As an undergraduate student at Stanford, Cathy Garzio was drawn to two fields – human biology, reflecting her interest in health care, and Italian, honoring her heritage as the daughter of a first-generation Italian American father and an Italian immigrant mother.

Cathy Garzio (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

When Garzio graduated in the summer of 1979, becoming the first person in her family to earn a college degree, her parents traveled to campus from their home in Southern California for Commencement. She treasures a particular photograph from that time.

“I have one photo taken in Old Union, where all three of us are bursting with pride,” Garzio said.

It was the end of one academic journey and the beginning of another for Garzio, who would go on to earn a master of business administration (MBA) at the University of Chicago. It was a path that would eventually lead full circle back to Stanford.

Garzio, who became the vice chair and director of finance and administration in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine in 2015, is among this year’s winners of an Amy J. Blue Award, which honors members of the university’s staff who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Galina Malukhina, director of finance in the Department of Medicine, said the department has flourished under Garzio’s leadership.

“Cathy is an amazing leader and a bright star,” Malukhina said. “She has created a supportive and engaging culture for faculty and staff in the department, and has modeled for me how to be an effective and caring leader.”

One of three 2021 Amy J. Blue Award winners

In addition to Garzio, this year’s other Amy J. Blue Award winners are David Mucciarone, lab manager in the Department of Earth System Science in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, and Cheryll Ramirez, director of operations in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

They will be honored in a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12, in the courtyard of Lagunita Court, located on Santa Teresa Street opposite Roble Field. The ceremony will also recognize three staff members who won 2020 Amy J. Blue Awards and were honored last year during a virtual event. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne will present the awards.

Journey comes full circle

After earning an MBA, Garzio landed her first job at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco, followed by a position at a private group practice in Redwood City.

Later, she joined the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, where she served as administrative director in several departments. She had spent more than 13 years directing and managing the business and clinical operations of the Departments of Radiology and Otolaryngology when Stanford came calling.

“I was certainly excited about coming back and finishing my career at Stanford, where I’d gotten interested in health care,” Garzio said.

With an annual budget of $450 million, the Department of Medicine is the largest department within the School of Medicine – and at Stanford. Its roster of 650 faculty and 800 researchers and staff includes bench scientists doing basic research, educators training the next generation of doctors and clinicians caring for patients.

As the vice chair and director of finance and administration in the Department of Medicine, Garzio oversees teams responsible for a variety of functions, including finance, sponsored research, human resources, faculty affairs, IT and space allocation. She also supports and advises 14 division managers who report to faculty leaders.

“The thing I love the most about the job is building great teams of people and watching them develop and grow,” she said.

Since she arrived at the department six years ago, Garzio has been deeply involved in its initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion. She said her job is to “be an idea generator and cheerleader” and create an environment where diverse faculty, staff and trainees are recruited, retained and feel included.

“One equity initiative that I’m very proud of is creating the faculty salary scale, which essentially took negotiation out of the discussion of base salary,” she said. “That’s really helped a lot of people in the department – women and men. Base salary is now determined by specialty, rank and years-at-rank and that’s it – we pick the number from a grid. It was later adopted by the entire School of Medicine.”

Garzio has also helped the department celebrate its female faculty, researchers and staff.

Since 2019, women have gathered in September on the steps of the Clark Center – staff wearing red and faculty wearing white lab coats – to commemorate Women in Medicine month with a group photo. The first photo hangs in a prominent position in the Office of the Chair of the Department of Medicine.

“We wanted photos in the Chair’s office to show more female and under-represented members of our department, as one step toward making our environment reflect our values,” Garzio said. “We did a virtual photo last year, due to COVID, and a hybrid photo – in person and on Zoom – this year. It’s become a tradition.”