Dr. Phillip Pizzo School of Medicine Dean 2001-2012

The Dean's Newsletter:
November 14, 2005

Table of Contents

v Science and Religion
v The State of Stem Cell Research
v Appointment of Jonathan Berek as Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology
v Facilitating "Translating Discoveries"
v A Pediatric Exemplar of Translating Discoveries
v University Institute Initiatives
v Update on Stanford Medicine Magazine
v Honoring Dr. Oscar Salvatierra
v Upcoming Events
v Awards and Honors
v Appointments and Promotions

Science and Religion

I have previously commented on the evolving anti-science mood in this country and elsewhere (see: http://deansnewsletter.stanford.edu/archive/10_03_05.html#1). This disturbing trend was clearly and, in my view, distressingly, demonstrated in last week's vote in the state of Kansas to redefine science to make it less evidence based -- presumably to open the door to teaching creationism in public schools. In contrast, the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania voted to remove members of their school board who were proponents of teaching "intelligent design" in public schools. However, I was quite disconcerted by the Reverend Pat Robertson's wrathful reaction to this result; he virtually condemned the citizens of Dover. I should quickly add that I respect the right of citizens everywhere to have their point of view and to express it in ways supported by our republic. But I also must admit to being deeply concerned by the seemingly widening gulf that separates blue states from red states (or, more accurately, blue and red communities within states) or that increasingly seems to be promoting theocracy over democracy. Among the founding and still fundamental principles of our nation are freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. I recognize that interpretation of these principles is open to debate and discussion but certainly, from my perspective, extremism on any account is unacceptable.

I also hasten to add that I am equally disturbed by public positions of scientists that are disparaging of religion and faith. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive; they are different aspects of our human experience and should each be respected. In my opinion it is not productive to attempt to apply scientific methodology to faith or religion or to invoke religion to explain the underpinnings and evidence of science. However, such confusion is taking place in various sectors of our society and, to varying extents, is even being promoted. This becomes even more distressing when one group attempts to dominate others, as is being done by some Christian Evangelical groups in ways that ignore or dismiss other religious or faith based beliefs or traditions. When potential religious oppression becomes politically based, the fine line is crossed between democracy and theocracy -- something deserving our vigilance and engagement if we are to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

In this context it is not ironic that on November 4th and 5th the School of Medicine joined with the Office for Religious Life to co-host a visit to Stanford of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Three events took place. The first offered a meditation experience led by the Dalai Lama and the opportunity to hear his views on Buddhism and the human condition. The second addressed the important issue of non-violence in a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Scotty McClennan, Dean for Religious Life. The third was an all day conference with the Dalai Lama sponsored by the School of Medicine entitled "Craving, Suffering and Choice." The conference brought together neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars to share their perspectives and opinions about how each interprets, understands and brings clarity to these dimensions of human experience. Planning for this conference was nearly a year in the making and was wonderfully led by Dr. William Mobley, Cahill Professor in the School of Medicine, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and Director of the Neuroscience Institute at Stanford. The entire day's events have been archived and are available for viewing at http://med.stanford.edu/events/dalailama/. Articles and videos about all of the events can be found in the November 9th Stanford Report (see: http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/november9/dalai-110905.html and http://med.stanford.edu/events/dalailama/).

I want to thank the numerous individuals who made this visit possible -- beginning with my wife, Peggy Pizzo, who was the inspiration for the event, and whose collaboration with Tenzin Tethong, President of the Dalai Lama Foundation of Palo Alto and Lecturer in the Continuing Studies Program, facilitated the official invitation that came from Dean McClennan and me. But the visit would never have been as wonderful as it turned out without the incredible efforts of a large group of individuals lead by Kathy Gillam, Special Assistant to the Dean, as well as Kristin Goldthorpe and Neyll Vargas from the Dean's Office, along with the wonderful work of Elaine Enos, Executive Director, Stanford Public Events and her staff.

