Celebrating Hannah Valantine, MD

2024 Hewlett Award Winner

2024 Hewlett Award Winner, Hannah Valantine, MD

June 10, 2024 – by Rebecca Handler

The Albion Walter Hewlett Award, established in 1983, recognizes an exceptional physician with ties to Stanford. The award celebrates individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to clinical excellence, research innovation, and compassionate patient care. We are proud to announce that the 2024 award goes to Hannah Valantine, MD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Department of Medicine.

About Hannah Valantine

Hannah Valantine’s career has centered on improving heart transplant outcomes, reducing health disparities in cardiology research and care, and increasing equity and inclusion in scientific workplaces and research funding. 

Valantine was born in Gambia, where she lived until her family moved to London when she was 13. She completed her bachelor’s and medical degrees at London University, and moved to the United States in the 1980s to complete her cardiovascular medicine fellowship at Stanford. 

At the time, Stanford was the epicenter for heart transplantation and cardiovascular research and advancement in the United States. Valantine worked with titans of cardiology including: Richard Popp, MD, an echocardiography expert; Norman Shumway, MD, the first surgeon in the United States to perform a human heart transplant; and Sharon Hunt, MD, who was foundational in improving patient survival rates post-heart transplant. 

 Valantine’s early research at Stanford focused on markers of acute cardiac rejection following transplant. Throughout the years, during which she was appointed assistant professor and later professor of cardiovascular medicine, Valantine has continued to study ways to improve heart transplant patient outcomes. 

In 2010, Valantine developed the first blood test to detect organ rejection. In 2011, Valantine was part of a team along with Stephen Quake, PhD, Thomas Snyder, PhD, and Kiran Khush, MD, that developed a blood test to detect heart transplant rejection by measuring the level of donor DNA in the recipient's blood. Blood testing offered a less invasive, cheaper way to detect rejection weeks or months earlier than had previously been possible. In 2019, Valantine and Khush collaborated on another study that developed a blood test to detect early signs of tissue graft failure after lung transplant surgery.   

As her research career flourished, so too did her work as a leader in reducing workplace bias and harassment and increasing diversity and inclusion. In 2004, Valantine was named the School of Medicine’s inaugural senior associate dean for diversity and leadership, a role in which she promoted mentorship and social engagement to support the careers of young faculty. In 2009, Valantine was a Faculty Research Fellow at Stanford's Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Her efforts to increase diversity and inclusion were recognized when she was awarded one of the NIH Pathfinder Awards in 2010, dedicated to studying women's underrepresentation in biomedical faculty positions.

In 2014, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, recruited Valantine from Stanford to become the NIH’s first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity. In this role, Valantine spearheaded the NIH’s effort to diversify the biomedical research workforce and promote inclusiveness and equity throughout the biomedical research enterprise. She led numerous initiatives, including establishing the Distinguished Scholars Program, which strives to enhance the diversity of principal investigators in the NIH Intramural Research Program. 

While at the NIH, she also continued her scientific research, including creating GRAfT, a multicenter prospective cohort study of heart and lung transplant programs in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. By 2020, the consortium had enrolled more than 500 participants, 40 percent of whom identified as African American or Black. This diversity of participants allowed Valantine to investigate the disproportionately high rates of organ transplant rejection and death in African American and Black organ recipients compared to white organ recipients. 

Valantine retired from the NIH in the fall of 2020 and returned to Stanford as professor of cardiovascular medicine. In recent years, she has continued to work on understanding and improving heart transplant rejection outcomes, increasing equity in transplant outcomes, and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in scientific workplaces.   

In addition to the Hewlett Award, Valantine has received numerous accolades including the 2022 Pamela S. Douglas Distinguished Award for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion from the American College of Cardiology and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.

"Dr. Valantine has been not only an exceptional Stanford faculty member, but she is a national and international leader in the area of cardiac transplantation medicine," shares Yvonne (Bonnie) Maldonado, MD, Interim Chair of Stanford Department of Medicine. "Her work in the diversification of the academic workforce has also been foundational. We are very proud of Hannah’s accomplishments."

Recommended Reading

There's Something About Hannah: Reflecting on a Lifetime of Work at the Crossroads of Diversity, Clinical Care, and Research Discovery

Discover how Dr. Valantine's early experiences and steadfast dedication to DEI have not only transformed heart transplantation outcomes but have also left an indelible mark on the medical community.