Updates from the Chair

The latest from Department of Medicine Chair Bob Harrington


November 11, 2020

Celebrating Veteran's Day

"There are more than nineteen million military veterans in the United States. They are our colleagues, family members, and friends. They are our leaders and teachers. And they make our communities better"


November 11, 2020

Colleagues –

There are more than nineteen million military veterans in the United States. They are our colleagues, family members, and friends. They are our leaders and teachers. And they make our Stanford community better.

This Veteran’s Day follows a divisive presidential race, which has been a source of stress and anxiety for all of us across the country. Let’s look to veterans to remind us of our highest shared values: a commitment to service, freedom, progress, each other, and a higher purpose.

Paul Heidenreich, MD, chief of medicine at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, has an update on the various ways we’re improving and expanding care for our former service members:

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) treats patients across all of North-Central California. In 2019, we cared for 125,374 unique veterans. Much like the rest of Stanford, we at the VA have continued to add and implement new programs and initiatives to improve and expand health care during a challenging year. 

Expanding the Scope of Care

One challenge for many veterans is physical access to care. We’ve worked on expanding care coverage in various ways.

First, geographically.  Primary care and mental health care have been co-located at several of our sites to promote primary care and mental health integration.  And we’ve also focused on improving local access to care with the recent groundbreaking of new clinic space at our Stockton Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.

We’ve also implemented and continue to expand our state-of-the-art Mobile Medical Units, vans which provide outreach to homeless veterans and others unable to travel or conduct phone or video visits.  

Second, technologically.  Our Community Care Integration team has implemented a new system which helps provide veterans with more information about local community providers by displaying a map of community providers in the Tri-West network along with their current wait times. Innovations like these allow veterans to find community care closer to home.

We also continue to expand telehealth, as well as partnerships with community providers to improve access. And we’ve increased the number of video visits while also using encrypted video to ensure privacy and security, allowing veterans to see and talk to their health care team from anywhere and everywhere.  

Looking to the Future

We’re aware, however, that the importance of veteran care extends beyond health care to their future lives and livelihoods. To that end, we’re partnering with the Department of Defense, Veterans Benefits Administration, and VA Central Office to pilot the DoD SkillBridge Program, which trains active duty service members to become Intermediate Care Technicians. In these roles, they can leverage their expertise to become an integral part of VA medical centers’ medical teams even after their terms of service have ended. 

In addition, we’re investing in new technologies to aid Veteran health care in the future.  Our Clinical Informatics Section, led by Chief Medical Informatics Officer Thomas Osborne, MD, is driving multiple modernization and innovation programs.  As a result of extensive work, VAPAHCS was recently established as one of the first 5G hospitals in the world. We’re also bringing other advanced tools to enhance veteran care, including augmented reality, virtual reality, sensor technology, cloud technology, and artificial intelligence.

And finally, a word on diversity. Among other initiatives, our Women’s Health group has focused on implementing program changes to meet gender disparity, including a partnership with the Office of Public Affairs to send flu vaccination information to female Veterans and outreach to women veterans without assigned Women’s Health Primary Care Providers.

It has been a difficult year for many, and the VAPACHS is no exception. But our expansive vision for the future and our current projects leave us both proud and hopeful. 

Thank you, Paul, for your leadership and for all of this important work. Our veterans care for us, and, as a community, we need to remain committed to making sure they get the care they need.

And to all veterans: thank you for your service.

Stay safe, Happy Veteran’s Day.

Bob Harrington

October 22, 2020

Celebrating Women in Medicine

As I wrote this week’s note, I found myself reflecting on the various ways that our faculty, staff, and trainees engage with – and impact – local, national, and global communities. It’s clear that our work here in the department has never been more important"


October 22, 2020

Colleagues –

On Wednesday morning, I received the good news that three of our faculty members, Steven Goodman, MD, MHS, PhD, associate dean for clinical and translational research and professor of medicine (primary care and population health) and epidemiology; Hannah Valantine, MD, MRCP, MBBS, professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine); and Laurence Baker, PhD, professor of medicine (primary care and outcomes research) and Bing Professor of Human Biology, were elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in health and medicine.

It was a welcome moment of happiness and a cause for virtual celebration, as colleagues took to email and Twitter to express their enthusiasm and congratulations.

It was also a good reminder of the broad impact that our community has on national conversations around health, medicine, and science. Academy members address critical, complex public health challenges and make recommendations that inform policy decisions. We need innovative, influential, and compassionate leaders like Steve, Hannah, and Loren, and I am thrilled that they will have the opportunity to envision and shape the future of medicine.

