Summing up Anita Vaughn’s extraordinary 43-year career with Baptist is a daunting task. Keynote speakers, however, did their best during her retirement reception on March 29, sharing humorous, warm stories about her career and leadership, which began as a young woman.
“When I think of the most dedicated, I think of Anita Vaughn,” said Baptist President and CEO Jason Little.
Stephen Reynolds, Baptist’s president emeritus, and Dr. Larry Johnson, Baptist Women’s Hospital’s medical director, recounted a young Vaughn who showed intelligence, humor, competitiveness and loyalty.
Vaughn was chosen to lead the planning and construction of the Baptist Women’s Hospital and the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital, and Reynolds, among others, say it’s the “house that Anita built.”
Vaughn, a lifelong Memphian, entered the Baptist School of Nursing following her graduation from Central High School. From there, she would spend the next four decades working in most areas of the Baptist system, from bedside nursing in the Intensive Care Unit to eventually becoming the administrator and CEO of Baptist Women’s Hospital.
During her career, Anita furthered her education and received two degrees from Memphis State University – a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in health sociology and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Health Service Administration.
Wife of James Vaughn and mother to James (Jimbo), she juggled all her roles with grace.
“As a mother, wife and professional she played mentor to many women over the years,” said Little.
Described by many as a hands-on CEO, her relationships didn’t end at the office door. Dr. Vijaya Duggirala stood before the crowd, recounting a highly personal story.
“During one of the darkest, saddest times of my life, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t remember anything. The only number I could remember was Anita’s. When I called her, she was at my door in 10 minutes.”
Vaughn spoke before the crowd, who gave her more than one standing ovation. She shared many memories, particularly the day she received the phone call to lead the construction of the hospital. “It was the phone call of my career and the happiest day of my career.”
In May 2001, she opened the doors to the first freestanding women’s hospital in the Memphis metro area. Even as she faces formal retirement, her drive and vision hasn’t abated.
“Anita was someone who could always look forward and had vision,” said Reynolds.
Not long before she retired, another of her shared visions came to fruition with the opening of the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital’s pediatric emergency department in January 2015.
Even as she moves out of her current role, Vaughn will continue to work with the new administrator and CEO of Baptist Women’s Hospital, Kevin Hammeran, and with the Baptist Foundation, helping to raise funds and support for the expansion of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.