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At State of Stanford Medicine, reviewing accomplishments and looking to the future

David Entwistle, Paul King, Andra Blomkalns and Lloyd Minor onstage Oct. 8 at the State of Stanford Medicine event.

Image Credit: Rod Searcey

At the annual assembly, Stanford Medicine leaders provided updates on the new Stanford Hospital and other construction projects, and scientists recounted research advances made possible by a colleague’s tissue donation.

By Amy Jeter Hansen

Stanford Medicine’s three entities are positioned to complement one another, while also contributing to the university’s long-term vision and to innovation in Silicon Valley, Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, said Oct. 8 at the annual State of Stanford Medicine event.

During a panel discussion, Minor and the leaders of Stanford Children’s Health and Stanford Health Care highlighted the local community’s excitement about the new Stanford Hospital and other construction projects, and discussed opportunities for internal and external collaboration that have been brought into focus by Stanford Medicine’s integrated strategic plan.

 “The purpose of the plan was to identify the areas of synergy, the areas where we will grow and build together collaboratively and interactively — but also to recognize that each of the three entities has its own distinct areas of focus,” Minor said. “I think we’re all really excited about how well the plan has come together. … Now, this year is about execution.”

That includes taking an active role over the next decade in Stanford University’s long-range plan, which includes several health-related initiatives.

“All of us will be able to participate in building this amazing institution and extending its impact locally, regionally and indeed, globally,” Minor said. 

High-tech hospital

In the short term, the new Stanford Hospital is slated to open soon after more than a decade of planning, design and construction. Community members came out in force for open houses at the new facility, said Stanford Health Care President and CEO David Entwistle. Planners anticipated welcoming about 5,000 people, but more than 17,000 showed up for previews of the building, including its numerous works of art, soaring atrium, and private patient rooms with expansive windows, he said.

 “I would go up and ask people, ‘What do you think?’” Entwistle said. “And the universal, data-driven, random-sampling response was: ‘Wow.’”

The hospital’s technology is particularly notable, Entwistle said. From their rooms, patients can view test results on a screen, order meals and digitally control window blinds and aspects of the room’s climate. In the expanded emergency department, clinicians can get access to interpreters in real time and internet-enabled consultations, or e-consults, with colleagues.

Projects at children’s hospital

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford also plans to celebrate the completion of several construction projects later this year, when the Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases, the patient care administrative department, the outpatient heart center and the neurodiagnostics and pulmonary diagnostics clinics are slated to open.

Paul King, who took the helm as president and CEO of Stanford Children’s Health in January, was participating in his first State of Stanford Medicine event. Asked by moderator Andra Blomkalns, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine, about his initial months on the job, he lauded the welcoming community and the advantage of Stanford as a resource.

“I’ve been impressed with the ability of this children's hospital, in its short life of not quite 30 years, to really compete at a very high level, and to be compared with organizations that have been around for over a century,” King said.

Stanford Children’s Health recently appointed Rick Majzun as chief operating officer and vice president, King said, and the organization is recruiting for other top positions, which will “keep us busy.”

Unusual research collaboration

Following the leaders’ discussion — and continuing the spirit of collaboration — a group of scientists told the story of how James Spudich’s decision to donate his tissue to Stanford Medicine colleagues accelerated their research into diseased and healthy lung cells.

Spudich, PhD, had been diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer. He told the audience that he was thinking as a scientist rather than a patient when he approached Mark Krasnow, MD, PhD, and Christin Kuo, MD, and offered them the tissue that a surgeon would remove the following day.

“I think all of you would have done the same thing,” Spudich said.

Before Spudich made his donation, Krasnow and Kuo had worked only with tissue from animals.

By examining Spudich’s tissue, Kuo’s lab has been able to advance her study of lung neuroendocrine cells through single-cell RNA sequencing, she told the audience. Krasnow said his team has discovered 14 new cell types in the human lung. Now they are turning to look at the tumor cells with an eye toward understanding how normal cells are transformed by mutations.

As a participant in another study — a clinical trial led by Heather Wakelee, MD — Spudich is now also helping researchers test the effect of an immunotherapy approach called checkpoint inhibitors on cure rates for people with early-stage lung adenocarcinoma.

Spudich said he is confident the researchers’ work will lead to advances in clinical care.

“I'm absolutely certain it'll have a huge impact in the future,” he said, adding, “I consider myself cured, so don’t worry about me.”