From my perspective, what defined the Stanford event, and differentiated it from some of the more acrimonious debates and divisions occurring across our nation, was the acknowledgement that science and faith are separate and discrete and that each deserves respect and value. Eschewing extreme positions, the participants in our conference were willing to share perceptions and data respectfully and to allow evidence to help explain and elucidate the human experience. There was no attempt to redefine science or religion; rather, there was agreement to respect each for what it brings and contributes to our discourse. There is no question that most humans treasure faith and that it takes on various forms of expression and belief. It can offer solace in a world often lacking comfort and security, especially at the boundaries of the human experience. However, at its core faith is unlikely to ever be defined empirically. And while faith can offer a context for human experience it is also unlikely to elucidate the principles of cosmology, physics or biology.

It is for these reasons that I believe that a shared respect for the differences between faith and science is vitally important and that conversations such as those we shared with His Holiness the Dalai Lama are extremely valuable. I recognize that that such discussions are difficult and that history has not often embraced them. But history has also taught us the consequences of imposing one viewpoint on another -- and the dangers that can emerge when religion and fervent righteousness become political forces. We need to move forward in our human evolution and not regress to the flawed passions of the crusades, the suppression of science by religion, or the intolerance of theocracy over freedom of the human spirit.

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The State of Stem Cell Research

A year has passed since the historic vote by nearly 60% of the citizens of California to support stem cell research through a $3B bond initiative known as Proposition 71. The passage of Proposition 71 resulted in the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which is overseen by the 29- member Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), on which I serve. On Saturday, November 12th, the Net Impact Conference sponsored by the Graduate School of Business provided an opportunity to reflect on the state of stem cell research in California and elsewhere. I chaired a panel discussion at the conference that included Bob Klein, Chair of the ICOC and the inspiration and driving force behind Prop 71, Hank Greely, Johnson Professor of Law and Professor of Genetics and an expert in health policy as well as bioethics, and Amy DuRoss, Chief of Staff of the CIRM and a graduate of the GSB. Our panel discussion afforded an opportunity to reflect on where we are -- and the problems and challenges that remain to be overcome.

There is no question that the passage of Prop 71 was an historic event that has propelled the debate regarding stem cell research throughout the USA and world. Stem cell research engages science and politics (at the local, state, federal and global levels) along with religion, ideology, ethics, money and intrigue. It is a unique case study of the opposing forces of science and religion (see above) and raises fundamental questions about the origins of life, the value of research and how strongly held positions are bridged or breached.

The vast majority of Californians and the majority of citizens of the US are of the view that embryonic stem cell research should be supported and funded. However, there are states in the US where it has been outlawed, bills before Congress that would criminalize it, and a UN proposition (sponsored by the US) that would ban it. Ironically, this area of research offers exceptional promise to elucidate the mysteries of human development, better understand the genesis of serious disease and provide platforms to develop new therapeutic or preventive strategies. I strongly believe that research in both adult and embryonic stem cells should proceed under the regulations published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) earlier this year. Indeed we have prepared for this effort through the initiation of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and its related Program in Regenerative Medicine that encompasses education, research (and facilities), policy and ethics.

During the past year the CIRM and the ICOC, in tandem with the efforts of the NAS, have made considerable strides in defining standards for stem cell research. In addition, we have developed principles for grant review, appointed a nationally recognized scientific review group, surveyed leading researchers from throughout the world to define the scope of needed stem cell research, and approved the first group of training grants that will help develop the pipeline for future investigators. Ironically, despite these examples and considerable other progress, funding has not yet begun because the constitutional right of the state to issue the bonds has been challenged by at least two lawsuits. And while these legal challenges will have an important benchmark on November 17th when they come before the Judge in Alameda County, it is also likely that these legal entanglements will continue -- further delaying the ability of the CIRM to distribute funds. Most everyone believes that they will ultimately be dismissed, but by then funding for the CIRM could have been delayed for nearly 2 years. Given the broad support for Prop 71 it is sad that the actions of a few are holding up what promises to be an incredibly important area of investigation.

Despite these delays I remain very optimistic. We have put a lot of systems in place during the past year -- at Stanford, in California and nationally -- that will help assure that stem cell research is carried out with the highest ethical standards and integrity. Moreover, we have continued to make important discoveries and have attracted significant scientists from outside California to join our efforts. We have continued to educate the public and have achieved increasing support to permit this extremely important area of research to proceed. Of course, this will not truly happen until the funding lines are open, but I do very much believe that this will occur in 2006. But we all need to remain engaged to make sure this happens -- for the sake of the future generations who will be the beneficiaries of these efforts.