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I also learned that Dean Felsher, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (oncology) and pathology, received the National Cancer Institute’s 2020 Outstanding Investigator Award, which recognizes accomplished leaders in cancer research. Dean will use this multi-year grant to further his investigation of oncogenes, specifically focusing on the MYC oncogene pathway. Please join me in congratulating Dean! This award is a testament to his record and will enable him to make even greater research contributions.

And finally, I want to direct you to a recording of our recent All Staff Townhall by Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor. Abraham’s presentation acknowledged the sacrifice of health care workers, and explored our current crisis through the lens of storytelling, touching on archetypal texts like Camus’ The Plague, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, and even the movie Jaws. “We are living through the story of our lives – the story of the cell, of our own personal risk, of our families, of our futures, and our worries about our communities and our country,” he said, “and the heroes and heroines of this story are all of you.”

As I wrote this week’s note, I found myself reflecting on the various ways that our faculty, staff, and trainees engage with – and impact – local, national, and global communities. It’s clear that our work here in the department has never been more important. Thank you for helping us fulfill our missions of delivering exceptional care, producing innovative research, and training tomorrow’s leaders, especially at this critical time. Many thanks to each and every one of you.  Your work, sacrifices, and contributions are noted and appreciated.

Stay safe, be well.

Bob Harrington

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October 5, 2020

New Leadership

"I launched this letter as a way to acknowledge and celebrate all of the positive things that we have accomplished, in the hope that it helps to instill a sense of new possibility and gives you a glimpse of where we’re headed"


October 5, 2020

Colleagues –

I want to reflect and thank you for the amazing work you have been doing every day in caring for our patients, leading research, and educating our students and trainees. The coronavirus pandemic began seven months ago, in March. Now it’s October. And the stressors and complexities continue to grow. Many of you are feeling burnt out as you continue to manage challenging work while caring for others, teaching your children, finding balance between work and home, and juggling the responsibilities of everyday life. Please know that your efforts are noticed and appreciated, and that I’m very proud to call each of you my colleagues.

I launched this letter as a way to acknowledge and celebrate all of the positive things that we have accomplished together across the DOM, in the hope that it helps to instill a sense of new possibility and gives you a glimpse of where we’re headed. Today, I’m excited to share the names of several faculty who have agreed to take on new leadership roles.

Glenn Chertow, MD, chief of nephrology, has agreed to serve as associate chair – fellowship programs, effective October 1. Glenn will bring his passion and expertise to this newly created position, in which he will work with all of our divisions to create best practices for recruiting diverse fellows. Glenn will also mentor and identify excellent fellowship candidates for future faculty roles and connect current fellows to research experiences and mentors.

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Upi Singh, MD, chief of infectious diseases, will be taking on an additional role as associate chair – faculty development. In this role, which begins October 1, Upi will develop formal mentorship, sponsorship, and development opportunities for our more junior clinician-scientists. Upi has done an exceptional job recruiting and building a talented faculty across all three missions in her division, and we hope to implement her strategies across the department.

Joy Wu, MD, PhD associate professor of medicine (endocrinology), will assume the role of vice chair – basic science, on October 1. Joy is a remarkable scientist who directs a broad basic and translational research program. Joy has been an invaluable leader during these last 7+ months, working to ensure that the DOM basic science labs have been able to close down, and then restart, in a safe and effective manner. We look forward to Joy’s ongoing contributions to our basic science mission.

I’m also pleased to announce that Hannah Valantine, MD, will be returning to Stanford on October 1 as the director of team science initiatives for the division of cardiovascular medicine.

Hannah has spent the last several years serving as the chief officer for scientific diversity at the NIH. Here at Stanford, she will join a community of colleagues, including Connie Weyand, MD, professor of medicine (immunology and rheumatology), and Dean Felsher, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (oncology), who are working to build a strong team science portfolio over the next few years. I anticipate that Hannah will also collaborate with Glenn and Upi to mentor our junior faculty, including our inaugural group of Chair Diversity investigators.

And finally, after much discussion with many of you about how best to support our faculty, we have established a CE Advisory Council consisting of 16 members. The Council will meet with me regularly throughout the year and will advise on initiatives and programs that will improve the experience of our CE faculty and continue to build our excellent DOM community.

Please join me in congratulating this talented group! I look forward to working closely with these outstanding leaders as they begin the important work of helping us build a more inclusive, supportive, and diverse community.

Stay safe,

Bob Harrington

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September 18, 2020

Celebrating Women in Medicine

"It won’t be the fall that we’re used to, but together we’ll continue to find new ways to bring enthusiasm and excitement to all that we do"


September 18, 2020

Colleagues –

September is typically a month of new beginnings: the arrival of students, the beginning of classes, the appearance of prospective residents and trainees on campus for interviews, the start of the fiscal calendar. The campus is full of new perspectives and exciting possibilities.

