November Letter from the Dean

November 21, 2013

Dear Colleagues,
Now that Stanford University Open Enrollment has come to a close, we in Stanford Medicine are gearing up for the launch of Stanford HealthCare Alliance. Under this new health insurance offering, we will offer a full range of services from primary to complex care, and we look forward to providing our fellow employees with the highest quality of care and satisfaction. In the terminology of the Affordable Care Act, it offers “accountable care.” And it represents a departure from the fragmented model of American health care.
Stanford HealthCare Alliance will give the Stanford University and Stanford Medicine community access to the best of Stanford Medicine coordinated across all of Stanford Medicine. Under the umbrella of Stanford Medicine, the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford are united in identity, purpose, and a commitment to excellence. Safeguarding that excellence and ensuring the quality of our clinical networks, including Stanford HealthCare Alliance, are among my highest priorities as dean.
As we continue to work to build our unified identity through this and other initiatives, many of you have asked how we should use the Stanford Medicine brand in our communications. In response, we are working to compile design guidelines and create toolkits that can be used by all members of our community to give our communications—from publications and presentations to stationery and social media—a distinct look-and-feel. Concurrently, our web team is working to update Stanford Medicine’s digital presence, not just to reflect our unity, but also to share our common values and communicate our common vision to lead the biomedical revolution. Look for these new guidelines and the web launch this spring.
In my last letter, I shared with you some of the common themes that emerged during the strategy retreat with the clinical chairs, and today I would like to share with you some insights from the strategy retreat last month with the basic science chairs. We agreed that in order to maintain our preeminence in fundamental discovery, we must recruit and retain the best and brightest faculty and then give these faculty members, and their students and trainees, the time and freedom they need to go where the research leads. In the century of biology when so much is possible, we lamented that our researchers are increasingly constrained by a contracting and conservative federal funding environment.
This is where the Campaign for Stanford Medicine comes in. Recently $2 million was awarded to basic scientists through 22 competitive innovation grants. These funds have gone to faculty of all ranks and in all departments for one purpose: to support the highly creative projects that would have difficulty attracting support from traditional funding sources. Among the visionary work supported are projects to uncover the molecular and developmental origins of human facial diversity, to improve methods for identifying patients who might be harmed by treatments for heart disease, and to determine the structure of proteins in their natural cellular environments.
Since graduate students face the same constraints of time and money, $2.5 million in campaign funds is also being put to work to cover the first four years of training for our Ph.D. students in biosciences and thus remove their dependency on faculty NIH grants. These resources, we hope, will set our students free to take big chances and, ultimately, make big discoveries.
The basic science chairs also agreed that although time and freedom may be necessary for paradigm-changing research, it’s not enough. Our faculty, students, and trainees must also be able to work in a stimulating, diverse, and collaborative environment. Here at Stanford, we have benefited tremendously from our close relationships with the university and the hospitals and from our location in Silicon Valley. But as biomedical knowledge is exploding, there is a growing gap between medical research and medical practice, between basic and clinical discovery.
At the retreat, we shared a desire to break down these barriers by deepening the connections between our laboratories and our clinics and increasing the integration of our research, education, and patient care missions. As we move forward in our strategic planning efforts, this will be one area of focus. Our renowned Medical Scientist Training Program is well known, but another way that we are working to bridge the basic and clinical sciences is through the Masters of Science in Medicine. Campaign funds are currently supporting this innovative program that provides Ph.D. candidates with a perspective on clinical medicine.
No less important than the clinical or scientific perspectives on health and disease is the human perspective. With the growing attention on achievements in science and technology, the future of the humanities is a topic often discussed in scholarly circles. At Stanford Medicine, we know that the biomedical revolution will transform the human experience, but it will not help us answer fundamental questions about what it means to be human in the first place.
For age-old questions like these, we have disciplines such as philosophy, literature, and the arts. At the School of Medicine, we have our Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration and the nationally renowned Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program, which sponsors numerous innovative projects and events and draws artists and humanists from across Stanford University. I recently had the pleasure of hosting a dinner for some of these talented individuals. In our lively discussions you could see how the humanities and medicine will continue to complement each other in the century of biology, each offering a unique window to understanding the human condition.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts at our next community-wide town hall on Friday, December 6, at 3 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean Conference Room at 3160 Porter Drive (with live streaming online). At this session, we will hear from Nobel laureate Steven Chu, a physicist who recently returned to Stanford with a joint appointment in our Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology. Charles Prober, senior associate dean for medical education, will discuss the preliminary findings of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education’s recent site evaluation of our medical education program. In addition, I look forward to answering your questions, which you can submit in advance when you RSVP at
As I approach my first anniversary as dean, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have so many wonderful and engaged colleagues. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and for you.
With warmest wishes and deepest appreciation,

Lloyd B. Minor, MD

Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the School of Medicine
Professor of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery
Professor of Bioengineering and of Neurobiology, by courtesy