Building a state-of-the-art Emergency Room for Silicon Valley

Today I’m extremely excited to tell you about a philanthropic gift that my wife Laura and I are making:

We are giving $27.5 million to Stanford Hospital, for two purposes:

First, to significantly enhance and upgrade Stanford Hospital’s current Emergency Department.

And second, to fund the creation of a new state-of-the-art emergency facility in the new hospital that Stanford will build — assuming it is approved by the city of Palo Alto — over the next several years.

As you can imagine, Laura and I are unbelievably excited by the opportunity to make this gift. In fact, we are so excited that I am going to tell you all about it at some length in this blog post!

For us, this gift is a great fit between a clear immediate need, and the prospect of helping to change the way the system that serves the need operates.

And we think the impact on Silicon Valley can be tremendous.


Stanford Hospital’s Emergency Department is the core emergency room for Silicon Valley. For example, the Stanford ER is the only Level 1 trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose. Most people who live in Silicon Valley have either been to the Stanford emergency room or have a close friend or family member who has — it’s the great equalizer; you go in at 2AM and you need it to be there, and you need the care to be outstanding. In short, the Stanford Emergency Department is an absolutely essential community resource — and while it has historically been underfunded, we hope that this gift will fix that.

But it’s not just an emergency room. In the last couple of decades, emergency services has also become a research field — and the doctors in the Emergency Department at Stanford are some of the leading researchers and teachers in that field. As you’d expect from a hospital tied to a major research university, new emergency medicine techniques and technologies can be invented and then directly translated into medical practice at Stanford, and then shared with the rest of the world. And so we also hope our gift will help boost the research and teaching efforts in Stanford’s Emergency Department and help improve emergency medicine throughout the US and worldwide.

Specifically, our gift will help the current Stanford Emergency Department do the following:


  • Renovate the current ER and upgrade a broad range of critical technologies, including digital X-rays, ultrasound machines, cardiac monitors, and communication and tracking systems.


  • Staff for improved efficiency and customer service. We are adding patient advocates and a nurse call-back/followup program, plus more residency positions to increase the number of doctors in the ER and to train more world-class emergency medicine experts who can go on to great careers and lead similar programs throughout the world.


  • Expand research programs in areas such as wound care, heart attack and stroke, and bioterrorism and disaster preparedness. We are among other things endowing a Medical Director position for Disaster Preparedness.

Beyond that, Stanford has announced its intention to build a brand new hospital over the next several years, potentially opening in 2015, assuming approval by the city of Palo Alto. Our gift will fund the creation of a new Emergency Department facility and ER within the new hospital.

We think this is a very big deal for several reasons:


  • The current emergency room was built in 1974 and designed to serve approximately 24,000 patients per year. It is currently serving more than twice that number. It can’t be moved due to the need to be integrated into the rest of the hospital. The new emergency room, however, will be more than twice as large, and able to handle many more patients without the current overcrowding and extended wait times.


  • The new Emergency Department will be designed to be state of the art from the ground up, and will incorporate all of the latest cutting-edge technologies. This is a huge opportunity for Silicon Valley — one of the most technologically advanced places on the planet — to have an emergency facility that is similarly technologically advanced, and we plan to seize that opportunity.


  • The new Emergency Department in the new hospital will be an even more effective focal point of innovation, research, and teaching, looking out to 2015 and beyond. There’s no doubt that emergency medicine 20 years from now will be much different than emergency medicine today, and Stanford can lead the way.

Finally, it is a perhaps sad fact of our current medical system that in any American community, the emergency room is also the backstop for people who either don’t have health insurance or cannot gain prompt access into a convoluted primary care system. The Stanford ER serves that purpose in Silicon Valley, and we think as long as our health care system works the way it does, that is a purpose that is clearly worth supporting.

Our motivations for the gift are straightforward: Silicon Valley has been unbelievably good to both of us. There is no way my career would even exist without Silicon Valley, and Laura was born and raised here, has lived here her whole life, and has built her career here. This is the most direct way we can think of to help make the community of Silicon Valley a better place. And, due to the research and teaching element of what we are doing, we think that there will also be leverage way beyond our community.

Let me close by thanking some people:


  • Thanks to the amazing team of doctors, nurses, and staff in the Stanford Emergency Department, led by Bob Norris and Paul Auerbach. Obviously everything I have described is only possible due to your amazing work and dedication. I look forward to working with you in the years to come to ensure that your environment is fully worthy of your efforts.


  • Thanks to the outstanding management team of the hospital, as well as the board (on which I am also honored to serve) — particularly Martha Marsh, Phil Pizzo, Denise O’Leary, and Mariann Byerwalter. You are leading a renaissance in health care in Silicon Valley, and the results of your work are going to be wonderful to see over the next decade and beyond.


  • And — if you don’t mind some mushiness at the end — let me thank my brilliant and lovely wife, Laura. I’m lucky enough to be married to one of the foremost philanthropy scholars and practitioners in the country — Laura teaches philanthropy at Stanford and Stanford business school, is the founder of her own highly successful venture philanthropy organization (SV2, the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund), and is writing an amazing book called Transformational Philanthropy (and she lets me read the drafts!). Without her love, support, inspiration, and teaching, this gift would not be happening — and it is ours together. My fondest hope is that this is the first of many such gifts we will be able to make in the future.