Departments of emergency medicine, biomedical data science to be created

The creation of the departments will allow the School of Medicine to continue building on its strengths in both bioscience and health-care delivery, dean says.

In a move that reflects the changing landscape of health care and biomedicine, the Stanford University Board of Trustees this week unanimously approved the creation of two new departments in the School of Medicine.

The Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department of Biomedical Data Science will be the school’s first new departments since the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery was established in 2003.

“Bringing emergency medicine to full department status, and uniting biostatistics and bioinformatics under the new Biomedical Data Science Department gives us the opportunity to leverage our existing strengths in these disciplines and position ourselves for continued success,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.

Creating departments dedicated to these disciplines will position Stanford as a leader in these fields, which will help to attract and retain the finest faculty, students and trainees, he added, as well as expand research and clinical programs that will bring exceptional care to patients.

The two new departments will bring the school’s total number to 30. School officials said more information about plans for the departments will be shared in the coming weeks.

The new department will enable Stanford to unite its strengths in biostatistics and in biomedical informatics.

Biomedical data science

Biology and health care are being transformed by large-scale data analysis. The Department of Biomedical Data Science will build on the medical school’s strengths in developing and applying information technology to prevent disease, deliver more efficient patient care, streamline applications in translational research and improve access to biomedical data. The field has grown rapidly and has proven to be an invaluable tool for ensuring clinical objectives and best practices.

“Stanford is already a world leader in innovation methodology in biostatistics and biomedical informatics,” said Russ Altman, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering, of genetics and of biomedical informatics research. “Uniting these disciplines under the auspices of a single department will allow us to approach data and information in a whole new way.” Altman, a member of the core planning group that prepared the proposal for departmental status, added, “Big data holds unbelievable opportunities to change how medicine is explored and delivered.

Quantitative modeling and qualitative modeling have been traditionally distinct practices. The department will establish a unified discipline to address computational challenges in biomedicine and an expanded graduate training program that will attract top students and faculty working in these formerly disparate applications. It will focus on scientific leadership, faculty development and training new leaders.

“Leadership in this area is fundamental to Stanford’s vision of leading the biomedical revolution in precision health,” Minor said. “Stanford is already the world leader in innovative methodology in biostatistics and bioinformatics, and bringing together these two synergetic areas allows us to approach data and information in a whole new way — creating the new discipline of biomedical data science.”

Altman noted that “a unified department will allow Stanford to take a quantum leap in application and methodology innovation, and in defining the discipline. It will allow us to apply concentrated expertise to every aspect of medicine and biomedicine, and bring us closer to precision health in providing care.”

More than 40 percent of Stanford's patients are first evaluated and treated by emergency medicine physicians.
Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Emergency medicine

The decision to establish emergency medicine as its own department — it has been a division in the Department of Surgery — reflects its importance in evaluating and managing complex and high-acuity patients. It serves as the major point of entry to inpatient care as more than 40 percent of all patients admitted to the hospital are first evaluated and treated by emergency medicine physicians.

A recent study by Rand Health, an independent health research group, found that emergency physicians act as the major decision-makers for approximately half of all hospital admissions in the United States and are used with increasing frequency to conduct complex diagnostic workups. Emergency medicine is recognized as an autonomous department in 85 percent of the nation’s medical colleges, and Stanford was the last medical school in California without a department devoted to emergency medicine.

“Emergency medicine coordinates and collaborates with virtually every specialty in the hospital, interfaces directly with the community, maintains a sizeable training program of students, residents and fellows, and conducts research in a nationally important area of scholarship,” said Robert Jackler, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, who chaired the faculty task force that evaluated the transition proposal. “It’s an essential component of Stanford Medicine that will serve an even more vital role as a department.”

As a field, emergency medicine has emerged as an independent academic medical specialty with unique applications in triage, pandemics, humanitarian outreach and community service. Stanford is the only level-1 adult trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose and was verified as a level-1 pediatric trauma center in 2013 — the only one in the Bay Area recognized by the American College of Surgeons.

“Transitioning from a division to a department will allow emergency medicine to reach its full potential in health care and training,” Jackler said. “It’s an essential aspect of Stanford Medicine and now has the opportunity to take a leadership role in setting strategic goals and coordinating care.”

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

Leading in Precision Health

Stanford Medicine is leading the biomedical revolution in precision health, defining and developing the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive and precise. 

A Legacy of Innovation

Stanford Medicine's unrivaled atmosphere of breakthrough thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration has fueled a long history of achievements.