The original Stanford Hospital building

Volunteer Daniel Shurman enjoys the garden where he and his late wife found comfort when she was a patient. 

Daphne Sashin

Quality care continues during renovation

When the Stanford Medical Center opened in Palo Alto in 1959, the large, long building at 300 Pasteur Drive ushered in a new era for Stanford Medicine.

Designed by Edward Durell Stone, this facility brought Stanford’s hospital, clinics, classrooms and medical library under one roof in Palo Alto, moving them from San Francisco. Over the next six decades, the graceful building with its covered colonnades and geometric panels bore witness to a remarkable array of medical advancements — including the first successful human heart transplant in the United States — and served as an inspiring setting for countless instances of healing, learning and discovery.

Now, with the opening of the new Stanford Hospital next door, the building at 300 Pasteur Drive is slated for renovation to provide inpatient cancer care, inpatient psychiatry and other services for Stanford Health Care patients. Over the next six years, workers will remodel patient rooms, modernize operating suites and upgrade technology.

The renovation project offers an opportunity to celebrate the hospital’s rich history, while looking forward to its new incarnation.

Sharon Hunt, MD, spent the summer of 1967 working in a cardiology lab in the basement before starting medical school at Stanford.

“I remember it being a place of a lot of light, because even basement rooms looked out on courtyards,” said Hunt, now a Stanford professor emerita of cardiovascular medicine. “It was really pleasant to work in.”

Sheryl Michelson, RN, joined Stanford Hospital as an operating room nurse in 1981, as the D, E and F pods were being built to add more room for patients. During her job interview, she was asked a curious question: Could she cook a turkey?

“I later found out it was the tradition,” Michelson said. Every year during the holidays, the operating room managers picked a day to cook and decorate the lounge with Christmas trees. People who worked in the operating room from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. were invited to partake in an enormous turkey feast “with all the sides and pies.” Those in the overnight crew — doctors, staff members and housekeepers — were treated to pancakes and bacon.

Michelson also helped with a celebration to mark the opening of the new operating rooms with the modernization project of the 1980s. The Saturday night before it opened to patients, a band played and doctors and staff members enjoyed a catered dinner with their spouses, all dressed in formalwear, she said.

“There was a wonderful display of respect and camaraderie among everyone we worked with,” said Michelson, who is now an infection control consultant at Stanford Health Care.

That sense of belonging has extended beyond the staff to patients and their families, even during the most difficult times.

In August 2002, Daniel Shurman’s wife, Bonnie Johnson Shurman, was admitted to the hospital for inpatient chemotherapy treatment. When her hair began to fall out from the treatment, a nursing assistant offered to cut off what was left, sitting at her bedside and gently shearing away the remaining tufts into a paper bag.

“She did just the right thing at just the right moment,” Shurman said. “Bonnie turned to me and looked at me, and all three of us felt, in that moment, the beauty of the care that she was receiving.”

Before her death in 2011, Johnson Shurman had the opportunity to work as a volunteer chaplain at the hospital. Daniel Shurman went on to volunteer as a research associate in Stanford’s health library; now he is a caregiver coach in a program that debuted with the opening of the new hospital building.

That tradition of compassionate care was a key consideration in the design of the original hospital’s next phase, said Carlos Villalva, administrative director of capital initiatives for Stanford Health Care.

The project entails remodeling patient rooms, modernizing operating room suites and transforming the original location of the Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department — which now handles child and teen emergencies.

“It’s a major redo,” Villalva said, “to renew this building’s life for the next 50 years.”

Patient rooms will undergo major renovations, and a reconfiguration will add 57 new inpatient beds, for a total of 232 patient beds. Rooms will have added space for families, as well as larger bathrooms and technology that allows patients to access information about their care and to control the environment from their beds.

The pediatric emergency department will triple in size and feature 15 private rooms, trauma and resuscitation areas, dedicated rooms for psychiatric patients, and a child-centered design, said pediatric emergency medicine director Bernard Dannenberg, MD.

Much has — and will — change at 300 Pasteur Drive, but behind its glass doors, Stanford Hospital’s tradition of world-class patient care endures stronger than ever. 

Bonnie Johnson Shurman also volunteered at Stanford Health Care, as a chaplain in the original hospital, above.