Spirit, Inspiring Change award winners announced

The winners of the 2018 Spirit Award are Misty Mazzara and Michela Pilo. Kim Osborn and Shannon Monahan received the 2018 Inspiring Change Leadership Award.

- By Kris Newby

(From left) Michela Pilo, Kim Osborn, Misty Mazzara and Shannon Monahan were honored for outstanding service to the medical school.
Kris Newby

The School of Medicine has announced the winners of the annual Anne G. Crowe Spirit Award and Inspiring Change Leadership Award.

Spirit Award winners are selected for their outstanding dedication, initiative, motivation, positive attitude and customer service. This year’s recipients are Misty Mazzara, an educational program manager in the Department of Health Research Policy, and Michela Pilo, an administrative associate in the Department of Dermatology.

The Inspiring Change Leadership Award, which goes to staff members who have implemented processes that improve the school, was given to both Kim Osborn, administrative director of clinical education in School of Medicine Student Affairs, and Shannon Monahan, a research analyst in the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

Each winner receives $3,000.

Misty Mazzara

With gusto and pizzazz, Misty Mazzara manages the four graduate-level educational programs in the Department of Health Research and Policy. In this role, she juggles the tasks associated with admissions, orientation and graduation for the master of science and PhD degree programs in epidemiology and clinical research and in health policy. She also assists these graduate students in tracking course requirements, applying for scholarships and finding paid research positions.

“Misty is incredibly helpful in guiding students through the graduate program application process and tracking the myriad details necessary for completing the degrees,” said Martha Kessler, executive director of finance and administration in health research and policy and several other units at the medical school.

Mazzara started at Stanford in the Department of Medicine in 2012, after spending a decade traveling the world with her daughter and husband, a Navy pilot. She said this experience contributed to her resilience and resourcefulness.

After her husband left the military to enroll in Stanford Law School’s JD-MBA program, she jumped at the chance to launch a career in higher education.

“I figured I’m down the street from the best university in the world, and I’d love the opportunity to work there,” she said.

In June 2016, she joined the health research and policy team and began streamlining the administrative processes and launching the new PhD program in epidemiology and clinical research. As she has settled into her role as educational program manager, she has also been taking advantage of the many educational opportunities available to Stanford employees, including management training classes and kickboxing.

“Misty’s dedicated service, initiative, thoughtfulness and positive attitude are truly appreciated by everyone, and she has consistently demonstrated all the qualities this Spirit Award intends to recognize and honor,” said Rita Popat, PhD, clinical associate professor of health research and policy.

Michela Pilo

The most amazing office administrators combine all the best qualities of air traffic controllers, Walmart greeters, computer troubleshooters and clairvoyants. They keep the office humming and happy.

Michela Pilo, the senior administrative associate in the Department of Dermatology, is just such an administrator, and because of this, her department nominated her for a spirit award.

“She goes above and beyond every day to ensure the success of the department, anticipating problems and intervening before they become issues,” said Justin Ko, MD, MBA, clinical associate professor of dermatology.

Sumaira Aasi, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, said, “Michela is tenacious and does not give up until she has explored every option and found a solution. She doesn’t see the boundaries of her job description, but rather looks for opportunities that allow those around her to work more efficiently. The department is fortunate to have someone whose spirit and work ethic inspires others.”

One of the things Pilo likes about her job is that every day is different. On a daily basis she manages complex executive calendars and the schedules of her 40-plus dermatology faculty and researchers. She makes sure supplies never run out. She solves technical problems with the computer-based systems. She keeps the office neat.

She also likes her co-workers. “There are very smart, humble people here, and it’s hard not to love working with them,” she said.

Before Pilo moved to Stanford four years ago, she worked for 12 years as a jack-of-all-trades at a nonprofit arts foundation. The thing she appreciates about her current position is its healthy work-life balance, which has allowed her to spend more time with her husband and two teenagers, as well as indulge in her passion for Italian cooking.