This year, many of our familiar fall rituals and structures have been disrupted by the ongoing COVID pandemic as well as the wildfires, which have brought smoke and poor air quality. It has been a stressful time and yet you all have managed to embody the energy of the season, finding creative ways to learn, connect, collaborate, and contribute.

It’s a great reminder that our Department is defined not only by the physical campus or academic calendars or traditions but by our people and our community.

Here are a few short updates to reflect upon and take you into the coming week:

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100,000 COVID-19 Tests

Stanford Medicine opened the first drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Hoover Pavilion in early March. During the next few months, they increased capacity and then expanded operations to nine different locations throughout the Bay Area. And just last week the teams involved with this work (including many faculty and staff from the DOM) hit an important milestone, announcing via video that we have conducted over 100,000 ambulatory and drive-through screenings. Congratulations to all involved! From parking staff to frontline providers, this collective effort is helping to keep our communities healthy.

CORT Updates

I also want to share the latest numbers from CORT about our own healthcare system and the safety of our working environments. As of September 8, the Healthcare Workforce Response Team has tested 20,631 employees; there have been only 408 positives (1.9%). A report on testing in the Stanford Health Care surgical patient population revealed an asymptomatic positive rate of only 0.71% last week. There were 8 positives out of 1,116 patients tested. Overall, this indicates a small number of positivity rates in our healthcare environment and speaks to the hard work of all of to keep our workplace safe while we care for our patients, do research, and teach. A big thank you to Dr. Sang Chang, Division Director for Primary Care and Population Health, who stepped into a big leadership role in Occupational Health as the interim director at the beginning of the pandemic and who has skillfully led many of these testing efforts.  Sang is returning to his “day job” and for that we are grateful!

Women in Medicine Month Goes Virtual

One of the highlights of last year was our Women in Medicine celebration, which gathered 148 faculty, staff, administrators, residents, fellows, and trainees (and one female dog) for a joyous group photo on the steps of the Clark Center. So it was wonderful to see that 125 women in our department logged on to join our WIM Virtual Group Photo and Happy Hour this week. Participants spent the hour sharing stories and connecting. Staff conversed with faculty. Trainees met administrators. New faculty spoke with colleagues for the first time. Past co-workers reconnected. It was a special event.

During the event, Cathy Garzio made a few remarks that I’d like to share: “a year ago, when we were standing shoulder to shoulder on the Clark steps for the Women in Medicine Group photo, none of us could ever have predicted that we would be in the situation we’re currently in. We can’t stand shoulder to shoulder physically right now, but I want you to know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you every day.” Thank you, Cathy, for your leadership.

Cathy said it perfectly: we stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you during this uncertain, unprecedented time. It won’t be the fall that we’re used to, but together we’ll continue to find new ways to bring enthusiasm and excitement to all that we do. 

Stay safe.

Bob Harrington

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August 21, 2020

Virtual Recruitment and Other Updates

"Though this summer will continue to bring uncertainties and complexities, I encourage you to find ways to enjoy yourselves and recharge"


August 21, 2020

Colleagues –

Today I have a few updates to share on hospital operations, virtual fellowship recruitment, and the California wildfires.

Though most of campus is empty, hospital operations are in full swing. Many of our inpatient services are seeing an uptick in consults, procedures, and patients. Thank you to our clinical colleagues and house staff who have been caring for patients while learning to work in different ways.

This month also marks the beginning of fellowship recruitment. Recruitment has traditionally been a special time for prospective applicants to visit campus, meet with faculty, converse with  trainees, and really get a sense of what the Department of Medicine is all about. Thanks to the help of fellowship coordinators, leadership, and our IT team, we’ve recreated this experience through a series of revamped webpages, interviews, and welcome videos. I encourage you to explore these virtual gateways here. Congratulations to all involved in this effort – you have managed to capture and express our innovative spirit and show what it’s like to train at Stanford.

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I also want to take a moment to address the wildfires that are rapidly spreading across our region and our state, creating additional challenges for our community. The University has created a website with updates and information on air quality and rolling blackouts, which you can view here. Stanford has also contracted with local hotels to offer discounted rates for those of you that need to evacuate your homes or need temporary lodging. You can view a listing of hotels, rates, features, and a link to online booking here. We will continue to share resources as we receive them.  

Though this summer will continue to bring uncertainties and complexities, I encourage you to find ways to enjoy yourselves and recharge. Make time to rest, take breaks, and use your vacation days. Prioritize your mental and physical health. We’ll be taking a short “summer break” from publishing this note and will reconnect in early September.

Know that I have been so inspired by the resilience and optimism you’ve shown throughout these last six months. Our work has never been more important. Thank you for all you have done and will do.

Stay safe and take care.

Bob Harrington

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June 3, 2020

A Message to our Community

"We can't go back to business as usual"

2020 Updates