Celebrating 30 Years of Service

Ruth Burns

Department:
Comparative Medicine/Veterinary Service Center

Ruth Burns started her 30-year journey with Stanford’s Veterinary Service Center (VSC) as a temporary employee while serving as a receptionist for a three-day assignment. As it turned out, she never left, and stayed on for another 30 years, officially starting her first day on April 1, 1986. 

Despite her hire-date being on the same day as April Fool’s, Ruth’s contributions are no joke.  She started her career as the administrative assistant for the VSC’s attending veterinarian. Later she was promoted to accounting analyst and later HR coordinator. Ruth’s hard work eventually led her to supervise six highly active administrative assistants in key VSC areas.  Currently, she is the billing manager for-- now the largest and most regulated service center on campus--the VSC.  Her contributions are vast and deep, as the VSC has grown from a dozen facilities to a 22-facility operation.

First, Ruth is a fountain of historical knowledge as to the business of our service center. She knows just about every past and present procedure for each and every business process we have adopted within the VSC. She has exceptional knowledge of Stanford’s financial system, often educating the financial “experts” on the details of the procedures and various purposes behind the processes.  She is responsible for all the VSC billing, which is a daunting task that Ruth has handled with skill and grace every month for over 25+ years with little or no error.

Second, Ruth has a great attitude and is extremely trustworthy. She is efficient and determined to get things done the correct way. She is incredibly helpful with HR and billing questions, and she is always eager to help whenever needed. Ruth is extraordinarily dedicated to her work--always going the extra mile to ensure the job is done right and on time. Ruth has always been someone we can count on, and we are fortunate to have her working with us in the VSC.

Third, Ruth is one of the hardest working employees at Stanford. She was absolutely instrumental in the successful implementation of various database modernizations for the VSC.  Most notable are her contributions to the incredible task of single-handedly managing the billing system. Originating with a manual input system that ballooned to the point where Ruth was entering data from towering piles of hand-written census tally sheets, Ruth helped the VSC implement a modernized billing system, which required much less effort, but required her to straddle the two processes for a timeframe doing double the work. She was extremely key for the VSC to successfully modernize itself into various new database systems over the years. She implemented four different VSC billing databases and endured the transition from Prism to Oracle.  She ensured a smooth implementation of Oracle’s inventory management system and enterprise asset management system for 22 different vivariums. Ruth provided dedicated service and expertise for revamping the VSC’s Animal Import/Export process, which immensely helped the research community understand the complex process in a simplified fashion, while ensuring the VSC fully recovered costs for services rendered. All of these initiatives did not prevent her from excellent service and accuracy of the billings to 300+ faculty and frequent communication between faculty, DFA’s, lab managers, students, and other staff. 

We are all in awe of many various responsibilities she has had over the years. She literally "did it all"— from the monthly account billings throughout the university to the important on-boarding of all new employees. She handled identification badges, parking passes, building access requirements, ordered uniforms and shoes, all the while directly supervising all the VSC administrative procurement, import/export, supply ordering, and front desk administrative functions that supported over 22 highly active vivariums. She was so familiar and skilled in all of these tasks; she could seamlessly train, or if necessary, step in to assist during vacations or absences. These were only a few hats Ruth wore while being solely responsible for meeting the billing and human resource demands of the VSC. Truthfully, the VSC has never met anyone that has been as successful as Ruth in performing such a diversity of jobs. Ruth’s selfless dedication and commitment to the VSC is exemplary and certainly woven into the success of its past, present, and future.

Today, as Ruth ardently focuses on her vast monthly billable responsibilities, she continuously helps the VSC make additional process improvements. While not using her many VSC talents at work, Ruth currently enjoys learning martial arts and is well on her way to earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Her can-do spirit will make any opponent think twice before sparring with her.

Phyllis Bussey

Department:
Medicine/Oncology

Phyllis Bussey is the Oncology Division’s exceptional division manager, or (as it states on the nameplate outside her office) “Oncology Division Empress.” Having joined the division at a young age through her work with Dr. Ron Levy, she showed genuine talent both as a manager of personnel and of complicated research spreadsheets. As division manager, she leads the administrative efforts of a large enterprise with significant clinical and laboratory efforts. Her enormous level of experience, and her genuine wisdom, have regularly resulted in her being “loaned” to the Department of Medicine during periods of administrative transition. Her exceptional work ethic (she can be seen regularly in her office on weekends and evenings), her wonderful sense of humor, and her absolute devotion to the Oncology Division and the School of Medicine all combine to make her one of Stanford’s most talented administrators. Her Division chief, George Sledge, MD, intends to resign immediately should Phyllis ever leave her position.

Debra Czerwinski

Department:
Medicine/Oncology

Debra Czerwinski has achieved an outstanding record of service and accomplishment during her 30 years as the key member of the Levy Lab. She began and continues to this very day as an expert in flow cytometry and she has kept our lab at the forefront of this very technical field. In that role, she has personally generated the data for scores of our publications and has made sure that the post-doctoral fellows and students have been successful in their projects and in their careers. However, more than that, she has designed and carried out the assays to monitor patients on our clinical trials, and by doing so she has helped usher in monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer. These are great accomplishments, and Debbie is to be congratulated for making our team successful and for making an important contribution to the welfare of cancer patients throughout the world.