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Appointment of Jonathan Berek as Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology

I was very pleased to announce on Monday November 7th that Dr. Jonathan Berek, Professor and Executive Vice Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA, accepted my invitation to come to Stanford as our next Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Berek will begin his work at Stanford on December 15th and he will transition during the weeks and months ahead.

Dr. Berek is an internationally recognized academic leader with special expertise in gynecologic oncology and is the co-editor of the major textbook in this field, "Practical Gynecological Oncology." In addition, the Berek and Novak edition of "Gynecology" is also in press. He is a highly regarded physician, clinical investigator, educator and administrator and has won the praise and respect of colleagues around the nation. I am confident that he will be an outstanding new leader at Stanford and I am most pleased to welcome him to our community.

Dr. Berek will succeed Dr. Mary Lake Polan, who served as chair during the past 15 years and who helped build the department's outstanding clinical and research programs. I want to thank Dr. Polan for the many contributions that she has made to Stanford over her highly productive career here (see also Dean's Newsletter http://deansnewsletter.stanford.edu/archive/10_31_05.html#11).

I am also very pleased to announce that Dr. Berek has advised me that he has asked Dr. Maurice Druzin to serve as the Vice Chair of the department. I am very pleased by this recommendation in light of Dr. Druzin's many contributions over the years -- including his very admirable service as acting chair during various transition periods.

I also want to thank Dr. Linda Shortliffe, Professor and Chair of the Department of Urology for her leadership as the chair of the Search Committee that identified Dr. Berek as the chair candidate. Many thanks as well, of course, to the search committee for their wonderful work.

We are at a juncture of important transitions and opportunities at Stanford and I am very pleased that Dr. Jonathan Berek will play an institutional leadership role on behalf of women's health and the future of obstetrics and gynecology. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Berek to Stanford.

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Facilitating "Translating Discoveries"

Dr. Lucy Shapiro, Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor and Professor of Developmental Biology, and Director, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, has informed me that eight new Beckman Interdisciplinary Translational Research Program (ITRP) Awards have been made. Each of the eight new awards provides research funding in the amount of $150,000 over a three-year period. This important program -- which helps to facilitate "translating discoveries" -- is supported by funds from the Beckman Center and the Dean's Office.

The Review Committee for the ITRP Awards received 38 outstanding applications this year and was able to make 8 awards. The 18 faculty members receiving research funding from these awards represent 13 separate disciplines from three separate schools at Stanford (Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences). This wide array of disciplines certainly speaks well for the interdisciplinary and collaborative spirit of research that is fostered here at Stanford University. They include the following:

2005 Beckman ITRP Award Winners

Project: Dendritic Cell Function During Viral Infection
Edgar G. Engleman, MD, Professor of Pathology
Karla Kirkegaard, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology   

Project: Development of a High Throughput Experimental System for the Mammalian Oocyte and Embryo
Stephen R. Quake, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering
Mylene W.M. Yao, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Project: Development of Integrated Optical Bio-sensors and Fluorescent Molecular Imaging Probes for Continuous Real-time Monitoring of Stem Cells in Living Subjects
Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD/PhD, Professor of Radiology
James S. Harris, PhD, Professor of Electrical Engineering

Project: Investigation of Movement-Related Neural Activity from Premotor Cortex in Patients with Parkinson's Disease
Jaimie M. Henderson, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences
Krishna Shenoy, PhD, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering

Project: Minimally Invasive Cellular Level Imaging in the Inner Ear for Diagnosis Intervention using Fluorescence Microendoscopy
Mark J. Schnitzer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Nikolas H. Blevins, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology

Project: Optimizing Microdialysis for Monitoring Organ Failure in the Intensive Care Setting
Steven R. Alexander, MD, Professor of Pediatrics
Harvey Cohen, MD/PhD, Professor of Pediatrics
Joseph DiCarlo, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics  
Paul Yock, MD, Professor of Bioengineering

Project: Proteomic Analysis of Immune Complexes in Rheumatoid Arthritis
Mark C. Genovese, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine
William H. Robinson, MD/PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Richard N. Zaire, PhD, Professor of Chemistry

Project: Translating Hydrogel Technology into Novel Engineered Liver Tissues
Curtis W. Frank, PhD, Professor of Chemical Engineering
Jeffrey S. Glenn, MD/PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine

This is a great collection of exciting projects - congratulations to all the award winners!

