Diermeier, Balser livestream event will focus on leading under adversity

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Vanderbilt University Medical Center President and CEO Dr. Jeffrey Balser, PhD’90, will discuss their experiences leading through the COVID-19 pandemic in a livestreamed event scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. 

Register for the livestream event. 

Vanderbilt Trustee Emeritus Michael Ainslie, BA’65, will moderate the discussion. Diermeier and Balser, who also is dean of Vanderbilt School of Medicine, spoke about leading under adversity as part of a graduate business class Ainslie taught in March 2022. 

They will discuss how they approached making decisions in high-pressure situations, built trust within their communities and bolstered the university and medical center’s reputations in the process. 

“For the university, we framed the pandemic in terms of our mission: Who are we as an institution, and what is our purpose? The answer, of course, is that we are a research university with an emphasis on residential education,” Diermeier said. “It was imperative that we do everything we could to deliver on that mission in a way that protected the health and safety of our community. It required a great deal of planning, additional work and steadfast dedication. But in the end, the community pulled together, and it was truly one of Vanderbilt’s finest hours.” 

Vanderbilt University Medical Center played a leading role caring for critically ill patients in its hospitals and working with local and state governments to help establish pandemic-related policies and prevention protocols. The medical center contributed significantly to the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment of the disease. Its experts also emerged as trusted global voices helping educate and calm public audiences through numerous mass media appearances.  

The entire Middle Tennessee region benefited from thousands of compassionate and committed VUMC nurses, physicians and staff who worked around the clock and took on additional responsibilities as needs arose, Balser said. They made a profound difference in our community and continue to serve as a source of inspiration. 

The discussion will touch on themes that Ainslie teaches in his class on leading through adversity at the Owen Graduate School of Management. During his career, Ainslie served as CEO for the art auction company Sotheby’s and for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He also was the first board chair of the Posse Foundation and was instrumental in making Vanderbilt the first university to participate in that scholarship program. He is the author of the autobiography A Nose for Trouble: Sotheby’s, Lehman Brothers, and My Life of Redefining Adversity.