March Letter from the Dean

March 6, 2014

Subject : Letter from the Dean

Dear Colleagues,

We are living in the century of biomedicine—a time when new knowledge and technologies have accelerated the potential for preventing, treating, and curing disease. At a meeting of the Stanford University Board of Trustees a few weeks ago, I shared with them my thoughts about how we in Stanford Medicine will lead this biomedical revolution by achieving preeminence.

Leading up to this presentation was our annual strategic retreat with leaders from across Stanford Medicine. We spent a lot of time defining preeminence and discussing how we will know when we have achieved it. Amid a diversity of ideas and approaches, we agreed that Stanford Medicine must achieve excellence in each of our mission areas—research, education, and patient care—but that this is not enough. To achieve preeminence, we must also develop connections and collaborations across these mission areas to propel us to a new level of impact. I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about how we are working toward this tripartite excellence and collective preeminence.

In fundamental discovery—that curiosity-driven research that uncovers the mysteries of biology—we are undisputed leaders. Sustaining this excellence, however, will require new approaches and investments, such as increasing support for the most innovative science as well as for the core spaces and core resources that will enable us to take the lead in addressing the many modern scientific challenges that require collaboration across academic divides.

Excellence in research will mean that the patients we see in our clinics benefit from the innovative discoveries we make in our laboratories. One way that we are working to accelerate translation is through building up our clinical trials infrastructure. Currently about 40 percent of new cancer patients are presented to a multidisciplinary tumor board to determine whether they should be enrolled in a clinical trial. We’d like to increase that to 90 percent of eligible patients over the next five years. Another way is through support of initiatives like the Chemical Biology Institute, a joint venture with the schools of engineering and H&S. Last month, Peter Kim joined our faculty and the institute. Peter served for the past decade as president of Merck Research Laboratories and helped shepherd many drugs to market, including the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

To achieve excellence in education, we cannot just train outstanding scientists and physicians, we must develop future leaders who will determine the direction of their fields. For example, we are expanding our program for training physician scientists—those unique individuals who play a critical role in designing and conducting translational research. We already have an exemplary program, but we’d like to do more. Expect to see our MD/PhD cohort expand from about 80 to 120 students over the next five years.

In patient care, we have already taken the first—and, I believe, most important—step toward excellence in recognizing the central role of patient care within the school of medicine and the vital importance of patient care to our research and education missions as well as to our collective drive to preeminence. For this, I am indebted to my outstanding partners: Amir Rubin, CEO of Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and Christopher Dawes, CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

As in research and education, excellence in clinical care will require us to recruit, retain, and develop the very best faculty and faculty leaders. Here I am most grateful to Quynh Le and Frank Longo who are just beginning their work leading the search committees for the next chairs of ophthalmology and surgery, respectively. These departments have seen significant growth and transformation under the visionary leadership of Mark Blumenkranz and Tom Krummel, and I am pleased that Mark and Tom will be staying in their posts until their successors are named. On a related note, I am delighted to report that nurse scientists have now been given access to faculty appointments as Clinician Educators, allowing them to participate more fully in the academic life of Stanford Medicine.

On an institutional level, we are striving toward excellence in patient care by building a network of care that gets our specialists out into the community and brings high quality physicians from the community into Stanford Medicine. As I shared with you last fall, we have also established an accountable care health plan where we share responsibility for the cost and quality of the care provided to our beneficiaries. Stanford HealthCare Alliance was launched in January with more than 9,000 enrollees from the Stanford community.

If we are successful in all of these initiatives I have described—if we achieve excellence in research, education, and patient care—we will have achieved a great deal, but we won’t necessarily have achieved preeminence. We must also leverage our connections and relationships to create a collective whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Let me provide two examples.

One initiative at Stanford Medicine that I am very excited about is our work to build a learning health care system—that is, a health care system that generates and applies the best evidence for health care choices and drives the process of discovery as a natural outgrowth of patient care. This effort will require excellence in all areas of our mission as well as collaborations and integration at the intersections. To become a learning health care system we must harness the power of biomedical big data—the growing cache of information that includes everything from the vast diversity of genomic sequences to the contents of all our electronic medical records. It’s a challenge that we can’t achieve if we place research and patient care into discrete buckets.

Our initiative to transform cancer care is no different. In fact, in many ways, our cancer initiative is a metaphor for all that we want to accomplish at Stanford Medicine in the next ten years. It leverages our strength in fundamental research; it builds on our growing strength in translational research and clinical trials; it boldly states our goal of excellence in patient care with a patient-centered approach; and it brings Stanford Medicine together. Once we have established this new model of cancer care, we will share our successes broadly and replicate our efforts with other diseases.

If we are successful in creating a learning health care system and transforming cancer care, we will have demonstrated that we are able to bring all three parts of our mission together to achieve our vision of preeminence. But that’s not all. We will also have positioned ourselves to lead the biomedical revolution and to transform health and disease on a global scale.

I look forward to telling you more and hearing your thoughts at our next Town Hall this Monday, March 10, at 11 a.m. in Berg Hall. Until then,

With warmest wishes and deepest appreciation,

Lloyd Minor

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