Published on November 11, 2014

Spence and Becky Wilson make transformative gift toward pediatrics

Pediatric expansion will be named in couple's honor

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Baptist officials announced today that Memphians Spence and Becky Wilson made a major gift to further the growth of a pediatric hospital adjacent to Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.

The Wilsons' gift will enable Baptist to add to and expand the inpatient and outpatient services offered in the new pediatric hospital. In recognition of their gift, the facility will be named the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children's Hospital.

In May 2012, Baptist began transitioning pediatric services from its flagship hospital, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, to the pediatric facility located adjacent to Baptist Women's Hospital to provide a continuum of care for area families in a convenient location. Baptist leadership noted patient families, physicians and insurance providers have consistently asked for pediatric services on the Baptist Women's Hospital campus.

"The Wilsons' generous gift will really propel us forward by helping us to immediately purchase equipment to grow our general surgery and orthopedic services," said Anita Vaughn, CEO and administrator of Baptist Women's Hospital. "We also plan to offer a pediatric intensive care unit, pending state approval."

Baptist broke ground on the pediatric emergency department, a part of the Children's Hospital, in July 2013, and it is slated to open in January 2015. In June 2014, Baptist announced the addition of pediatric surgeon Dr. Fawn Lewis and recently added pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Martine Denn to its growing roster of subspecialists, all of whom will work exclusively in the new Children's Hospital. The Wilson's gift will bolster the hospital's ability to continue to hire additional specialists trained in pediatric care.

"It is truly exciting to be part of building a pediatric program," said Dr. Lewis, who relocated her family to accept the position as Baptist's first general pediatric surgeon. "As a mother, I know how frightening it can be to have a sick child, particularly one who needs surgery. We are building a team here that is specially trained to treat pediatric patients and provide the appropriate comfort and support to parents. Now, we will be able to treat children with conditions ranging from asthma to lung lesions."

The pediatric emergency room will provide care for a host of issues including broken bones; fever; sprains, strains and tears; dehydration; flu; respiratory illnesses; lacerations and more.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt will provide the Children's Hospital's pediatric clinical staff with additional opportunities for education, skills and training focused on pediatric care. Staff will participate in hands-on training specific to their respective areas of pediatric care, participate in a variety of emergency simulation scenarios and undergo regular on-site evaluation from Vanderbilt.

In addition to the emergency department, the hospital will house the pediatric diagnostics area and 12 inpatient beds plus outpatient surgery services. Three pediatric hospitalists, pediatricians who work solely in hospitals, will provide 24-hour care for patients (from birth to age 18) when the hospital opens. The hospital also will house the Pediatric Eye Center, the only clinic in the Mid-South that offers the full continuum of eye care from diagnosis to treatment to surgery to follow-up. Previously, patients in need had to travel several hours for specialized pediatric eye care.

Through the Center, renowned vitroretinal specialist Dr. Jorge Calzada has treated patients from all over the country and the world. Some of these patients, which include neonates, children and adolescents, have eye conditions that have the potential to rob them of their sight. Dr. Calzada and his staff have performed more than 200 eye surgeries and treat a variety of conditions from retinopathy of prematurity, a common eye condition seen in premature babies, to rare and insidious eye diseases such as Coat's disease, and serious eye injuries.

"There is no greater gift than preserving a child's sight," said Dr. Calzada. "By having all the resources in one place, Baptist can provide a unique level of comprehensive eye care that otherwise would not be available in Memphis."

"It is a privilege for us to be able to give back to the community with this gift to Baptist for this important pediatric facility and the convenient services it will provide," said Spence Wilson. "All of our grandchildren who live in Memphis were born at Baptist Women's Hospital, and we can think of no cause more worthy than the health and well-being of not only our grandchildren but also all children and youth in the area."

Lauren Wilson Young, daughter of Spence and Becky and member of the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation board of directors, reiterated her father's sentiments, noting that all her children were born and have been treated at Baptist.

"The care we have received as a family is exemplary," she said. "It is exciting to know my parents can provide this amazing opportunity to allow Baptist Hospital the ability to build and expand their services for our community."

Serving the community since 2001, Baptist Women's Hospital averages about 5,000 births a year and almost 50 percent of its patients are on Medicaid.

Jason Little, president and chief executive officer of Baptist said "Spence and Becky are not only great friends and supporters of Baptist, but they have left an indelible mark on the Mid-South community through their strong tradition of giving and service."

"We feel so privileged to help chart the future course for pediatric care at Baptist," said Becky Wilson. "Baptist's stellar reputation in the community, plus our family's personal experiences with the hospital, serves as a confirmation that this gift will be put to the best possible use."

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Spence and Becky Wilson are long time supports of Baptist

The son of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, Spence Wilson is chairman and serves on the board of directors of the Kemmons Wilson Companies and is chairman and director of the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation. He is also chairman of Orange Lake Country Club Inc., his family's resort timesharing business headquartered in Orlando, FL. In addition to serving as a director of the Thomas W. Briggs foundation, he is a trustee and former board chair at Rhodes College, an institution he has served for almost 40 years. He is the recipient of an honorary degree from the College and its Distinguished Service Medal. Spence serves as a trustee and board of directors' member at Baptist Memorial Health Care.

Becky Webb Wilson, a native of Jackson, Tenn., founded Bridge Builders, the signature program of BRIDGES, in 1988 to bring together high school students from diverse backgrounds for summer conferences and year-long activities that would build leadership skills, encourage team building among diverse audiences and facilitate community activism. More than 21,000 youths have participated in the program. She has served as a trustee on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust since 1989 and is a past chairman of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporate Community Advisory Board. Becky currently serves on the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation Board of Directors.

An accomplished nature photographer and author, Becky's second book, "Well Seasoned: Savoring Life's Lessons" is out now. Using a collage of photographs, essays and musings, the book draws a parallel between the surprises of nature's seasons and the lessons learned throughout different seasons of life. A collection of Becky's nature photography will be displayed permanently in the Children's Hospital

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