Q&A with Mariann Byerwalter, interim president and CEO of Stanford Health Care

Recently named interim president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, Mariann Byerwalter talks about why this is a particularly exciting time for SHC as it builds a new hospital and pursues innovative breakthroughs that improve people's lives.

Mariann Byerwalter

Mariann Byerwalter (Image credit: Stanford Health Care )

Mariann Byerwalter became Stanford Health Care’s interim president and CEO earlier this month.  She brings to the position a long and diverse history of leadership at Stanford. 

A 1982 Stanford graduate who also earned an MBA at Harvard Business School, Mariann has served on the board of directors of Stanford Health Care (SHC) for 15 years, including eight as chair.  She has been a board member of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for more than 20 years, chairs the Stanford Medicine Advisory Council and co-chairs the Campaign for Stanford Medicine.  From 1992 through 2012, she served three terms on the Stanford University Board of Trustees, chairing the Trustee Committee on the Medical Center.  She also has served as Stanford University’s chief financial officer and vice president for business affairs.

In 2015, Byerwalter received a Gold Spike Award, the university’s highest honor for volunteer service.  In addition, she was awarded a 2015 School of Medicine Dean’s Medal in recognition of her contributions to advancing Stanford Medicine.

She is the chairman of the board of SRI International, a nonprofit independent research center that was originally founded as Stanford Research Center, and also serves on the boards of several other companies.

Byerwalter talked about her current role as interim president and CEO.

You clearly have a long history and deep affinity for the Stanford community. What has kept you connected and committed to Stanford throughout the years?

Stanford grabbed my intellect – and my heart – when I first set foot on campus 37 years ago, and I have never looked back.  I began volunteering soon after graduation and have committed myself to the work of this extraordinary enterprise ever since.  Stanford Health Care especially inspires me, because it combines everything that Stanford does best, while touching people’s lives in very personal and lasting ways.

How will your range of leadership roles at Stanford be beneficial in the coming months in your new role as interim president and CEO?

I can’t imagine a more exciting time to engage with a wide range of Stanford Health Care’s constituents, supporters and staff. We are seeing the culmination of years of planning and preparation come to fruition, with construction of the new Stanford Hospital moving forward and its opening planned for 2018, innovative collaborations with physicians throughout Northern California, and enhanced community services from primary care to greater access to Stanford specialists.  I hope that my long history and broad perspective will provide context for this transformation both externally and within the university.

What priorities will you focus on initially?

Stanford Health Care is on the right path for the future.  My priority will be to continue the momentum and focus that have brought us to such an exciting era, while we continue our search for a permanent CEO.  At the same time, we will continue to provide exceptional service to every patient. We’ve made great progress to ensure that the patient experience at Stanford Health Care is commensurate with the quality of care we provide, and that remains an important priority.

As SHC continues its leadership in global health, what opportunities do you see on the horizon?

In addition to creating a model for the hospital of the future, we have a tremendous opportunity to re-think health care.  This is an era in which Stanford’s greatest strengths can fuel innovation – from interdisciplinary discovery and rapid translation of breakthroughs into patient care, to harnessing the potential of big data and making personalized, interactive health care technology tools standard for patients and care teams.  There is no limit to what can be achieved with the magnitude of talent here.

It must be very gratifying to see the expansion of Stanford Hospital moving toward completion and its projected opening in 2018.  What impact do you envision the new hospital will have?

I look forward to seeing the immediate impact of the beautiful patient-centered healing environment the new hospital will provide.  I also am anticipating with great excitement what this state-of-the-art facility will make possible for SHC physicians, nurses and other care providers who have been so involved in its meticulous planning and design.  In the long term, it will be amazing to see the treatments and cures we cannot even imagine now because of this transformative investment.

As 2016 begins, what would you like to share with SHC employees?

I have a deep respect and admiration for everyone at Stanford Health Care, as they all contribute to the life-changing work here.  Every role makes a difference in the lives of our patients and their families.  It is a privilege for me to hear from so many friends, neighbors, colleagues and community members about the outstanding care they receive at Stanford, and I look forward to working alongside those who make this possible.


How can SHC best serve the local community and Silicon Valley?

We can serve best by listening and by leading.  Listening helps us understand and meet the needs of our local patients and community partners for access, convenience and collaboration.  Leading enables us to apply Stanford Health Care’s drive for innovation, combined with the pioneering spirit of Silicon Valley, to create new solutions.  The results of these efforts enhance the quality of life here for everyone.