About Presence

Presence champions the human experience in medicine. We believe that being present is integral to the art and the science of medicine and predicates the quality of medical care. The experience of suffering and the care of those who are suffering is the most poignant of human experiences; we believe both of these can be better addressed in society and in our health-care systems. Adverse effects created by the unintended intrusion of technology include missing obvious disease revealed by the body, dissatisfaction among patients and physicians, and the unplanned loss of social rituals, all of which negatively impact health outcomes.

In a world where we are hyper-linked by technology, we are increasingly separated by a lack of human connection. Even as technology is critical to quality and safety in the delivery of care, it inadvertently creates barriers between the patient and the health-care team.

Presence has unified the best talent to strengthen the human dimension in medicine and medical education, focusing on three areas: harnessing technology for the human experience in medicine; studying and advocating for the patient–physician relationship; and reducing medical errors. By engaging colleagues in every university discipline, from comparative literature to environmental engineering, our goal is to foster research, dialogue, and collaboration among seven Stanford schools to produce measurable and meaningful change.

Presence has benefitted from the living labs of our hospitals and clinics, partnering with our colleagues campus-wide to catalyze scholarship and interdisciplinary applied research via collaborations, a Fellows program, and education programs for medical students, residents, junior faculty, and others. We will also utilize design thinking strategies to propose solutions, apply best practices, and translate knowledge into the educational curriculum. Over time, we anticipate providing a variety of educational events to engage the local community.

Presence supports Stanford Medicine’s Precision Health efforts to define and develop the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive, and precise.

Presence was founded and is directed by Abraham Verghese, MD, whose life work has focused on the experience of suffering and illness and the unique, and sometimes lethal, stresses of being a physician. One constant—whether in his academic work or his novels—has been his love for medicine, his championing of the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship, and, above all, the shared experience we all have of being alive as embodied, mortal beings.


Abraham Verghese

An infectious disease physician, best-selling author, and popular speaker, Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP,  is the Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor and Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University. He is known for his advocacy for the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and for the value of the discerning bedside exam as a complement to and a way of more judiciously using expensive diagnostic technology.

Dr. Verghese began his medical training in his native Ethiopia, but when his education was interrupted during the civil unrest there, he moved to the United States with his family. He worked in the U.S. as an orderly for a year before completing his medical studies at Madras Medical College in Madras, India. He finished his infectious diseases fellowship at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

Dr. Verghese’s early years as an orderly, then as a physician caring for patients with AIDS at the dawn of that epidemic, were transformative and informed his approach to medicine and his writing of both fiction and non-fiction.

He served on the faculty of East Tennessee State University, the University of Iowa, Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, before coming to Stanford in 2007. Verghese is the author of “My Own Country,” a 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a Time Magazine Best Book of the Year that was also made into a movie directed by Mira Nair; “The Tennis Partner,” a New York Times Notable Book; and, most recently, the novel “Cutting for Stone,” which spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list and was picked as one of Amazon’s “A Hundred Books To Read in a Lifetime.”

He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, and in 2016, President Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal. A Master of Fine Arts graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Verghese’s essays and short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.

Sonoo Thadaney

Sonoo Thadaney-Israni is the co-founder and Executive Director of Presence, a Stanford Medicine Center. Faculty Founding Director Abraham Verghese originally engaged her as a thought partner to create and launch the center. She also serves as the co-chair of the Working Group of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare for the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, formerly the Institute of Medicine) in Washington, DC, and co-shepherds the work of the NAM's Technology across the Lifecourse Group.

Before moving to Stanford University, Ms. Thadaney spent nearly three decades working in Silicon Valley. At Stanford, she has been an internal entrepreneur, working with faculty to launch the Stanford Presence Center; the new MSc in Community Health and Prevention Research; the Stanford Women and Sex Differences in Medicine (WSDM) Center; the Diversity and First-Gen Office (serving Stanford students who are first in their family to attend college); the Restorative Justice Pilot; and more. She teaches coursework in Leveraging Conflict for Constructive Change, Leadership Skills, and Mediation.

Ms. Thadaney’s formal education includes an MBA, a BA in psychology with minors in sociology and education, and a postbaccalaureate in mass communications. She is also a trained Mediator and Restorative Justice practitioner for the State of California, serving as the Co-Chair of the Commission on Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention for San Mateo County.