Stars of Stanford Medicine

Jessica Frank


Radiation Oncology
School of Medicine

Jessica Frank takes care of Stanford’s radiation-oncologists-in-training, while they care for cancer patients.  

As the education program manager for Radiation Oncology at Stanford Medicine, Jessica Frank orchestrates the training calendars of the department’s 20-plus medical residents, fellows and clerkship students.

For four-year residents and one-year fellowship students, she oversees time scheduling with professors and ensures that each meets requirements for clinic hours, graduate medical accreditation and board certification. For medical students participating in four-week clerkship rotations, she micromanages their teaching sessions and evaluations with residents and faculty. Making sure that everyone ends up in the right place at the right time requires the skills of an air traffic controller.

What’s more, as trainees get up to speed on the complex options for cancer therapy, she looks after their emotional well-being. This is critical in a medical specialty where stressful life-or-death decisions must be made almost every day.

Jessica is the glue that holds our program together

“She ensures that despite any challenge or crisis, we stay cohesive and balanced,” said Nicolas Demetrios Prionas, MD, PhD, a 4th year resident.  

“Jessica is the glue that holds our program together,” added Chika Nwachukwu, MD, PhD, also a 4th year resident. “Things would literally fall apart if she were not here.”  

Frank was referred to this position in January 2015, after spending a few years working in private education. On her first day, she felt like an imposter. “I realized I knew nothing. I was running blindfolded with scissors,” she said.

At the start, the residency director, Daniel Chang, MD, showed her the latest resident satisfaction survey, and said, “As you can see, the scores aren’t great.”  He asked Frank for ideas on helping the residents feel more appreciated.

She started by establishing an end-of-rotation happy hour, where faculty and trainees could get to know each other on a personal level outside of the clinic. She organized monthly sessions where residents could air their grievances to the program manager and director, talk about personal issues and make program suggestions. More importantly, Frank made herself available as a confidential sounding board and intermediary for resolving faculty conflicts, enabling trainees to offersuggestions for improving their educational program without the fear of retribution.

“We helped the residents feel less like workhorses and more like valued physicians,” said Frank.

A little more than a year after Frank came to Stanford, the satisfaction survey results significantly improved, and she was awarded the department’s Richard Hoppe Leadership Award for her efforts.

“Jessica was true gift to our program and department,” said Chang.  “She has it all: capability and competence, warmth and compassion, resilience and dedication to her job.”

“I worked really hard my first year to change the culture of our residency program, and it was very rewarding to be recognized for it,” said Frank.  

The thing she loves the most about her role at Stanford Medicine is the variety of work that really makes a difference in people’s lives.

“I’m proud to work at Stanford. It makes me feel like I’m giving back to the community.”

Story and photo by Kris Newby.