State of Stanford Medicine event focuses on precision health, diversity

At a panel discussion on Sept. 22, Stanford Medicine’s leaders highlighted accomplishments from the past year and discussed future opportunities.

- By Kathy Zonana

David Entwistle, Lloyd Minor and Christopher Dawes take part in a panel discussion during the Sept. 22 State of Stanford Medicine event.
Norbert von der Groeben

Calling it “a time for us to come together and reflect on where we are today and the exciting opportunities that we have moving forward,” School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, kicked off the first State of Stanford Medicine event on Sept. 22 before an overflow crowd of faculty, staff and students.

The event at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge included an address by the dean followed by a panel discussion with David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care; Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health; and Minor. Megan Mahoney, MD, a clinical associate professor of medicine, moderated the panel.

Accomplishments of the past year

Standing in front of a screen listing several of the past year’s accomplishments in research, education and teaching, Minor quipped, “This slide is already out of date, and we just made it yesterday.” The number of faculty who had won major international awards had grown by one overnight, with assistant professor of bioengineering Manu Prakash, PhD, being named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”

Faculty, staff and students attended the event, where Stanford Medicine leaders recounted successes from the past year and discussed their visions for the future. 
Norbert von der Groeben

Among the year’s other milestones, Minor said, was the opening of the Laboratory for Cell and Gene Medicine, which manufactures cell and gene therapies for use in humans. “When you have a will, when you have a vision, when you’re blessed with having resources, we’re able to bring together enormous talent, and to enable those very talented people to accomplish truly unique things,” he said. “Already there are four first-in-humans clinical trials approved or in the final stages of being approved.”

Minor also highlighted the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a recently announced research collaboration among scientists at Stanford, UC-San Francisco and UC-Berkeley. “The goal of the Biohub is to develop the innovative technologies, the innovative scientific approaches that are going to propel biological medical research forward in the coming decades,” he said. The Biohub is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century.

These are the types of big problems Stanford Medicine scientists love to dig into, Minor said. “What really motivates us here is when someone tells us that something can’t be done. We are attracted to the problems that to others appear intractable.”

Seizing opportunities

Minor emphasized that although the School of Medicine has become more diverse over time — this year, about 25 percent of the incoming MD and PhD students are members of underrepresented minority groups — he sees an opportunity to deepen its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. “It’s not just the pipeline. It has to also be nurturing and providing the opportunities for those students as they finish their training to enter into faculty jobs and then to succeed once they’re in the faculty jobs,” he said. “And that’s something I know we can do here.”

The panelists discussed how they are responding to trends in health care. One notable tendency: patients’ use of internet-enabled devices to research and monitor their health. “We’re very happy that consumers have access to data,” said Dawes, “but that also means we have a very informed patient population, and that creates both opportunities and challenges.” Among them, said Entwistle, is making sure “we have solutions that allow people to navigate with us easily.”

As Stanford Medicine expands, its leaders are also grappling with how to attract and retain top-notch staff in the Bay Area. For example, the extension of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, scheduled to open in fall 2017, will require hiring 400 to 500 new people. “The cost of living is going to be one of our biggest challenges,” Dawes said.

Advancing precision health

In the year and the decade to come, the panelists expect to continue advancing precision health. “Precision medicine, which we do here every day, is about taking genomics, big-data science, personalization of care, and bringing those to the benefit of each individual patient with a severe acute disease,” said Minor. “We have no intention of backing away from that. What we see the opportunity to do is to take genomics, big-data science and personalization and apply those in a predictive and proactive way. Ten years from now, the need for personalized medicine will be much less, because we will have diagnosed diseases earlier, and therefore been able to treat them more effectively. We will even have been able to prevent diseases.”

Crucial to realizing the precision health vision, the panelists said, was continuing to build strength in primary care. “Not too long ago, we had seven faculty in primary care, and now we have about 80,” said Dawes. “It really comes back to what we are here for, and that is to help people — not only to get them well but to help them not to get get sick in the first place.”

“We want Stanford to be known as the academic medical center where we translate fundamental research to the care our patients are receiving,” said Minor. “This is the place where it happens.”

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