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A Pediatric Exemplar of Translating Discoveries

The recruitment of Dr. Michael Edwards to Stanford to lead the pediatric neurosurgery program at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital has been transformative. An internationally esteemed neurosurgeon, Dr. Edwards has contributed significantly to the Department of Neurosurgery's clinical programs as well as its research and education missions. At the Board of Directors meeting of LPCH on Tuesday November 1st, Dr. Edwards described some of the unique features he has found since joining Stanford just over a year ago. Among the most notable is the close connection of the hospitals (both LPCH and SHC) with the School of Medicine and University. He noted that this physical proximity has played an important and essential role in fostering his opportunity to truly advance the field of pediatric neurosurgery and neuroscience.

Dr. Edwards highlighted the important role that the Neuroscience Institute at Stanford has been playing in fostering interdisciplinary research and cited in particular the exciting opportunities now emerging in the study of pediatric brain tumors. Central nervous system malignancies in children represent the most common solid tumor in pediatrics and are second only to leukemia in their prevalence. Unfortunately, unlike the success story of progress in curing childhood leukemias, most pediatric brain tumors have been refractory to therapeutic intervention., Dr. Edwards described the collaborations now emerging through the Neuroscience Institute at Stanford in conjunction with LPCH that will hopefully lead to new and novel approaches in the future. The diversity of the collaborations is noteworthy. They include Dr. Matt Scott, Professor of Developmental Biology and Genetics and Bioengineering and Program Director for BioX, and Dr. Paul Fisher, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and of Pediatrics, and by courtesy of Neurosurgery, among others.

These collaborations provide tangible evidence that when outstanding clinical leaders join with exceptional scientists new opportunities for dialogue and for advancing the field of medicine and science occur. They are great exemplars of interdisciplinary research, translational medicine and the collaboration between the Stanford Institutes of Medicine with basic and clinical science departments. I am pleased that these interactions are occurring and look forward to the findings and innovations that will emerge in the years ahead.

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University Institute Initiatives

As you know from prior Dean's Newsletters, considerable progress is being made in aligning the University under an overall umbrella that define how Stanford can help impact the world in important ways. Three major themes have been delineated: Improving Human Health, Sustaining and Protecting the Environment and the Stanford International Initiative. In each area new program development is taking place, and I want to call your attention to some of the areas of progress as they evolve. One of these took place at the October 27th meeting of the Senate of the Academic Council, when Professors Elisabeth Pate-Cornell and Chip Blacker, Co-chairs of Stanford University's International Initiative, announced the Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies, a $3 million fund to support collaborative, interdisciplinary faculty research of international scope. They presented a Request for Proposals and strongly encouraged all faculty to apply. I am reprinting the Request below for your information, and I encourage School of Medicine faculty to apply.

The Office of the President and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University are pleased to announce the establishment of the Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies. The purpose of the fund, which is an important component of Stanford's new International Initiative, is to stimulate the formation of interdisciplinary teams of Stanford faculty interested in exploring critically important issues in international studies, including their historical or cultural antecedents. Preference will be given to scholarly collaborations that focus on three sets of issues: enhancing the prospects for peace and security worldwide; improving and reforming governance in all its forms and at all levels of society; and advancing human wellbeing. The competition for funding is open to faculty from all seven of Stanford's schools, as well as senior fellows associated with the University's research institutes and centers and the Hoover Institution. The sponsors anticipate that the Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies will support three to four new projects in each of the next three years ('05-'08) for periods ranging from one to three years. Proposals to secure support should conform to the following guidelines:

  • Projects must have an international focus, with priority in funding being accorded to those proposals emphasizing peace and security, governance, and human wellbeing.

  • Projects must be based on collaborative research and teaching, involving faculty from two or more disciplines and, wherever possible, from two or more schools. They must give evidence of true interdisciplinarity in the design of research questions and in the proposed implementation and dissemination of research findings (which may include new curricular offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate levels).

  • Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis. Project awards may be of any amount, but will typically be in the range of $50-100,000 per year for a maximum of three years. The awards are not renewable.

