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 Associate 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

Alexandra (Alec) Johnson, MD

Grant Lin, MD, PhD

Rachel Walsh, MD

Neelam Goyal, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Associate Professor

Current Resident Coachees

Nathanael Lee, MD, PhD

Qian Ma, MD, PhD

Lucas Kipp, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor

"The science of medicine has never advanced more rapidly.  We have faster, more accurate diagnostic tests and safer, more effective treatments for more ailments than ever before.  Yet, the art of medicine remains the same.  Communication Coaching is all about cultivating that interpersonal aspect of the patient-physician encounter and opening the door for an honest exchange of information.  It's been wonderful learning along with my coachees and applying this program in my own practice."

Current Resident Coachees

Rishita Patlolla, MD

Matthew Sasaki, MD

Nicholas Schwartz, MD, PhD

Hannah Kirsch, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor
Neurocritical Care

Current Resident Coachees

Victoria Chin, MD

Martavius Lovall, MD

Will McKeen, MD

Brian Stocksdale, MD

Garrett Timmons, MD

Jennifer O'Malley, MD, PhD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor
Child Neurology

Current Resident Coachees

Gabrielle Barsh, MD, PhD

Chrisoula (Chrysa) Cheronis, MD

Ann Robbins, MD, PhD

Andrew (Andy) Silverman, MD, MHS

Kate Therkelsen, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor

Current Resident Coachees

Jose Eduardo Espindola Lima, MD

Heather Ma, 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

May 2021

Programmatic updates

 Carl Gold & Rebecca Miller-Kuhlmann

July 2021

Resident onboarding


August 2021

Emotional Intelligence

Neil Grunberg PhD Director of Leadership Research and Development & Erin S. Barry, M.S., Research Assistant Professor, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

September 2021

Coaching and Teaching Faculty Integration

Coaches, teaching faculty, residency program leadership

October 2021

Coaching 101 Workshop 1

Sarah Williams MD Rania Sanford

November 2021

Coaching 101 Workshop 2

Sarah Williams MD Rania Sanford

December 2021

Year-end Reflection


January 2022

Helping Trainees Achieve Success

Kelley Skeff

February 2022

Coaching 101 Workshop 3

Sarah Williams MD Rania Sanford

March 2022  Listening with Intention Workship  Betsy Bailey & Barbette Weimer-Elder 
April 2022  Visual Thinking Strategies  Betsy Bailey & Barbette Weimer-Elder 

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).

In 2021, a manuscript describing Stanford Neurology's innovative virtual coaching for residents on their teleneurology communication skills was published in BMC Medical Education.


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