Just the beginning

The promise of precision health

Letter from the Dean

For as long as people have been caring for the sick, we have been playing a frantic game of catch-up, working to cure illness after the fact.

Now, for the first time in our history, we are starting to see the possibility to not just win the race against the clock, but to win it before it even begins — to prevent disease before it strikes and cure it decisively if it does. This is the power of precision health.

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. (Glenn Matsumura photo)
Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. (Photo by Glenn Matsumura)

At Stanford Medicine, we are leading the precision health revolution through a close collaboration that brings together our strengths in fundamental research, biomedical breakthroughs, data science, engineering, business, design, technology, patient care and teaching the next generation of physicians. With a foundation that begins at precision medicine, precision health goes much further by treating people — not just their illnesses — to help them stay healthy. And what unifies these efforts is our culture of relentless creativity and collaboration that has always been the hallmark of Stanford and our home in Silicon Valley. Mariann Byerwalter, interim president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, Chris Dawes, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital/Stanford Children’s Health, and I are working together to ensure that the promise of precision health becomes reality for patients.

Stanford Medicine’s work on precision health has already delivered solutions for some of medicine’s toughest challenges: diagnostics that detect diseases at their earliest, most curable stages; a device that can predict a pediatric asthma attack days before it strikes; new ways to eliminate food allergies; and partnerships with companies such as Apple to help patients not just monitor their health but share that information to improve the health of others.

This is just the beginning. Stanford physicians and researchers are now at work developing new ways to tailor treatments by using the reams of data lying dormant in electronic medical records. When the pathbreaking tool, dubbed the Green Button, is approved for use, it will deliver the power of data, allowing physicians — for the first time — to provide evidence-based medicine faster and with precision.

To the high tech, precision health is also bringing the high touch. Building a culture of health and of disease prevention begins with understanding what is important to our patients, how they feel, what they fear and what they value. The Letter Project — an outreach effort that gives patients more of a voice in how their last days are lived — is one way Stanford physicians are elevating the doctor-patient relationship and focusing on the health of the whole person.

At Stanford, we have a responsibility to see this revolution succeed throughout the world, but it won’t be easy. It will require real change — from how the world shares and uses information to how we rationalize the cost of care so innovation becomes truly accessible.

We are closing a chapter in human history. Every day the people of Stanford Medicine are dedicating their lives to writing the next, and we will share this knowledge with the hopes of spreading precision health around the globe.


Lloyd Minor, MD

Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the School of Medicine

Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery