Medical school sets up Office of Community Health

Marilyn Winkleby

The School of Medicine has established a new Office of Community Health to address community health needs through collaborative partnerships with community-based organizations.

Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, formally announced the opening of the office at the Oct. 4 Forum on Community Health and Public Service. "The soul of our mission is community service," he said. "There's no question that we are a very research-intensive School of Medicine, but we would fall short of really doing something significant if we forgot about the communities that surround us." He called the opening of the new office "a really important statement for Stanford."

The team involved in this new venture will be led by Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, associate professor of medicine and founder of the 18-year-old Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, and Ann Banchoff, MPH, MSW, formerly with the Public Service Medical Scholars Program. Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, the new director of the Scholarly Concentration in Community Health and Public Service, will also play a critical role. Paul Wise, MD, the Richard E. Behrman Professor in Child Health and Society, will chair the office's advisory board, which includes members of the community as well as faculty, staff and students.

Winkleby said the office would build on the School of Medicine's mission to promote "the humane and caring practices of medicine and a sense of obligation to improve the health of the public."

Those involved with the new effort said it would promote and facilitate the integration of community service and public health scholarship. By building and maintaining sustained community partnerships, the office will create a foundation for more community-based teaching and an increased focus on prevention and outpatient care.

Banchoff called the new office "an energetic enterprise," and noted that the integration with the academic program is needed to maintain a link between meeting community needs and training future leaders in community health.

Approximately 12 Stanford medical students select Community Health and Public Service as their scholarly concentration each year, making it one of the most popular concentrations. Chamberlain said that the office will provide a critical foundation for building students' understanding of local medicine and public health needs, adding that "success will come from engaging community leaders, who are significant architects in this enterprise."

In order to build effective community-campus partnerships, office leaders are seeking input from a number of past community partners as well as students, faculty and staff.

Key partners involved in these early stages include the San Mateo County Health Services Agency, Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, Santa Clara County Family Health Plan, Community Health Partnership of Santa Clara County, Mayview Community Health Center and the Ravenswood School District. Additionally, the student-run Arbor and Pacific Free Clinics will participate as internal partners. The office will also collaborate with on-campus organizations that have related missions.

The new office was created with funding from the dean's office and the Valley Foundation, a Los Gatos-based nonprofit organization that supports local organizations specializing in medical services and health care, with particular emphasis on services to lower income households.

During the first year the staff will be working closely with the office's advisory board and the Office of Medical Development to expand the vision for future years and to initiate a fundraising campaign to support the effort. As for the long term, Winkleby noted, "What this really translates to is an opportunity for undergraduate and medical students to learn more about prevention and outpatient care and to develop an understanding that health disparities are shaped by social and economic forces."

Aditi Risbud is a science-writing intern in the Office of Communication & Public Affairs at the School of Medicine.