2020 Hewlett Award Winner Philip Sunshine, MD

Department of Medicine Chair Bob Harrington, MD, presents the 2020 Hewlett Award to Philip Sunshine, MD.

The Albion Walter Hewlett Award, established in 1983, is a recurring award honoring an exceptional physician with ties to Stanford.

It is a tribute to Doctor Albion Walter Hewlett, professor and executive head of the Department of Medicine from 1916 -1925. Known as a physician of rare compassion and extraordinary skills, Hewlett was recognized for his outstanding contributions to patient care and medical science throughout the world.

The 2020 awardee is Philip Sunshine, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics, who is known as one of the “founding fathers of neonatology.”  The award was presented this year at an in-person and jointly virtual Grand Rounds by his colleague and former student David Stevenson, MD, Harold K. Faber professor of pediatrics. 

Stevenson and Department of Medicine chair Bob Harrington, MD, Arthur Bloomfield professor of medicine, both emphasized the breadth of Sunshine’s contributions as well as his personality, which seems to make his last name all the more accurate.  He is, Stevenson said, “a neonatologist’s neonatologist” but at the same time he’s a man who joined his colleagues in a dunk tank in the 70’s and prompted other colleagues to write and publish a poem in Nature in 2011 entitled “The Ballad of Phil Sunshine.”

During the award presentation, Sunshine was also cited as “one of history’s best baby doctors and an enduring figure.”  He was awarded as well for “the breadth of his knowledge, his spirit of innovation and his willingness to promote others’ contributions.”

As referenced in this article from 2010, Sunshine played a role in a lot of the firsts in neonatology, “including first using a ventilator on a newborn, and first feeding a premature infant through an intravenous tube.”

In his gracious acceptance speech Sunshine traced the path of his career, thanking his friends, mentors, colleagues, and family for all their help along the way.  The humility and kindness his colleagues spoke of was clearly on display even in his brief remarks.  As Stevenson remarked, “Friends are everything to Phil Sunshine.”

Philip Sunshine with family, friends, and the Hewlett Award

A young Philip Sunshine at Stanford