“Michela is an exemplary department representative, focused on service both inside and outside of Stanford,” said Tyler Hollmig, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology. “She is so efficient — seemingly does the work of a multitude. And she does it with a smile on her face and a generous spirit.”

Kim Osborn

Kim Osborn was instrumental in the launch of an innovative new course that provides first-year medical students with early patient experience, and this is one of the many reasons she was awarded an Inspiring Change Leadership Award. The course, called “Walk With Me: A Patient-Centered Exploration of Health and the Health Care System,” pairs medical students with patients and their families to jointly explore health-related topics through a series of workshops. Students and patient partners also meet monthly outside of the classroom in clinical and nonclinical settings.

“She’s the most creative, supportive, innovative and effective administrative partner that I’ve ever worked with,” said Erika Schillinger, MD, clinical professor of primary care and population health and director of the Stanford Healthcare Innovations and Experiential Learning Directive. “She is always looking for opportunities to align our work with the broader missions of Stanford, and it is a joy to craft programs with her. The ‘Walk With Me’ course is an example: We are now building human connections between caregivers, medical students, physician-assistants and patients from the first days of medical student training.”

Schillinger is also impressed with Osborn’s workplace-culture-building skills: “She respects all members of her team and is always looking for ways to move the team forward together.”

When asked about what she likes best about working at Stanford, Osborn said, “I enjoy making broad impacts, finding innovative ways to add value and removing barriers to progress for a variety of customers. This often requires building relationships across institutions.”

On a personal level, Osborn appreciates the university’s many opportunities for career growth. “With management and faculty support, I was able to earn a master’s in public administration and contribute to academic presentations and publications. These experiences over the last eight years have expanded my perspective on the value of staff at Stanford.”

Shannon Monahan

Shannon Monahan won an Inspiring Change Leadership Award for her dedication to continuous improvement in the systems and processes that support postdoctoral training at Stanford University.

When she joined the office in March 2006, postdoctoral scholars were appointed through a laborious paper-based process. Monahan served as the technical lead in designing an online platform that streamlined the appointment processes and enabled the collection of data that could be used to understand the postdoctoral experience at Stanford. Since that time, she has continuously advocated for improvements to the myriad systems that impact postdoctoral administration. For example, she pushed for a policy change that allowed postdoctoral registration fees to be automatically charged to applicable projects. This saved hundreds of hours of administrative work each year over all the schools and eliminated the surprise collection notices delivered to postdocs who were unaware of the erroneous bills. She also helped guide the redesign of the graduate financial system, a platform which now features a separate module for paying postdocs.

 “Monahan’s analytical talents, attention to detail, understanding of arcane systems and ability to work with a wide range of people have made her an immeasurably effective change agent,” said Sofie Kleppner, PhD, associate dean for postdoctoral affairs.

“My goal has always been to put myself out of a job by automating things,” said Monahan. “If I can get systems to a point where my colleagues can access the data that they need anytime and anywhere, that’d be terrific.”

She was also instrumental in the establishment and administration of a hardship fund for postdoctoral scholars, which covers expenses such as housing and child care for postdocs. Her analyses were invaluable in modeling the impact of the recent increase in the minimum postdoctoral salary to $60,000, as was recently announced by the provost.

“Through her outstanding ability and remarkable dedication, Shannon has generated and analyzed the data supporting the efforts of university leadership and the faculty to provide the best possible environment for postdoctoral training,” said Will Talbot, PhD, senior associate dean for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. “Her deep knowledge and thoughtful approach have been recognized by the National Science Foundation, which has consulted with her on its surveys and panel discussions.”

“In an institution that values data, information, continuous improvement and collaboration, Monahan sets a unique and powerful standard,” Kleppner said.

Monahan attributes her success, at least in part, to the work ethic that her parents instilled in her while growing up on the Jersey Shore. She plans to use the award money for a trip to Ireland to visit her ancestral homeland and meet a few long-lost relatives.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

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