Case Study: The Stanford University School of Medicine and Its Teaching Hospitals

Pizzo, Philip A. MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318181d880
Academic Health Centers

There is wide variation in the governance and organization of academic health centers (AHCs), often prompted by or associated with changes in leadership. Changes at AHCs are influenced by institutional priorities, economic factors, competing needs, and the personality and performance of leaders. No organizational model has uniform applicability, and it is important for each AHC to learn what works or does not on the basis of its experiences. This case study of the Stanford University School of Medicine and its teaching hospitals—which constitute Stanford’s AHC, the Stanford University Medical Center—reflects responses to the consequences of a failed merger of the teaching hospitals and related clinical enterprises with those of the University of California–San Francisco School of Medicine that required a new definition of institutional priorities and directions. These were shaped by a strategic plan that helped define goals and objectives in education, research, patient care, and the necessary financial and administrative underpinnings needed. A governance model was created that made the medical school and its two major affiliated teaching hospitals partners; this arrangement requires collaboration and coordination that is highly dependent on the shared objectives of the institutional leaders involved. The case study provides the background factors and issues that led to these changes, how they were envisioned and implemented, the current status and challenges, and some lessons learned. Although the current model is working, future changes may be needed to respond to internal and external forces and changes in leadership.

Author Information

Dr. Pizzo is dean and Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Pizzo, Office of the Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine, Alway Building, M-121, 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305-5119; telephone: (650) 724-5688; fax: (650) 725-7368; e-mail: (

© 2008 Association of American Medical Colleges