Crossover Appeal: Rising Stars Advance Care and Research at Packard Children’s

Ruth Schechter
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This article appeared in the Lucile Packard Children’s News publication in Spring 2013.

Physician-scientists occupy a unique niche: skilled in the practice of medicine, they also stand at the forefront of research and discovery. They combine compassion with commitment, and diligence with drive – a balancing act that only a handful can maintain. And few places exist that can provide the resources they need to succeed and thrive.

“Physician-scientists are rare and in high demand,” says Hugh O’Brodovich, MD, the Adalyn Jay Physician-in-Chief at Packard Children’s and the Arline and Pete Harman Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine. “It’s important that we find ways for them to succeed.”

The rising complexity of pediatric medicine plays a role. Dramatic advances in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood diseases – thanks to breakthroughs in medical technology and genetic and molecular research – have led to a measureable spike in the number of pediatric subspecialties.

“The depth of knowledge in pediatrics has become too complex for any individual doctor to maintain all the necessary skills,” O’Brodovich says. “The questions is how to recruit and retain the best physician-scientists to ensure excellent care for children and expectant mothers. The answer is to develop a team of both generalists and subspecialists, and to create opportunities for young faculty members to explore and thrive.”

Fellows and faculty scholars are deeply imbedded at Packard Children’s. After completing their pediatric residencies, fellows undertake extra years of training to become proficient in a specific subspecialty. They develop their clinical expertise at Packard Children’s, and are active members of established research labs at Stanford School of Medicine, interacting with renowned investigators, medical students, and postdoctoral researchers.

Faculty scholars teach, provide patient care, and conduct independent research. Endowed support provides these rising stars with funding to dedicate time to multidisciplinary clinical, translational, and basic science research – all aimed at identifying new approaches to care for children and expectant mothers.

“Trainees are able to access a rich array of resources for their academic development,” says Charles Prober, MD, professor of pediatrics and the senior associate dean for medical education. “Interacting in meaningful ways with leaders in other fields encourages peer-to-peer mentoring, and helps them navigate a difficult pathway as they launch their career.”

Fellows and faculty scholars at Packard Children’s benefit from Stanford’s unique strengths: a culture of collaboration, depth in medical subspecialties, and a world-class academic environment, home to pioneers in engineering, business, law, and computer science.

“Packard Children’s provides state-of-the-art care for children and expectant mothers, and we continue to push the envelope in training and education,” says O’Brodovich. “Philanthropy allows us to recruit the best and brightest, and to prepare them for leadership roles in pediatrics and obstetrics. You can’t find a better place for innovation.”