Stanford Health Care recognizes clinicians for their work in diversity, research and care

Al’ai Alvarez, MD, receives the inaugural John Levin Excellence in Leadership Award; two others are honored by Stanford Health Care Board of Directors for their roles advancing research and care.

Al'ai Alvarez, Neera Ahuja and Johnathan Clevinger received awards from the Stanford Health Care Board of Directors.

The inaugural John Levin Excellence in Leadership Award was presented Tuesday to Al’ai Alvarez, MD, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, for his advocacy for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as his extensive efforts promoting physician wellness.

“Al’ai approaches his life with 10-million watt intensity,” said Marc Jones, chair of the Stanford Health Care Board of Directors, at the annual awards dinner, which was held in person for the first time since 2019. “His enthusiasm and excitement are infectious. His authenticity, compassion and sincerity create connections that make a real difference in people’s lives and within our organization.”

Neera Ahuja, MD, and Johnathan Clevinger, RN, were also honored for innovations during the pandemic that allowed Stanford Health Care to expand clinical research capabilities and provide exemplary care. The Denise O’Leary Award for Clinical Excellence was presented to Ahuja, clinical professor and division chief of hospital medicine. The Isaac Stein Award for Compassionate Care went to Clevinger, director of clinical trials operations and practice. Both awards were first presented in 2007 and are named after former hospital board members.

John Levin Excellence in Leadership Award

Alvarez was commended for his work with the award-winning Leadership Education in Advancing Diversity, or LEAD, program, which provides mentorship and leadership training for residents and fellows. Jones also noted his leadership of the Stanford Clinical Opportunity for Residency Experience, or SCORE, program, which brings medical students from groups underrepresented in medicine to Stanford Medicine for a monthlong training program.

“Al’ai is tireless,” Jones said. “He is everywhere, campaigning for diversity in medical education and promoting health equity nationally, at Stanford and in his everyday interactions.”

Alvarez promotes physician wellness as director of well-being for emergency medicine and as co-chair of the department’s Human Potential Team. He is also active in national professional associations addressing physician burnout as well as diversity and health disparities.

The board of directors created the award to recognize John Levin, who preceded Jones as chair of the board of directors and whose service to Stanford Medicine and Stanford University spanned six decades.

“John’s leadership in building the new hospital and navigating the first years of the pandemic were profound,” Jones said. “His insights and institutional knowledge, his wit and wisdom, his ability to create and inspire successful teams — all of these traits were critical in our success and have left a rich legacy.”

Denise O’Leary Award for Clinical Excellence

As the head of hospital medicine, Ahuja developed flexible staffing models to handle not just additional COVID-19 patients during the pandemic but also increased volumes experienced since the new hospital opened. Ahuja recruited faculty and residents for teams that proved vital in handling COVID-19 surges.

In addition, Ahuja established a research arm within the Division of Hospital Medicine, participating with other medical centers in clinical trials for remdesivir, the first drug approved to treat COVID-19.

“This truly is a giant leap forward,” Jones said in presenting the award. “Nationally, clinical trials within hospital medicine divisions are rare — almost unheard of, actually. Again, we see Stanford Health Care at the forefront of medicine nationally and globally.”

Isaac Stein Award for Compassionate Care

Clevinger, a critical care nurse and former patient care manager who has been in his current position for just 10 months, serves as a key link between research and clinical care at Stanford Health Care and has been instrumental in increasing the hospital’s capacity for clinical studies.

“Johnathan has been absolutely critical to Stanford Health Care’s success in clinical trial research,” Jones said, citing a 20% jump in 2022 in inpatient clinical trial studies at Stanford Health Care.

Clevinger implemented training programs that have allowed a wider range of studies. For example, he ensured that nurses in the neurology intensive care unit had the training they needed to infuse a cell therapy intravenously — a therapy that is typically used as a cancer treatment, not in neurology.

“Johnathan is an exceptional nurse, a natural leader and the kind of boss everybody wishes they had,” Jones said. “His remarkable and rapid success over the past nine months is a reflection of how quickly he builds rapport and trust — with executives, researchers, nurses, patients, everybody — and how quickly he grasps the operational needs in a situation.”

About Stanford Medicine

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2023 ISSUE 3

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