Madelleine Garcia

Department:
Neurology

Madelleine Garcia began her career at Stanford in 1986 as a Rehabilitation Aide in the Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department. She worked in that department for 12 years until she was hired as the Scheduling and Database Coordinator at the Stanford Stroke Center in 1998. In 2000, she transitioned to the Research Coordinator role, which she has been in ever since. Madelleine’s contributions to the Stroke Center have been enormous. She is a loyal employee and a good team player. She is pleasant and helpful, working hard to serve our many research patients and their family members. Her capacity to recruit patients and treat each subject with compassion and respect is immense. Her friendly and calm demeanor have helped her build trusting relationships with the study participants leading to excellent patient follow-up and retention.

Over the years, Madelleine has served as the lead coordinator on multiple stroke prevention, acute stroke and recovery trials. She works closely with the other research coordinators to cover all our trials and therefore, frequently finds herself dropping everything to run to the hospital to enroll a patient. She has a “let’s get it done” attitude! She is extremely well-liked and respected by her co-workers, study participants and study sponsors.

We are very happy to recognize and celebrate her years of dedication to the Stroke Center. She is truly an asset to the program, a loyal friend and a great person to know!

Anne Gordon

Department:
Neurology

Anne Gordon’s distinguished 30-year career at Stanford began as a Financial Management Analyst for a Government Cost and Rate Study.  She subsequently worked in the Departments of Surgery, Functional Restoration, Orthopedic Surgery, and Drama/Division of Dance before joining the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) in the fall of 2008.  Soon after joining M&I, as the Director of Finance and Administration (DFA), Anne became the DFA for the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, as well as the Immunology Program.  As one can imagine, managing three programs is no easy task.  Especially when each program is truly its own entity with its own faculty, staff, budget, etc.  Anne’s 30 years of experience has, without a doubt, been incredibly valuable to the operations of these three unique programs.  For an outsider looking in, the role of a DFA might best be described as being a juggler.  At any given moment, a DFA has countless objects (e.g. budgets, renovations, recruitments) in midair and more often than not, more objects are constantly being added.  Anne juggles all of this with the ease of an artist.  She gracefully and graciously keeps everything systematically in motion.  Never letting anything drop.

We thank Anne for her dedicated service to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, and the Immunology Program and congratulate her on 30 years of service. 

Diana Laurent

Department:
Medicine/Immunology

Diana Laurent has been the not-so-well-kept secret of the Stanford Patient Education Research Center's success. It is seldom that a PI has the privilege of having the same sidekick for 35 years. Diana came to Stanford from graduate, never left and never changed jobs. Over this time, Diana has done it all, from writing and editing papers to coordinating numerous research projects, to training, to writing workshop manuals, and through it all providing excellent customer service and giving sage advice. Diana almost single-handedly brought our center into the computer age. From Floppy disks to Axess, she has created and maintained all our data bases, and without Diana, I may have still been using card catalogues. She was also central to writing the content, and more importantly working on the look and feel, of our five on-line workshops which are now being used internationally. Diana has always worked hard to put Stanford, our Center and myself in the best possible light. Our success would not have been possible without her. Congratulations at having completed 35 years at Stanford. I look forward to the future.    

Ellen Lewanda

Department:
Obstetrics/Gynecology

Ellen Lewanda represents the epitome of institutional memory as quoted from Webster’s Dictionary: something or someone firmly associated with a place or thing. Ellen has become an institution in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has seen tremendous growth over the past 30 years, during which time Ellen has held a trajectory of positions including Administrative Assistant to Faculty Affairs, Administrator to Human Resource Manager, and currently Facilities Manager. In each of these roles, Ellen has created a roadmap allowing an ease of navigation through difficult processes.

Ellen is remembered fondly by past medical residents and fellows as a guidepost to their early careers, by past employees who return to visit as a steady hand, and by her colleagues as a member of the team that can solve any facilities issue through her vast network of relationships within the university. Her history at Stanford should not be taken for granted; she has weathered change again and again: her knowledge is only surpassed by her fortitude.

Having a colleague like Ellen Lewanda has been like having a set of encyclopedias, a dictionary, a set of maps and your favorite Aunt all wrapped up in one kind, reliable and valued package. We are grateful for her service.    

Pauline Luu

Department:
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences/Public Mental Health & Population Science

Pauline Luu exemplifies the innovative spirit and persistent drive of a woman who has faced many diverse and difficult challenges. She was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) during the war. Pauline and two younger sisters escaped the subsequent Communist occupation by traveling from South Vietnam in a small fishing boat to a Malaysian Refugee Camp. They waited in the camp until the American Embassy arranged a sponsorship in San Francisco for them. Pauline started learning English (her 4th language!) in a high school oriented to new immigrants. Pauline and her sisters later moved to the South Bay where they continued their schooling at Foothill College. She applied for a part time office assistant position with Stanford/VA Alzheimer’s Center in 1986 during her college years.

