When I agreed to join the Stanford community as the dean in December 2000, the medical school, medical center and university were in a very different time and place.
Financial challenges and deep-seated questions about the future of the school and its major teaching hospitals were topics of considerable discussion and concern. Despite those questions, the resilience, vision and creativity, as well as the passion for innovation and reinvention by our faculty, students and staff, quickly took us forward. Their combined efforts account for the excellence of Stanford Medicine as we know it today — an institution that values the incredible contributions of our alumni and that seeks to create opportunities for current and future students and trainees.
Institutional culture and values can make a major difference during periods of constraint or limited resources. Great institutions tend to rise above daunting challenges by finding new directions and solutions, and by supporting the creative energies of their communities. In the end, the individuals who comprise an institution, and who define its fabric and focus, are its most precious resource.
Having spent my pre-Stanford career in East Coast institutions, which tend to be defined by their history and tradition, it was exciting to become part of a community that preferred to look toward the future. This spirit of innovation has defined the culture of Silicon Valley, usually by asking seemingly unimaginable questions, and of not fearing failure.
Today Stanford Medicine is poised for new challenges and opportunities. Many of these are external forces: the depressed national economy, and the resulting constraint in research funding from public and private sources; the impact of rapidly evolving technology on virtually every one of our missions, from teaching and learning to the delivery of medical care; and the changes unfolding in our health-care system. But I hope the most exciting forces for change will come from the creativity and innovations of our faculty, students and staff responding to these external challenges in ways that also help define Stanford Medicine as a leader at the intersections of science and medicine, compassion and humanity.
Because this is my last letter to Stanford Medicine as dean, I want to thank our entire community for allowing me to be part of this extraordinary institution and for the pleasure of working with so many of you to pursue opportunities and shared ventures. It has been a privilege. I have every confidence that new heights will be achieved under the leadership of Dr. Lloyd Minor, who becomes dean on Dec. 1. It is an honor to pass the torch (or the wand, depending on one’s metaphor) to Dr. Minor, and for me to take a place among the crowd cheering for the future of Stanford Medicine.
Philip A. Pizzo, MD
Stanford University School of Medicine
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor, Pediatrics, Microbiology and Immunology