Stanford Children's CEO Paul King: The 'unrelenting pursuit of excellence' in pediatric and obstetric care

Recently, Becker's Healthcare Publisher Scott Becker interviewed Paul A. King, president and CEO of Stanford Children’s Health, who discussed the Stanford ecosystem and the environment of inherent innovation in Silicon Valley. King describes empowering the organization’s leaders of tomorrow and refers to the “unrelenting pursuit of excellence” in pediatric and obstetric care that motivates him and the Stanford Children’s Health executive team every day.

To hear the full discussion between Scott Becker and Paul King, visit here.

Here’s a sneak peek (and a few highlights) from the discussion, edited for length and clarity.

Scott Becker: What made you decide to take on this challenge?

Paul King: I chose medicine because I was always fascinated by helping people and when we think about what is at the core of medicine, I think that’s it. Once I got into college and realized I really wasn’t a fan of biology and chemistry and physics and all of those courses, I decided my route would be somewhat different. I was a business major as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska. One of the courses we had as a sophomore was a communications class where we were asked to interview someone whose job we wanted in five years. I chose to interview a hospital administrator, and that was sort of a magic moment for me when I saw that business and medicine could come together in a way that made sense for me.

SB: What are you most excited about when you look at what you’re doing at Stanford Children’s Health and what the community is doing there?

PK: One of the exciting things, that was also a draw for me to come here, is being immersed in the whole infrastructure and the ecosystem of Stanford. Being embedded in a premier university and to have an excellent medical center that’s part of that university is pretty exciting. When we think about the opportunity to reach across the different schools of medicine, law, business, and engineering, it gives us an opportunity to be even better at what we do. […] Also to be here in the Silicon Valley, in the birthplace of VCs and all of the technology companies, also adds a different flavor for what we’re trying to do here, particularly as healthcare becomes more technology dependent.

SB: What are you most proud of in the institution?

PK: It's that pursuit of excellence. One of the things that is probably a common thread across most of the academic medical centers is ‘good is never good enough.’ I think even our best scientists, surgeons and medical experts are still looking for a way to do it better. In academic medicine, the whole idea is to share your better practices with your colleagues. So it's not that we want to be better because we want to be better than someone else. We want to be better for the right reasons. We want to give better patient care.

SB: Any thoughts or advice that you have for other leaders and other people leading institutions?

PK: I think part of it is to remember your core mission in terms of why you exist and why you’re there. From an academic medical center standpoint, we all share the same three missions of providing excellent patient care, teaching and research. So, as leaders and as administrators – as CEO – my task is to make sure that I can empower those who are closest to the patient to do their best work. As we think about what’s happening demographically with the baby boomer population and all of these other different populations coming through the pipeline, we’re not going to have enough caregivers to do care the way we’re doing it today. We need to think differently about technology. We need to think differently about who does what in terms of providing an opportunity for everyone to really practice at the top of their capability.

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