  • Funds may also be allocated to support research and teaching of a more preliminary nature. These planning grants will be no more than one-year in length (non-renewable) and on the order of $10-15,000.

  • The deadline for submitting proposals is December 31, 2005. Awards will be announced on or about February 1, 2006. Faculty interested in securing support through the Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies should obtain details on the PFIIS website: http://fsi.stanford.edu/pfiis/.

In addition, at the November 10th Senate of the Academic Council, Dr. Jeff Koseff, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute on the Environment (SIE) gave an update on the Environmental Initiative. He began by reviewing the mission of the SIE, which he chairs, and notes the three major goals: To generate new ideas and approaches; to educate and train the next generation of leaders; and help decision makers solve problems. Stanford is uniquely poised to address these issues, given the excellence of our existing academic programs, our co-location on a single campus and the clear history and spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration and interaction in research and education. Professor Koseff described ways of accomplishing the goals, including a "Ventures Project" that provides seed funding for transformative interdisciplinary research. The Institute has already sponsored its first round of funding, usually $75,000 for two years -- and they have received exciting proposals (in a manner similar to the Beckman Interdisciplinary Translational Research Awards noted above). In addition the Institute is proposing to sponsor 4-6 strategic collaborations to pursue exciting themes (e.g., a Center for Oceanic Studies).

A common thread among the university initiatives and those being developed in the School of Medicine is interdisciplinary research and education -- and ways to foster and encourage them at Stanford. These are truly exciting and will surely help to transform our university -- and hopefully, as a consequence, the world we live in.

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Update on Stanford Medicine magazine

The Fall issue of Stanford Medicine magazine focuses on neuroscience. Among the contents in the special report are:

The issue also offers medical center news, research updates, an alumni profile and an in-depth look at a tool that revolutionized research and is starting to make an impact in patient care-the DNA micro array, invented by biochemistry professor Patrick Brown, MD, PhD.

Look for the magazines in departmental offices and online at http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2005fall/. To obtain copies, please send e-mail to .

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Honoring Dr. Oscar Salvatierra

On Friday evening November 11th colleagues and friends of Dr. Oscar Salvatierra, Professor Emeritus of Surgery and Pediatrics, gathered at the Palo Alto Sheraton Hotel to offer gratitude and tribute to his remarkable career. Sponsored by the School of Medicine, the Department of Surgery and the Division of Transplantation, the evening was masterfully hosted by Dr. Carlos Esquival, the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professor of Pediatric Transplantation and of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Transplantation. The evening featured commentaries delivered in person or by video from leaders in transplantation from around the nation as well as colleagues and patients of Dr. Salvatierra. From these a common theme and portrait was apparent -- which is once I share. Namely, Dr. Salvatierra is a remarkable individual -- an outstanding surgeon, innovator, investigator and caring and compassionate physician who is beloved and respected by his colleagues and patients. But equally, the picture is one of a selfless individual who willing shares credit, supports and mentors young people and who believes in his life and words that actions and accomplishments are a reflection of a community and team working together. It is, in his words, about people and their relations one with another that are transformative.

While Dr. Salvatierra has reached the point in his career where he will no longer be performing surgery, he thankfully has much more to give to our academic community. His recent wonderful contributions as the faculty leader for our recent LCME review are but one example of his leadership and advocacy. I am also confident that his new role as a Faculty Advisor to medical students will be a wonderful contribution for the future.

Please join me in thanking Oscar for all that he has done during his career and since coming to Stanford -- and in continuing to look for ways that we can benefit and learn from his knowledge and compassion.

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Upcoming Events

On Wednesday, December 6th, Drs. Michael McConnell, Geoffrey Rubin, Alan Yeung, and Kai Ihnken will present: Advances in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease. These Stanford heart specialists will provide educational information about the latest innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease, which is the most common type of heart disease. This Community Lecture Series will be held at 7 pm in the Clark Center Auditorium.

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Awards and Honors

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Appointments and Promotions

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A downloadable Microsoft Word version of the newsletter is available. If clicking on this following link does not initiate a download, right-click (Windows) or click-and-hold (Mac), then use the command most similar to "Download Link To Disk" or "Save This Link As" and save the Word file to your disk.

Microsoft Word version: DeanNews11-14-05.doc

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