A Portfolio to Capture Faculty's Inventive Side

As faculty members are being considered for promotion, they compile their CVs, including their publications and lists of professional activities, to paint a holistic picture of their academic achievements. But for some Stanford faculty, who live and work in the heart of Silicon Valley amid its booming tech industry, those quotidian check boxes don’t capture their whole story. That’s why a group of professors in the Department of Medicine are developing an “innovator’s portfolio,” much like an artist’s portfolio, which showcases technologies that a faculty member has piloted.

Ryan Van Wert, MD, clinical assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine, was one of the first faculty members to try filling in the innovator’s portfolio. His portfolio includes Vynca, a company he founded to manage advance directive documentation [see sidebar].

Van Wert credits Paul J. Wang, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine, with the success of the innovator’s portfolio.

“There was a recognized need for an environment and training pathway for faculty to become innovators,” Wang says.

“It was equally recognized that innovation as an endeavor is different than typical academic pursuits. But we wanted to go deeper than just encouraging faculty to say ‘I patented X,’” Wang adds.

The innovator’s portfolio is intended to capture what the impact of that patent is — for example, how many patients are affected by the technology, how it’s related to new diagnoses and treatments, whether it decreases health care costs, and if it generates additional intellectual property.

Wang and Van Wert are collaborating with Robert Harrington, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the department, and Paul Yock, MD, professor of medicine, of bioengineering, and, by courtesy, of mechanical engineering. They all presented the innovator’s portfolio as a pilot program at the 2018 Faculty Forum on Clinical Research in the department.

Andrew Hoffman, MD, professor of endocrinology and vice chair for academic affairs in the department, is supportive of the idea and intends to incorporate it into faculty evaluations soon. “As faculty, we don’t have a mechanism to present ourselves this way, and Andy said that promotion committees don’t have a means of interpreting it,” Wang says. “So we’re creating that common language.”

Ultimately, Van Wert wants his colleagues’ innovator’s portfolio concept to persist along the entire span of a clinician’s promotion cycle. “It’s designed to be relevant from assistant to associate to full professor,” he says. “The portfolio will recognize a career of innovation during which the bar appropriately rises at every level.”

Vynca Encompasses the Spirit of Silicon Valley

In 2013, Ryan Van Wert, MD, was an innovation fellow in the Stanford Biodesign Program, now the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign. His time in the program spurred him to help create Vynca, a company that uses cloud-based technology to aggregate and corroborate documentation and care instructions for families of terminally ill patients.

Vynca manages 420,000 advance care planning documents for patients at 60 hospitals using cloud-based technology. It not only helps patients understand their different choices (like power of attorney or do-not-resuscitate forms), but it can also share those documents between hospitals and nursing homes, while reconciling different copies of the same document signed in different locations. “We aggregate them in single source of truth in the cloud,” Van Wert says.

The company facilitates a reduction in unwanted hospitalizations and intensive care utilization — reducing the stress on health care providers and improving patients’ quality of care. “We’re helping families and clinicians to go through the very complicated process of reflecting on values and then developing goals of care that fit within certain clinical contexts,” says Van Wert.