Stanford School of Medicine's New Dean, Lloyd Minor

July/August 2012

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Stanford School of Medicine's New Dean, Lloyd Minor

Photo: Courtesy Johns Hopkins Univeristy

Lloyd Minor, provost of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., will become dean of Stanford School of Medicine on December 1. The noted otolaryngologist—an expert in balance and inner-ear disorders—will arrive on the Farm in September and spend three months with Philip Pizzo, Med School dean since 2001. Minor earned his bachelor's and medical degrees from Brown University and trained at Duke University and the University of Chicago medical centers. Stanford talked with him about his life, philosophy and new position.


What made you decide to take this job?

Stanford is a magnificent university and a wonderful School of Medicine. I'm very deeply honored to have been asked to be the next dean and to join such a vibrant community.

What are your top priorities?

My first job is to listen and learn, and work with others to see what our opportunities are. The most important role of a leader in a highly functioning organization like Stanford is to first ask good questions so the right issues are being examined by the collective wisdom on the part of faculty, staff and students. Second is to participate in the dialogue around those questions. It's through that dialogue that the answers and solutions will emerge. It's not at all a top-down approach. In higher education in general, academic medical centers specifically, top-down approaches don't work; they're not desirable. When used, they ignore the wealth of expertise that exists within an environment. My first priority during the three months I'll be at Stanford before I take over as dean is to understand what they see as opportunities. Dean Pizzo has done a remarkable job. He's been very warm and welcoming as dean.

Have you ever lived in California?

Never. We're looking forward to it. We found a home in Portola Valley, about five miles from campus.

Can you talk about your family?

My wife is a primary-care physician. We have two children. Our daughter is a rising senior at Harvard, and our son will be a freshman in September at Brown.

Will you teach, see patients and do research?

My major responsibility is to be the dean and to work for all the departments and faculty in the School of Medicine. That is first and foremost. I'm honored to be joining the department of otolaryngology at Stanford. In terms of specifically what I'll do in patient care and research, we'll wait until I get to Stanford and work those things out with [professor] Robert Jackler and others in the department of otolaryngology.

The Medical School is in the middle of a big capital campaign to rebuild the hospital and provide state-of-the-art facilities for patient care. Was that part of what drew you to Stanford?

I have been extensively involved in planning the next major philanthropic effort at Johns Hopkins. I enjoy fundraising. The construction of a new hospital [at Stanford] presents many opportunities for designing and planning that hospital in a way that promotes the excellence of the clinical programs. Often times the building is a catalyst to thought about how programs can be brought to the next level by having the physical infrastructure that would further their success. Having this very tangible goal of a new hospital that will be completed by 2017 will help all of us as we look at the way the clinical programs at Stanford are going to be shaped and built and furthered in the years ahead.

A few years ago, the Medical School made news by giving iPads to all first-year students. What's the role of technology in improving medical education and practice vs. the value of personal, human connections in helping sick people get better?

Technology plays an increasingly important role in higher education at large and medical education specifically. I've been very impressed with the leadership role that the School of Medicine at Stanford has played in transforming our thoughts about medical education. There's a lot of innovative work going on.

What about the role of alternative medicine?

Our understanding of the impact of behavior and emotions on physical health is still in its infancy. I maintain an open mind about alternative approaches because we still have a lot to learn about how our general mental well-being and attitude influences our physical health. We certainly know it does in many ways. In an environment of rigorous scholarship like Stanford, we're better able to understand which [alternative treatments are] effective and which are not. That leads into an opportunity we'll have at Stanford to really pursue how academic medical centers evolve from their traditional focus on tertiary care, [to a broader] mission of becoming academic health centers that really focus on prevention and early detection and screening in a more proactive way. . . . It's building in a proactive role in addition to acute care focus.

What about the role of the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford Hospital in the community?

It's been my privilege to meet with the CEOs of both the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford Hospitals and Clinics. They're wonderful people, and I'm looking forward to working with both of them. I believe our missions are aligned. That's important as we look at ways of building excellence in the diverse aspects of our portfolio. I do believe a strong responsibility of Stanford's is to provide outstanding medical care and [promote] health and prevention in communities on the peninsula and in the region. It is obviously a region with highly educated, very successful people who inherently approach their lives in a proactive way. To the extent that we can add to opportunities for people to maintain healthy lives for a longer period of time, we're providing outstanding care to the region.

What impact does the state budget crisis in California have on funding for the Stanford Medical Center?

One thing that does come to mind is the state's funding of stem cell research. There's an outstanding stem cell center at Stanford. The State of California was very generous in funding stem cell research a number of years ago. Stanford was a fortunate and very well-deserved beneficiary of substantial funding from the state. [I would like to] just make sure that momentum continues moving forward.

How do medical ethics factor into your position?

I spoke to the executive committee on Friday about three values I think are core to me as a person, as a leader and as a professional. The first of those is integrity. Integrity includes being ethical. It means being open to discussion and dissent. To me integrity also means empathy. It's important for us as leaders, for us as clinicians, to have empathy and compassion with our patients. I also value diversity. It's women and men, it's ethnic diversity, it's socioeconomic diversity. Our institutions of higher education are the most powerful forces in our society today for socioeconomic mobility. And Stanford is certainly a leader in promoting diversity in all of those [areas]. Stanford students finish with amongst the lowest level of debt of any medical school in the country. It's really what the leadership has done to make sure scholarships and tuition are matched so students don't wind up finishing with as large a debt as they do at many other medical schools.

How will healthcare reform affect Stanford?

All of us in academic medicine have to be focused much more—I'm speaking across academic medicine—on our patient outcomes and what we can do to deliver the very best care in a cost-effective way. I see positioning Stanford as a leader, both in the dialogue about what works and what doesn't work in healthcare reform, and in analyses of the programs that can be transformative.

How do you try to be healthy yourself?

I try to exercise every day. I'm looking forward to being in an environment where I can exercise outdoors every day through cycling. I have a cross trainer at home. I try to eat a healthy diet and maintain avocational interests. I'm an avid reader of materials related to my field but also more broadly of historical nonfiction and books about leadership and studies of leaders. I enjoy classical music, and I really treasure the time I spend with my wife, my family and our two dogs. We have two Portuguese water dogs.

Don't the Obamas own a Portuguese water dog?

We got our first Portuguese water dog before they did!

Do you play classical music or just listen?

I'm a cellist, although I haven't played as much in recent years. I did play quite a bit.

And you are a bicyclist?

That's something I'm going to be getting back into on the peninsula. Obviously it's a cyclist's paradise.

What else should people know?

I'm very enthusiastic about this position. It's an exceptional university and school of medicine. I'm honored to be working with the faculty, students and staff to make Stanford Medical School an even better place.

Karen Springen is the Journalism Residency Director at Northwestern University.

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