Inspiring Change Leadership, Spirit award winners announced

The winners of the 2017 Spirit Award are Christine Hendricks and Ana Mezynski. Kim Walker and Mary Ayers received the 2017 Inspiring Change Leadership Award.

Four staff members have been selected as this year’s winners of the School of Medicine’s Anne G. Crowe Spirit Award or the Inspiring Change Leadership Award.

Spirit Award winners are selected for their outstanding dedication, initiative, motivation, positive attitude and customer service. This year’s recipients are Christine Hendricks, clinical program manager in the Department of Emergency Medicine, and Ana Mezynski, administrative associate for the Stanford-Surgery Policy Improvement Research & Education Center.

The Inspiring Change Leadership Award, which goes to staff members who have implemented processes that improve the school, was given to Kim Walker, learning program manager in the Office of Information Resources & Technology, and Mary Ayers, director of learning spaces for Educational Programs and Services and the Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning.

Each winner will receive $3,000.

Christine Hendricks

Christine Hendricks

As the administrative staff for the Department of Emergency Medicine gathered for an award announcement, Hendricks had her camera out, all set to take a photo of the winner. “There I was, ready to take pictures of someone else, and it was me,” she said, laughing.

It was typical of Hendricks, whose co-workers say is always ready to assist, always humble, always gracious. “You never feel like you’re interrupting her, though of course you are,” said Stephanie Edelman, director of finance and administration for surgery and for emergency medicine. “She makes everyone feel that way.”

Hendricks, who has been with Stanford Medicine for 17 years, took on her current role five years ago. As manager of the administrative staff, she’s the glue that binds the team, the jill-of-all-trades who solves problems large and small. Among other tasks, she puts together the department newsletter and organizes meetings, celebrations, faculty retreats and graduation ceremonies. “My job is basically making sure everyone is taken care of,” she said.

Her job exposes her to the work of the faculty, including international programs and other projects outside the walls of the Emergency Medicine Department. “Everyone does so many different things,” she said. “I’m always learning something new.”

The award brought her to tears, she said. “I’ve always felt appreciated in the department, but they remembered these small details that made a big impact. It was just a great feeling.”

Ana Mezynski

Ana Mezynski

Knowing what her family means to her, Mezynski’s co-workers brought in her youngest child, her 14-year-old daughter, when Mezynski’s award was announced.

“I was really moved when I saw her,” Mezynski said, adding that her award is “a legacy for my two children.”

Mezynski plans events for the Stanford-Surgery Policy Improvement Research & Education Center, updates its website — which she developed — and oversees the office’s day-to-day needs, such as ordering supplies and maintaining the directory. She also assists the postdoctoral scholars and visiting scholars in the Division of General Surgery in applying for grants and obtaining visas.

As the support-staff member for a group of researchers, recently she has started collecting data herself: She produces a quarterly report of S-SPIRE’s accomplishments, such as papers published, grants awarded and consultations held with researchers who need help on their projects.

“I face a lot of challenges, and I like that about my job,” Mezynski said. “If I don’t have the answer, then I do some research and I find the answer.

“The S-SPIRE Center is giving me a lot of opportunities to grow.”

It was just this sort of enthusiasm for learning that earned her the award. “She takes initiative,” Edelman said. “She just pushes forward with whatever needs to be done, and comes up with ideas to make the process better. She has a huge work ethic.”

Kim Walker

Kim Walker

For the online medical education courses they produce, Walker’s instructional design and production team at Information Resources & Technology goes way beyond training a camera on a professor in front of a whiteboard.

Her team of animators, graphic designers and videographers film skits of actors playing physicians, create animated patient scenarios, and incorporate interactive activities such as role-playing. “We are being innovative and learning from every project,” Walker said.

The result, according to Mark Trenchard, director of academic and interactive technology, is “higher quality experiences and more effective content for our learners.”

“From day one, Kim looked above and beyond the way we were building the courses,” Trenchard said. “She inspires and is able to build high-performing and high-morale teams.”

When Walker started 2 ½ years ago, the courses were all continuing medical education for physicians. But her team is now producing courses for undergraduates, residents and health care workers around the globe. 

The courses cover all aspects of medicine, including transgender health, opioid addiction and prescribing practices. Walker said the transgender health course “has had an incredibly positive impact on the people who have taken the course, an enlightening on what it means to be born into a life that doesn’t match your body.”

Walker said she’s honored to be part of such life-changing medical education. She’s also inspired by her production team: “I feel very blessed to work with so many wonderful, talented, hardworking, creative individuals, and to be able to touch people’s lives through medical education,” she said.

Mary Ayers

Mary Ayers

Every year, Ayers and her team face an enormous, Tetris-like task: scheduling the 90 classrooms for the School of Medicine. Policies and priority levels complicate the process, as does the fact that the number of activities has doubled since the Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning opened in 2011.

This year, Ayers decided to streamline the system before the scheduling began in June using a lean launch initiative. Working with her “users” — those who ask for classroom space — Ayers’ team addressed the glitches in the system. They redesigned the request form and rewrote the instructions, among other improvements.

Along the way, Ayers tested any changes with the users and tweaked the system to make it even better. Once it was ready to go, she provided training for the new, improved system.

“Now, anyone requesting activities in the center better understands what we need, and we don’t have to go back to ask for more information,” Ayers said. “It’s much more user-friendly.”

Susan Eller, assistant dean for immersive and simulation-based learning, said that because of Ayers’ improvements, users will know the schedule two weeks earlier, allowing them more time to coordinate faculty and student schedules.

She added that Ayers’ 24 years of building relationships at Stanford were instrumental in the success of the relaunch: “People don’t like change, but so many people know and trust Mary they were willing to go with it.”

Ayers said that the scheduling relaunch has taught her and her colleagues about improving processes, and they’re planning to apply that knowledge to other functions, such as purchasing.

“With a redesign process like the one we used, people feel like they have a voice,” she said. “It brings people in, which ultimately makes it work.”

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.