Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching Program

Communication Skills as an Educational Priority

Stanford Neurology residents have identified communication skills as a priority for educational innovation. To meet this goal, the Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching program was launched in 2020. The program pairs each resident with a trained Neurology faculty coach for the duration of residency. To create a shared approach and language, all residents and coaches complete formal communication skills training courses, including the Advancing Communication Excellence at Stanford (ACES) course and the Serious Illness Conversation Guide course.

Coaching to Meet Residents' Goals

Every resident has 5-8 coaching sessions per academic year. Each coaching session involves direct observation of the resident-patient interaction by the coach in an ambulatory or inpatient setting, followed by a debriefing exercise during which the coach facilitates the resident’s self-reflection on his or her communication performance, provides targeted feedback, and guides the resident to identify a communication-related goal to be practiced before the next coaching session. The coaches are intentionally not responsible for evaluating resident performance and are typically not the attending of record. The aim of coaching is to support each resident in reaching his or her individual communication goals.

Coaching Program Support, Leadership, & Partnership

Dr. Carl Gold serves as Director and Dr. Rebecca Miller-Kuhlmann serves as Associate Director. The Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching program is generously supported by a grant from the Stanford Health Care Partners donor fund. The program was formed in partnership with the Stanford Surgery Communication Coaching Program, directed by Dr. Aussama Nassar and Dr. James Korndorffer. These programs are based on the highly successful Stanford Pediatrics Coaching Program, led by Dr. Becky Blankenburg and Dr. Carrie Rassbach. The leaders of the three coaching programs meet monthly as the Coaching Steering Committee.

Shannon Beres, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor
Neuro-ophthalmology & Child Neurology

“The most fulfilling aspect of the Communication Coaching program has been the opportunity to have a meaningful longitudinal relationship with the residents. We have been able to grow mutual respect and understanding of each other so that there is a safe place to share each our most vulnerable concerns, fears, and areas of improvement in patient care interactions. This allows us to first recognize and talk about the growth that is needed, then implement and monitor how these behaviors change with time. In turn, the patient gains a more empathetic and personal encounter with their provider.”

Current Resident Coachees

Elizabeth Ballinger, MD, PhD

Lucas Kipp, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor

Current Resident Coachees

Sarah Lee, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor
Vascular Neurology & Child Neurology

"Working with residents is one of the most important, rewarding and fun parts of my job, so I am thrilled to be able to spend more time with them!  The coaching program has not only provided a unique opportunity for residents to identify areas of communication they’d like to cultivate or improve in a hands-on setting, but has also taught me as an educator how to deliver more concrete and meaningful feedback.  This symbiotic relationship fosters a richer and more meaningful learning environment for everyone—it has been really exciting see how we all grow and evolve over the course of an academic year!"

Current Resident Coachees

Ann Robbins, MD, PhD

Zachary Threlkeld, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor
Neurocritical Care

“I remember not receiving a lot of feedback on physicianship and patient-doctor communication as a trainee. Although I have since grown to cherish interactions with patients and families as the one of the most privileged and rewarding aspects of being a doctor, there was a time when I found those interactions overwhelming or daunting. I think this program helps dispel some of those fears and opens a space for trainees to discuss and experiment with these interactions in an effort to improve the care they deliver. I wish I had this program when I was in training!”

Current Resident Coachees

Brian Stocksdale, MD

Faculty Development Workshops

Faculty coaches participated in a half-day orientation presented by the leaders of the Stanford Pediatrics Coaching Program in February 2020. Every month the coaches participate in 90-minute faculty development workshops on topics related to communication skills, coaching, and medical education delivered by experts from Stanford and other top institutions. The workshops bring together coaches from Neurology, Surgery, and Pediatrics.


Workshop Title


January 2021

Informed consent

Erin White, MD, MBS & Peter Yoo, MD, FACS

February 2021

Serious Illness Conversation Guide Training

Joshua Fronk, DO & Samantha Wang, MD

March 2021

ManagingTime like a CEO

Carrie Rassbach MD

April 2021

2021 Impact of Coach Role on Coache’s Learning and Engagement

Carrie Rassbach MD Sarah Kate Selling MS2

Research Collaboration

Outcomes related to implementation of the Stanford Neurology and Surgery Communication Coaching Programs are being studied in collaboration with Dr. Marzena Sasnal and Dr. Arden Morris of the Stanford-Surgery Policy Improvement Research & Education Center (S-SPIRE).


Carl Gold, MD, MS
Director, Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching Program

Rebecca Miller-Kuhlmann, MD
Associate Director, Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching Program

For questions about the Stanford Neurology Communication Coaching Program, please contact the Director, Dr. Carl Gold at, or the Associate Director, Dr. Rebecca Miller-Kuhlmann at