Nancy Lonhart, ‘heart, soul and engine’ of Stanford Health Policy, wins 2016 Amy J. Blue Award

Lonhart, who provides administrative and financial leadership, guidance and oversight for the Center for Health Policy and the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research, is one of this year’s Amy J. Blue Award winners.

When Nancy Lonhart arrives at her office in Encina Commons she is ready to “hit the ground running” while maintaining a patient and understanding demeanor with everyone – faculty, researchers, fellows, students, staff, visiting VIPs, the janitor and the UPS delivery person.

She is the calm at the center of the storm for the 70 people working at the Center for Health Policy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research in the Department of Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine.

Nancy Lonhart standing in arcade

Nancy Lonhart, associate director of the Center for Health Policy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and division manager of the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research in the Department of Medicine, is one of three winners of the 2016 Amy J. Blue Award. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The two centers, which are part of a multidisciplinary enterprise known as Stanford Health Policy, conduct rigorous research to lay the foundation for better domestic and international health policy and health care in the United States and around the world.

Lonhart is associate director of the Center for Health Policy, and division manager of the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research. She provides administrative and financial leadership, guidance and oversight to the centers, including strategic planning and development, finance and research administration, human resources and student affairs.

“My goal is to make everyone’s life, work and research run as smoothly and as efficiently as possible,” said Lonhart, who joined the organization in 2007.

Lonhart is one of this year’s winners of the Amy J. Blue Award, which honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

The other two winners are Lynn Dixon, faculty data systems specialist in Faculty Affairs, which is part of the Office of the Provost; and Jörg Grawert, a lead maintenance multicraft trade technician in Student Housing, which is part of Residential & Dining Enterprises.

President John Hennessy will present each recipient with an Amy J. Blue Award on Tuesday, May 17, in the Gunn Atrium of Bing Concert Hall, which is located at 327 Lasuen Street, at Museum Way. The ceremony, which is open to families, friends and colleagues of the recipients, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

Work, family, life

After graduating from the University of California, Davis, Lonhart “followed her heart” to the Bay Area for her boyfriend, Hal, now her husband of 32 years. She landed a job in nursing administration at Stanford Hospital, then known as Stanford Health Services.

In 1992, after a 12-year battle with kidney disease, a routine blood test revealed that her kidneys were failing. Four months later, Lonhart received a kidney from her brother, Bill.

“When it came time for the transplant surgery, all I had to do was walk downstairs and check myself into C-2, the transplant unit at the time,” Lonhart said with a laugh. “It’s been a glorious 23-year journey since then to become who I am and what I am – much of it thanks to the people and the profound sense of community I have here at Stanford.”

Lonhart and her husband, Hal Lonhart, have two daughters – Rita and Julia.

In 2001, Lonhart became the administrator for the Department of Anthropological Sciences at Stanford and moved into an office on the Main Quad. Six years later, she joined Stanford Health Policy.

Lonhart, who was a member of the track team in high school, still puts on her running shoes – and her swimsuit – for the Transplant Games of America, a multi-sport event for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. She has competed in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races and the long jump and in swimming events. In 1998, she was named “Female Athlete of the Games.” She also competed in the Summer World Transplant Games in France in 2003.

“We took the girls all over the United States and Europe – that’s what made the games so much fun,” Lonhart said. “Of course, the games are much more than the competitions. They are the chance to share your story with people who have struggled through the common, everyday motions of life. At the games you hear about dreams. You hear about hope. You talk with families who made the extraordinary decision to save a life through donation. It is an incredibly powerful, indescribable experience. Those years were a beautiful and wonderful journey we shared with the girls as they were growing up.”

Praise from colleagues

Colleagues said Lonhart has an “unwavering can-do attitude” and inspires the best in everyone who works at the center. In addition, colleagues said Lonhart is always looking for ways to enhance the skills and further the careers of her staff.

Kathryn McDonald, executive director and senior scholar of the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research, said Lonhart works many hours – tirelessly – because she cares so deeply about the work and the people.

“When Nancy asks, ‘How are you?’ her earnestness elicits how I am really doing,” McDonald said. “It opens up exchanges that we need to have – and work problems get solved. She does this with everyone. She is grounded, and ever so capable in knowing just what is needed to work in a customized fashion with each and every person she works with. Nancy is the heart, soul and engine of our centers. Many people look to our centers and wonder how it is possible to have such a great work environment with such incredible faculty productivity. Nancy. She makes it all possible, in an incredibly humble way.”

David Studdert, a professor of medicine and of law at Stanford, said Lonhart has been instrumental in helping Stanford Health Policy to grow over the last decade into “one of the best, most vibrant places in the world” to do health policy research and teaching. He said Lonhart has played an important role in creating the atmosphere of collaboration and intellectual excitement that characterizes the Center for Health Policy.

“Nancy is calm, unfailingly positive and amazingly good at what she does,” he said. “She is a patient teacher who understands the way university administration works – no small feat. She is a diplomat and expert negotiator. She believes very strongly in the mission and work of the center and this belief clearly shapes the way she approaches her job. Despite all of this talent and accomplishment, Nancy seeks no limelight. She is a quiet achiever.”

Douglas Owens, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Primary Care & Outcomes Research and the Center for Health Policy, said Lonhart has been instrumental in helping develop and implement the strategic plan for the centers, and for assessing and guiding their progress.

“Nancy works with all of the faculty in the two centers daily, managing a broad range of issues with the Department of Medicine, the Department of Pediatrics and other campus research groups,” Owens said.

“The skill and talent she brings to her work with the faculty is reflected in the universal acclaim our faculty have for Nancy’s work. She manages exceptionally complex grants, contracts and human resources both in the School of Medicine and on the main campus, particularly in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Nancy’s work has contributed immeasurably to the mission of our centers, to the success of our faculty, and to building a truly extraordinary staff. She is richly deserving of the Amy J. Blue Award.”