The medal honors individuals who have made scientific, medical, humanitarian, public service or other contributions that have significantly advanced the mission of the school.
October 24, 2016 - By Ruthann Richter
A distinguished physician-scientist, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist and a lawyer with a long record of public service are this year’s recipients of the Dean’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the School of Medicine.
The 2016 medal recipients are Ann Arvin, MD, the Lucile Salter Professor of Pediatrics and the university’s vice provost and dean of research; entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker; and attorney John Levin, chair of the Stanford Health Care board of directors.
The medal honors individuals who have made scientific, medical, humanitarian, public service or other contributions that have significantly advanced the mission of the school. The medals will be awarded today at a ceremony.
“This year’s medal recipients have dedicated their lives, skills and resources to helping solve some of our era’s hardest health problems,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “They are also pioneers advancing our biomedical revolution in precision health, making predictive, preventive and proactive care possible around the world.”
Focus on pediatric infectious disease
Arvin has dedicated her career to focusing on infectious diseases in children, particularly the varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles. Her clinical studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health, helped contribute to the development of the vaccine against chickenpox and the shingles vaccine. She served as the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford before being named a vice provost in 2006. In that capacity, she oversees Stanford’s interdisciplinary research institutes, university research policies and the Office of Technology Licensing.
“As I think about my career and where I am now, I realize we have a new understanding and new tools to probe the questions of human health and, in my case, the questions of how viruses take over the human host and how it is that we have learned to live with them through our immune responses and other mechanisms. These present an endlessly fascinating set of questions,” Arvin said. “There’s always the opportunity to do the next experiment and to find out that you were right or wrong in your hypothesis.”
Arvin has won many awards, but she said she was literally speechless when she received the call from Minor notifying her that she would be recognized with the school’s highest honor.
“Receiving this Dean’s Medal is such an unexpected and rewarding honor,” said Arvin, who began her Stanford career as a postdoctoral scholar in infectious diseases. “I’m so grateful for this and for all of the opportunities I’ve had over these many years at Stanford.”
Funding research in cancer immunotherapy
Parker is a philanthropist and entrepreneur with a record of launching genre-defining companies and organizations. He is the founder and president of the Parker Foundation, which focuses on three areas: life sciences, global public health and civic engagement. Earlier this year, the foundation announced a $250 million grant to launch the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to spur research on the relationship between the immune system and cancer. Stanford Medicine is one of the six participating institutions.
At 19, he co-founded the online file-sharing service Napster, and at 21 he co-founded Plaxo, an online address book. In 2004, he joined Mark Zuckerberg to develop the online social network Facebook, and he served as Facebook’s founding president. In 2007, he co-founded Causes on Facebook, which registered 180 million people to donate money and take action around social issues.
“I’d like to thank Dean Minor and the entire team at Stanford Medicine for this extraordinary recognition,” Parker said. “I’ve been fortunate to work closely with so many scientists and researchers at Stanford whose immunological research will undoubtedly lead to better treatments for cancers and allergies. In my opinion, they deserve all the recognition, and anything I can do to draw attention to the incredible work that they’re doing — actually saving people’s lives and making this world a better place — is an incredible honor.”
Parker was ranked No. 5 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 2014 Philanthropy 50 list. He has won a number of awards for his public service activities, including the 2016 Roger Horchow Award for Outstanding Public Service from the Jefferson Awards Foundation.
From education to law
Levin was first drawn to Stanford by a program in the School of Education that allowed him to complete a master’s degree in education while teaching at a local high school. He was then accepted to Stanford Law School, where he received his law degree in 1973. He said he views both teaching and law as a service — a way to impact society and help others, as well as to create opportunities and solve problems. He began a law partnership in San Francisco, Folger Levin LLP, with Stanford graduate Peter Folger 38 years ago. The firm focuses on transactions, dispute resolution and strategic advice for businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations.
Levin has been involved in a wide array of community activities and served on many boards, including a 10-year term as a Stanford University trustee. In addition to chairing the Stanford Health Care board, he is a member of the board of directors of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and served as convening co-chair of the recently concluded Campaign for Stanford Medicine.
“The various ways in which I’m involved at Stanford are great sources of satisfaction to me,” he said. “I tremendously appreciate and enjoy my many colleagues around the campus. I have the privilege of meeting and working with the most interesting people, who are focused on what I consider to be important problems in thoughtful and serious ways. For me to be in a position to be in those conversations and to have some small impact in the direction of initiatives and decisions and programs is just a great joy and privilege. It’s something I don’t feel I should be honored for. I feel quite the opposite. I feel quite sincerely that it’s of enormous benefit to my life.”
“The award is a happy bonus,” he added, “but I am really grateful to be engaged in all the remarkable things that Stanford Medicine is doing and all the aspirational notions that Stanford Medicine is moving toward.”
Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.