Q&A: Byerwalter on campaign's transformative effect

Mariann Byerwalter

Mariann Byerwalter

Mariann Byerwalter, chair of the board of directors of Stanford Hospital & Clinics, believes that the launch of the campaign to build a new hospital and to advance medical research is an historic moment not only for Stanford but for medicine at large. As a co-chair of the campaign, she is well aware of how it could help change the way that health care is delivered.

Ruthann Richter, director of media relations for the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs, spoke with her about the scope of the effort to transform Stanford Medicine and how it could help enhance health care. Byerwalter also serves on the board of directors of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and served on the university’s board of trustees until last month.

Q. Why is this campaign so important?

Byerwalter: This campaign supports a transformation of health care, here at Stanford and around the globe. It will enable the completion of the new Stanford Hospital, which is critical to this community. The campaign will allow us to invest in the work of some of medicine’s best researchers and teachers, achieving medical milestones just ahead and training future educators. And, because this campaign builds on all the assets of both Stanford Medicine and Stanford University, it will contribute solutions to the daunting challenges of health-care delivery in this country, addressing issues of quality, accessibility and affordability.

Q. What is the special significance of this project for the community?

Byerwalter: For the past 50 years, local residents have had one of the world’s best medical teams — experts across all fields, working together — here in their community, ready to deliver their patient care. Now, we will have a hospital facility that matches the quality of that team.

The campaign will also make critical investments in teaching and research programs that will shape the next chapter of medicine, including cardiovascular care, cancer (and women’s cancer), neurosciences, stem cell medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and surgical science. These are all areas in which Stanford Medicine will play a leadership role in the future, globally.

Q. How does this campaign compare with previous campaigns at Stanford?

Byerwalter: Stanford Medicine has never asked its community to support a fundraising campaign of this magnitude. In the late 1980s, generous donors supported the Stanford Hospital Modernization Project, which built the newer patient care units in the existing hospital. But we have never targeted anything this ambitious. The recently completed Stanford Challenge, the most successful fundraising campaign in higher education in history, did not address medicine and patient care specifically, and did not have the local community focus of this campaign.

Q. How does it compare with campaigns at other academic medical centers?

Byerwalter: In terms of size, it is not the largest. We have sought to be thoughtful and deliberate in how we plan and proceed. The new hospital is the clinical centerpiece of this campaign. In the future, as we proceed through our dean’s search and our future needs assessment, new aspirations will be identified and new fundraising priorities added.
One thing is certain: Philanthropy will remain a critically important enabler of medical quality and innovation. Public sources are not geared toward creativity. Visionary benefactors make the difference, and Stanford has been blessed with many of those.

Q. Is this campaign just for major donors?

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Byerwalter: In a project of this magnitude, we all have a role to play, and we are exploring multiple ways to engage our larger community. This campaign will create a new hospital, but it also aims to completely rethink how health care will be in the future. That requires philanthropic commitments, large and small. But it also requires creative thinking, moral support, volunteerism and advocacy.

Q. Why are you personally involved with the campaign?

Byerwalter: I have a deep respect and passion for the life-changing and life-saving work taking place at Stanford. For over 25 years I have committed myself to the work of the university. This campaign is the culmination of years of planning and preparation for the next transformation at Stanford Medicine, and it is unquestionably my top personal volunteer service commitment. I have witnessed the remarkable combination of volunteers, visionaries, community leaders and philanthropic partners combining to improve healing, teaching and discovery. Today we face an even more remarkable transformation, and with our collective efforts we can make a difference for generations to come.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish in the next few weeks to launch the campaign?

Byerwalter: The early weeks of the campaign will be dedicated to making sure that our goals, priorities and purposes are communicated clearly to our stakeholders; that those who will be acting as our ambassadors are well-equipped to do the job. The transformations this initiative will enable are exciting, and they will touch people in the community and well beyond it. We want to be sure that excitement is communicated.

Q. What will the remaining part of the campaign look like?

Byerwalter: After the excitement of the launch, and the wonderful early commitments that have yielded fundraising expectancies of $500 million, we will be settling down to the hard work of raising the remaining $500 million. We’ll continue promising conversations we have begun with potential donors at all levels, and we will be actively seeking to engage all members of our community. It is hard work, but it is also very exciting. What we’ll achieve at the other end truly does have potential to change lives.


Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

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