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

Natasha Abadilla, MD

Elizabeth Ballinger, MD, PhD

Alexandra (Alec) Johnson, MD

Grant Lin, MD, PhD

Rachel Walsh, MD

Jonathan Zia, MD, PhD

Neelam Goyal, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Associate Professor

"As a communication coach, I have had the privilege of developing a unique bond with the residents that goes beyond my conventional roles as an educator or mentor. It feels akin to being a guide, offering assistance in any area of their professional journey where they encounter challenges or gaps. My ultimate goal is to create a safe and supportive environment where residents can freely express themselves, allowing us to collaborate on improving every aspect of their career. This collaboration extends beyond the scope of clinical care, as we address their needs comprehensively." 

Current Resident Coachees

Qian Ma, MD, PhD

Cameron Schmidt, MD

Parshva Shah, MD

Lucas Kipp, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Associate 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

"While it can be satisfying to give feedback about a neurological exam or teach about the finer points of ICP control on rounds, coaching is an invigorating way of working with our residents. The residents set the agenda. They have space to voice what they're confident about and proud of alongside their concerns and needs. I appreciate being "at their disposal" as a more experienced clinician and future peer, rather than purely as an evaluator. The coaching relationship has helped me grow as a neurologist and as an educator."

Current Resident Coachees

Victoria Chin, MD

Dylan Kirschenbaum, MD

Martavius Lovall, MD

Brian Stocksdale, MD

Garrett Timmons, MD

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

"For me, Coaching is a mindset, an attitude, and a scaffolding that can be applied to problems of all shapes and sizes. Coaching is empowering, it teaches us to identify and utilize our own strengths to creatively solve problems and break down barriers. As a coach, I don’t solve any problems for my coachees. Instead, I clear space to enable my coachees to find their own solutions to the problems that are most important to them or to identify their best path forward toward a goal. Becoming a coach has changed the way I approach my own decision making and problem solving and I am inspired by the talent and creativity I am privileged to witness from others when working together in a coaching context."

Current Resident Coachees

Gabrielle Barsh, MD, PhD

Julia Bassell-Hawkins, MD

Chrisoula (Chrysa) Cheronis, MD

Kate Therkelsen, MD
Communication Coach
Clinical Assistant Professor

"For me, communication coaching is a chance to get to know residents outside of direct patient care and instead focus on how we can all improve our skills in all parts of communication, of which speaking is only a small piece. The goal is to develop a personal style, which is very much individualized, via a continuous process of trying and developing a communication method toolbox over time."

Current Resident Coachees

Jose Eduardo Espindola Lima, MD

Heather Ma, MD

Jaclyn Nguyen, MD

Jessica Shen, 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.

  • 2023 Faculty Development
    • May: Coaching Retreat: Identifying One’s Strengths (Hayley Gans, MD) and Time Management (Carrie Rassbach, MD) 
    • March: Words Matter: Identifying and Mitigating Gender Bias in Assessment of Learners (Jessica Gold, MD) 
    • February: Coaching Orientation (Sarah Williams, MD, Becky Blankenburg, MD, MPH, Kim Hoang, MD, Carl Gold, MD, Aussama Nassar, MD)
    • January: How Coaches Can Support Residents Experiencing Burnout (Mickey Trockel, MD, PhD)

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