In the Pathology Department, the computer doctor is always 'in'

Faculty, postdocs, students and staff turn to Galen Crivello when a hard drive crashes, a computer freezes or data disappears.

L.A. Cicero Galen Crivello

Galen Crivello

In Galen Crivello's infirmary in the Stanford School of Medicine, the patients are silver iMacs ravaged by viruses, ailing PC towers awaiting diagnoses and laptops suffering from bloated batteries.

Whatever the electronic ailment, Crivello can fix it – or he'll hound the responsible company until they do.

Crivello, the computer systems manager in the school's Pathology Department, is the go-to guy for its 200 faculty, students, postdoctoral research fellows and staff when a hard drive crashes, a computer freezes or data disappears.

He is one of the three people chosen for this year's Amy J. Blue Awards. The awards honor staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Robert Krochak, the department's director of finance and administration, said Crivello brings a unique personal touch – prompt, cheerful, caring and personal – to a highly demanding job dealing with technology that is constantly changing.

"He combines an extremely high level of competence with a friendly, personable approach," Krochak said. "He goes out of his way to provide additional input or support that is far above the expected. As a consequence, the staff of our department has acquired a high level of competence and comfort with our computer systems, due in large part to Galen's support and eager willingness to educate concerning the issues involved with our particular information technology problems."

This year, the other two Amy J. Blue Award winners are Maggie Burgett, project manager in the Department of Project Management in the division of Land, Buildings and Real Estate, and Monica Wheeler, administrative services manager in the History Department.

The three award winners will be honored in a ceremony that will take place from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on May 18 in Lagunita Courtyard (Santa Teresa Street). The award comes with a $3,000 prize and an "A" parking permit for next year.

Calm demeanor and high energy

Crivello was born and raised in San Bruno. While working in several computer related jobs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including selling computers for Good Guys, Crivello discovered that he had a knack for communicating about technology in a way that others could easily understand.

In early 2002, Crivello was hired as a temporary assistant at Stanford to create training tutorials and automate data analysis for Oracle's Delphi Financial System. In July of that year, he joined the staff of Academic Technology Services to work as a computer systems analyst. A year later, he began working in the Medical School's Pathology Department.

The Pathology Department's goal is to improve the diagnosis, treatment and basic understanding of human disease through research – by advancing basic science and translational and clinical research in pathology and related fields; by providing diagnostic services and blood products of the highest quality to patients; and by teaching medical and graduate students, residents and fellows.

People who nominated Crivello for the Amy J. Blue Award gave several examples of how he had come to their rescue over the years:

  • "During my sabbatical, when my cell phone lost all of the contacts that I had created over many years, Galen helped me recreate the list."
  • "He has, on more than one occasion, helped me obtain and then initiate and support a new computer when mine crashed in the midst of a tense, academic session or writing requirements."
  • "He has always gone above and beyond the call of duty, providing me with top-rate computer support, including long-distance phone support when I'm away at meetings."

Crivello may spend hours on the phone with a computer company to make sure it honors warranties on equipment and provides customer support to users.

"That's what information technology is about – someone who will be a voice for [the doctors] so they don't have to do that on their busy schedule," he said.

Crivello also keeps computer parts – like hard drives and video cards – in his office in the Edwards Building.

"I try to save money by refreshing the old computers so we don't have to keep buying new ones," he said. "I'm very frugal."

Dr. Christina Kong, associate professor of pathology, described Crivello as one of those "rare people who are constantly upbeat and consistently positive, and brighten up the environment around them," when she nominated him for the award.

"Galen comes in the mornings to help set everything up for the Pathology morning teaching conferences – PowerPoint, LCD projector, audience response system, WebEx, link to the VA Hospital – and sometimes things aren't working," Kong wrote.

"But no matter how annoyed or frustrated a faculty member or resident is, Galen maintains a genuinely positive and patient attitude while he fixes the problem. Since Galen is so successful at fixing all of our various information technology problems, it has come to the point that just having him show up makes everyone relax and feel confident that everything will be taken care of expeditiously."

Crivello, who lives with his wife and 3-year-old son in San Jose, is known for his dedication to his job and his devotion to the people who work in the department.

He said it's often hard to balance work and family life. In fact, Crivello sometimes doesn't return home until after midnight on workdays. But he's careful to make time to attend church with his family on Sundays.

At Stanford, Crivello likes teaching people in the department how to best use their computers and protect their data.

"At his own initiative, he has established a website that provides up-to-date information on many computer issues, including free software that he has tested for their potential to replace word processing, graphics or accounting applications that currently require expensive licenses," Krochak wrote.

Among some of the latest and greatest gadgets Crivello has described on the Pathology Department Help Site:

  • A laundry-proof jump drive that self-destructs if someone tries to hack in;
  • Free software that works like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator;
  • Free screen-sharing, conferencing software that uses encryption to make sure patient information isn't compromised;
  • An iPhone app – iStanford - for Stanford Web pages.

Scott Boyd, assistant professor of pathology, said he was grateful for the time Crivello takes to educate faculty.

"He is always available, responds very quickly to requests for help and looks out for the interests of Stanford hospital patients by making data security and confidentiality a top priority," Boyd said. "In addition to his energy, enthusiasm and dedication, he has a pleasant manner that makes it enjoyable to work with him."

Gwyneth Dickey is an intern with the Stanford News Service.