medicine, she actually typed medical textbooks for Drs. John Marini and Art Wheeler.
“These textbooks had to be photocopy ready, and this was in the days when computers were just becoming available. I can recall a couple of funny (now they are funny) things that happened during those days. I had just gotten one of those fancy computers, and I had zero training on how to use it. The phone would ring, and I would turn the computer off so I could hear. Then when I would look back at the screen, it would be blank. I finally figured out that there was a ‘save’ feature so life got a whole lot better.”
John Rice began working at VUMC in 1981 as a Medical Receptionist on 7-North. Following nursing school, he began working in the SICU as a bedside nurse, which is where he has remained for the past 35 years. John has been practicing at the RN IV level since the inception of the VPNPP program in 2000.
John said there are many things he loves about working at VUMC but among his favorites are “our Magnet culture that demonstrates excellence in all we do. Being a Magnet hospital is a great accomplishment and honor. It consistently validates the amazing work that goes on here. I also love our culture of shared governance that defines who we are and gives everyone a voice. Lastly, I love working in the SICU where we prioritize a multi-disciplinary approach to our care. I work with an amazing team, and everyone is valued and respected.”
John said he is most proud of my involvement and leadership with the Medical Center’s Magnet designation. “I have served for many years as a Magnet champion and have also served as a Magnet escort for our last two Magnet site visits. It was such an honor to spend a week escorting Magnet appraisers all over the institution sharing and discussing with them the great things we do here on a daily basis,” he said.
Sharon Reeder, cash posting supervisor for Revenue Cycle has worked for VPPP, VMG Payments and Revenue Cycle Cash Posting during her 40-year tenure at VUMC. Sharon said what she loves most about working here are the people. “I have made lifelong friendships that are irreplaceable,” she said.
Sharon said that she is most proud that as a leader, she’s been able to train, mentor and coach individuals who have continued to be successful at VUMC. “I really appreciate when a former employee reaches out and shares with me about their career and family.”
Sandy Shelton has worked her entire career in Physical Therapy, specializing in the care of orthopedic patients. Her area of expertise is total joint patients and orthopedic trauma patients. She also lectures nationally on rehabilitation of orthopedic patients. Sandy said without a doubt, the best thing about working at VUMC has been her patients. Second best, she said are the team members she’s been privileged to work with over her 40-year tenure – from fellow therapists, nurses and physicians to case managers, nutrition and dietary team members.
Sandy said she is proud that through her therapy interventions and treatments, she has been a part of assisting patients in returning to a better, functional status after having a joint replacement or being involved in some sort of trauma where they suffered fractures. “I love that I can actually help them to move and to be able to walk again and do so without pain,” she said. “I really enjoy teaching my patients and their caregivers about their injuries/surgery and their rehab program with the philosophy that ‘if I treat you, I can help you today, but if I teach you, I can help you for a lifetime.’”
One of Sandy’s fondest memories is of when she was a young graduate, just beginning her work on the orthopedic unit. “Dr. Arthur Brooks, who was acting head of the Department of Orthopedics, became a mentor for me. He took me under his wing and educated me on all things orthopedic, telling me that I ‘need to learn something new every day.’ He allowed me to shadow him during his patient interactions in the acute hospital as well as his outpatient clinic appointments, observe surgeries and provided journal/textbook readings. One day after I had questioned him regarding a specific UE shoulder I could not quite comprehend, he proceeded to ‘draw’ the entire surgical field/procedure on the sleeve of my lab coat. This impromptu teaching session, complete with visuals, did allow me to understand the surgical procedure in much detail. … That lab coat was perhaps the highlight of my 40-plus-year career at Vanderbilt, and I smile every time I remember this lab coat and Dr. Brooks.”
Sarah Stamps began her career at VUMC working on 9 North (Adult med-surg) at the adult hospital in June 1981. She later transferred to 5 North Pediatrics (which later combined with 5- South and myelosuppression unit) on the night shift. “We worked with patients from all services,” Sarah said.
In the 1980s, Sarah was on the clinical ladder. She began teaching CPR BLS and Heartsaver in 2003 and joined VPNPP in 2008. She also worked on 7th floor infant, toddler, school age medicine and was an ADT nurse on 7th floor from 2010 to 2012 before transferring to the Peds Pulm/ Neph clinic on DOT 10 in 2012.
“I love working with the children and helping them cope with difficult procedures. I have at least one child named after me,” she said. “Some of my favorite memories are from when we were allowed to take CF children out of the hospital to dinner, haunted houses, Vanderbilt games. I loved being able to sing, dance, and hug on my patients.”
For several years Debra Swagerty worked as a staff nurse in the Hem/Onc Clinic. “This included staffing the clinic, helping with procedures and doing infusions of chemo, blood, etc,” she said. Debra also helped with coordination of oncology research protocols for Vanderbilt at St. Thomas hospital. Afterwards, she returned to the adult hospital in a managerial role and is currently serving as a staff nurse in the Cancer Clinic Infusion Room. “Patient care is where my heart lies,” she said.
Debra says she is most proud of the relationships she’s built – with coworkers and with patients and their families. “There is nothing more rewarding than hearing a patient or family member tell you that you've made a difference in their lives. Early in my career at VUMC, I had a young woman who had chemotherapy for lymphoma. She returned over the years -- after marriage, children and grandchildren -- and would seek me out to say ‘hello.’ I've also made lifelong friendships with co-workers. We've gone through marriages, childbirth, divorce, deaths and other life changes together. Some of these relationships have lasted 40 years.”
As editor of the MyVUMC newsletter and VUMC Voice, Wayne Wood reaches every VUMC employee on a weekly basis. He began his career in the Medical Center Library in 1981 before transferring a year later to News and Public Affairs (now News and Communications). During his 40-year tenure, Wayne has played a pivotal role in telling the stories of the organization’s amazing team members.
“Any group of people are defined by their stories. I am proud to have been able to help tell the stories of VUMC and its people,” Wayne said. “During my years of reporting from around the Medical Center I have seen babies born, watched brain surgery, interviewed a man about to have a heart transplant and then watched that transplant, flown on trauma flights with LifeFlight, stayed up all night in the ER and in intensive care units, and, for reporting purposes, spent some time in an iron lung. Getting to know some of the people in the COVID unit over the past year covering the pandemic has also been an amazing experience.”
Wayne said the best part of working at VUMC is “being part of an organization that has as its purpose some of the highest goals possible: saving lives, expanding scientific knowledge and teaching others -- while being surrounded and encouraged by colleagues who are talented and dedicated.”