Letter from the Dean

Dean Philp A. Pizzo, MD

Dean Philip A. Pizzo, MD; Photograph Stanford Visual Art Services

Dear Readers,

In recent years, a number of leading universities have recognized that important questions and opportunities will emerge through interdisciplinary research – especially investigations at the intersections of the traditional physical, biological and medical sciences. While academic leaders across the nation analyze how to best overcome challenges facing interdisciplinary research, we at Stanford University have been learning by doing. Research across disciplines has been an important component of the fabric of Stanford for many years. I believe it will define our future as the nation’s premier research-intensive university.

Stanford is fertile ground for interdisciplinary research. Our undergraduate, graduate and professional schools are located on the same campus, only a few minutes’ walk apart. These proximities enable students and faculty to interact in both planned and unanticipated manners. Additionally, we are relatively small but also quite excellent. Since significant faculty growth is not feasible, our researchers are eager to share resources or ideas with other members of the community. Perhaps most important, our faculty and students are interested and motivated to collaborate across disciplines and traditional fields – it is part of the entrepreneurial culture of Stanford.

In the coming years, several university initiatives will further support interdisciplinary research and education. Some of these programs, including Bio-X, the campuswide interdisciplinary research initiative, will span the university. Others will emanate from individual schools. In some cases, School of Medicine faculty and students will serve as leaders.

The Clark Center, which opened in the summer on the medical school campus, makes clear our commitment to interdisciplinary research. This state-of-the-art facility will house 40 faculty from four schools, representing 24 departments ranging from applied physics to surgery. It brings together faculty and students from the medical, physical, biological, computational, engineering and environmental sciences. Among the areas for initial focus within the Clark Center: biocomputation; biodesign; bioengineering; biophysics of single molecules; chemical biology; genomics/proteomics; imaging of molecules, cells and tissues; regenerative medicine and systems neuroscience.

We are organizing more exclusively medical interdisciplinary efforts under the banner of the Stanford Institutes of Medicine. Last year we launched the first, the Stanford Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. Next year we plan to launch three more: the Stanford Institute of Cardiovascular Medicine, the Stanford Institute of Neuroscience and the Stanford Institute of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases.

As a medical school and medical center, improving patient care is our ultimate mission. We are designing the new institutes to foster the connections between our basic and clinical research faculty and to improve care of our patients. They will also provide new forums for the education of our students and postgraduate trainees.

Yet another interdisciplinary project is in the works: the Department of Bioengineering, run jointly by the schools of engineering and of medicine. Through programs in graduate and undergraduate education (slated to commence in 2004 and 2005, respectively) it is our hope that this new department will permit us to better understand living systems; learn from these systems to improve engineering designs; engineer biological systems; and improve human and environmental health through research, education and therapy.

Interdisciplinary research and education offer exciting opportunities. I believe Stanford is poised to seize them and become an even more valuable contributor to medicine in the 21st century.

With best regards,
Philip Pizzo, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology and Immunology
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor
Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine

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