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Two Medicine staffers win awards for contributions to research

STANFORD -- Robert S. Kernoff and Thomas C. Rindfleisch, staff members in the Department of Medicine, have been named winners of the fourth annual Marshall D. O'Neill Award, which recognizes staff contributions to Stanford University's research enterprise.

The awards, which include a plaque and $2,000 prize for each recipient, will be presented Thursday, Jan. 6, at a Faculty Club reception. The O'Neill Award represents the only formal faculty recognition of staff at Stanford. This year, 28 staff members were nominated for the award.

Staff from all seven schools and any of the administrative departments are eligible for the award, but this year for the first time both winners were from the same department. Kernoff is a senior research scientist in the division of cardiovascular medicine; Rindfleisch is a senior engineering research associate in the Knowledge Systems Laboratory.

"This is a great opportunity to honor two people, each in different fields but with a similar number of years at Stanford," said Pat Devaney, associate dean of research. "They have a tremendous sense of service to their field and to the faculty, and have made major contributions."

Scheduled to make remarks about Kernoff at the reception are nominators Drs. Norman Shumway, cardiothoracic surgery, and Edward Rubenstein, medicine. Professor Nils Nilsson, computer science, and Dr. Edward Shortliffe, medicine, will speak on Rindfleisch's behalf.

Each of the two recipients has more than two decades' service at Stanford.

Self-styled surgeon

Kernoff has played a prominent role in the cardiology research program for the past 22 years, having worked as research laboratory supervisor in the Cardiovascular Medicine Department since 1972. In his time at Stanford, he has directly participated in about 100 published investigative projects.

"Bob Kernoff has single-handedly developed an investigational laboratory at Stanford to support technology research," Dr. Stephen Oesterle wrote in his nomination letter. "Over the last 20 years, he has quietly worked without much in the way of internal support to build a laboratory that is recognized throughout the United States as being one of the outstanding venues for the evolution of new technologies."

Shumway wrote, "Bob is an all-around individual who plays many roles and has, in my opinion, made stars out of a number of faculty members of the Cardiology Division.

"He is just as good a veterinarian as anyone with that license and degree, and he is a superb experimental surgeon who can make any type of preparation for physiological studies," Shumway wrote.

Oesterle concurred with Shumway's assessment of Kernoff's surgical skills.

"While a medic in Viet Nam, [Kernoff] learned various surgical techniques, which has allowed him to operate independently in the animal lab," Oesterle wrote. "He has essentially trained himself as a self-styled cardiac surgeon with operating skills at the highest level. Not only has he trained a generation of fellows in these surgical techniques, but [he] has been able to marshal most of the faculty through their large animal experiments."

Bridging schools with systems

The Knowledge Systems Laboratory, in which Rindfleisch works, bridges the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Medicine; Rindfleisch's work was cited as being crucial in making this interdisciplinary project a major success, one that has served as the model for other universities and institutions.

"Tom has been a superb supporter of Stanford research for over 20 years, overseeing what is arguably the premier research computing facility on campus and providing a philosophy of quality and user- orientation that 'spoils' our students and staff," Shortliffe wrote in his nomination letter.

Douglas Brutlag, associate professor of biochemistry, added: "Tom's experience and leadership in this area has, in a large part, kept Stanford at the leading edge of research in the area of network development and sharing of data and research."

Rindfleisch helped develop, and later managed, the SUMEX-AIM Computer Resource; when SUMEX was scheduled to be phased out in 1992, he played a major role in conceiving a new resource, the Center for Advanced Medical Information at Stanford (CAMIS).

In doing so, Shortliffe wrote, "Tom has dedicated himself for two decades to bringing excellence to the Stanford research endeavor, bridging two departments in two schools throughout, and he has given selflessly of his time and energy to support institutional planning activities outside the areas of his immediate responsibility."

Mark Musen, assistant professor of medicine and computer science, wrote that Rindfleisch "is an extraordinarily talented and hardworking person whose leadership has fostered more than two decades of world- class research in artificial intelligence and medical informatics at Stanford."

The O'Neill award was established in 1990 and named for its first recipient, Marshall O'Neill, when he retired as associate director of Hansen Laboratory. In 1992, the award went to Manuel Gutierrez, a technician in the Hansen facility; In 1991, there were two winners, Wolfgang Jung, supervisor of the Physics Department machine shop, and Rita Kuhn of the research administration group in the School of Engineering.


This story was written by Anah Gunesch, a news writing intern with the Stanford News Service.


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