Because of Pauline’s exceptional performance and interpersonal skills, she has received multiple promotions since 1986. She is especially enthusiastic about learning new technologies and introducing them to our Stanford/VA Alzheimer’s Center so that we can operate more effectively. Because our center has support from both Stanford and the VA, Pauline needs to know the operational and fiscal details of each system. Because of her personal background, she is especially well-suited to manage our increasing focus on Asian American patients and caregivers where memory problems are a concern. 

Abera Metaferia

Department:
Educational Programs and Services/Financial Aid Operations

Abera was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attending the Addis Ababa University two years before transferring to the University of Zagreb in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) to complete his degree in Business Administration majoring in Accounting.

He was unable to return to Ethiopia because of political unrest and sought political asylum, first in Italy (where he had an audience with Pope Paul), then in the United States settling at first, in San Francisco, and then in East Palo Alto. With the help of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) of San Francisco, he sought employment – his first application was to Stanford University in 1986, where he was hired under the Stanford Employment Experience Program as an Accounting Assistant II working with Frank Brucato, Associate Dean of Administration at the Law School, then as a Financial Aid Assistant working his way up to Financial Aid Counselor, with Ruth Burciaga, the Assistant Director of Financial Aid, also at the Law School, where he remained before being recruited to the Medical School Financial Aid Office in 1999.  He is indeed a true Stanford “Lifer.”

He takes pride in providing excellent financial aid advice and debt counseling (student loan repayment strategies) to our medical school graduates and carries out his duties with sensitivity, integrity and pride.

I have often referred to Abera as the “Medical School's Ambassador” as his friendly and approachable demeanor, happy personality, and interpersonal skills make him a friend to anyone and everyone who crosses his path.

Abera has been a delightful employee and a wonderful “gift” to the University!

Christine ‘Chris’ Scholberg

Department:
Biomedical Data Science

Chris Scholberg has a unique role in the School of Medicine. She is helping to chart the course at Stanford Medicine’s newest department – Biomedical Data Science (BDS) – as its administrative leader and DFA, and she has had a long, well-respected career in Stanford Medicine in roles that span both central core services and division management. For nearly 15 years before joining BDS in 2015, Chris served as Division Manager for the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) in the Department of Medicine.  At SPRC, she was passionate about the mission of improving population health through behavioral interventions.  She managed not only the complicated research portfolios of these successful investigators, but also navigated the University relationship as it drove the creation of HIP and BeWell – programs that impact the lives of nearly every Stanford employee.  For the last six years of her time in Medicine, Chris also was the Division Manager for a second division – Biomedical Informatics Research – and her experience with their ground breaking “big data”-focused research has served her well in the transition to BDS.  Chris is passionate about process improvement and has been a champion of utilizing lean management techniques across HR and finance.  She is well-liked and respected by her faculty and colleagues.  Throughout her long career at Stanford, Chris has remained focused on the mission and on the people of Stanford, and it is a privilege to congratulate her on achieving this great milestone.    

Patty Winningham

Department:
Pathology

Patty Winningham began her journey at Stanford in May 1995 as an Administrative Associate within the Department of Pathology.  She remained in that role, assisting multiple faculty, for 14 years.  In March 2009, she was promoted to Student Service Center Manager. 

During her tenure as Student Service Center Manager, Ms. Winningham served on university-wide workgroups related to student services. Patty remained in her Student Services role for approximately 8 years prior to being promoted once again this year in the Department of Pathology to Research Manager. Ms. Winningham’s desire to learn new things and be challenged in her work has allowed her to become a very valuable asset to our department and the university.  The following are some examples of Ms. Winningham’s service on University workgroups and committees:

  • Search Committee to replace Bechtel’s H1b visa advisor.
  • PeopleSoft Postdoc Web Forms Working Group
  • Postdoc Affairs – new appointment processing
  • Centralization of H-1 B Visa process at Bechtel.
  • Improve Student system, processes, procedures
  • Student reporting
  • Visiting Researchers
  • T32 (NIH Training grant) Strategic Planning Team for the University

Margaret Wootton

Department:
Pathology

Margaret Wootton is the Division of Oncology's Faculty Affairs Coordinator and is the consummate professional.  Whether it involves recruitments or promotions, Margaret brings a wealth of experience, good common-sense approaches, and her usual good humor to problems arising.  Margaret has played an instrumental role in the Oncology Division’s successful recruitments in recent years, and the time I spend with her always leaves me more knowledgeable about how things are done on the Stanford campus.  She played an important role in the development of the Cancer Center's Onboarding packet, which immensely improved our ability to integrate new faculty. She is one of the very few irreplaceable members of the Oncology Division, so I hope that 30 years have only begun her service to the division and the University.