Our Approach

Using the factors identified in the Stanford Model for Professional Fulfillment™ as a starting point, the WellMD & WellPhD Center has crafted an approach to well-being that extends far beyond reducing burnout. Our approach responds to the high-level strategic priorities and choices we must make in order to increase levels of professional fulfillment for physicians and scientists at Stanford.

We believe that successful strategies provide focus, inform decisions, and guide resource allocation. Great strategies clarify not only what to do but what not to do. While a well-being strategy must respond to the unique challenges, opportunities, and goals of each organization, several fundamental components can serve as a blueprint to guide the well-being strategy for most organizations: foundational programs, culture transformation, rapid iterative experimentation, and sustainability.  (Learn more about educational programs we offer to help you equip your organization.)

Foundational programs include proven interventions where best practices, which should be implemented across all institutions, exist. Foundational programs include the following:

  • Safety net resources for physicians in distress and for individuals during major life transitions. See Resources at Stanford for examples of resources at Stanford Medicine.
  • Evidence-based self care and wellness promotion offerings. See Resources at Stanford for examples of these programs at Stanford Medicine.
  • Deliberate programs like Commensality Groups to promote collegiality and community at work.
  • Assessment of well-being and its driver dimensions at recurring intervals, coupled with a robust approach to disseminate results to clinical and operational leaders. See the Stanford Doctor Survey™ and Stanford Scientist Survey™ pages to learn more about the Center’s actions in this category.
  • System-wide approaches that provide clinicians the opportunity to identify and prioritize the local factors that irritate them — what we call the “pebbles in the shoe” — as well as a process that empowers them to address these. From submitting requests and input to the Center directly, joining a focus group, networking with other well-being experts and advocates at our monthly Physician Wellness Forum (PWF), or piloting improvement programs in their departments, Stanford physicians have a variety of options for making their voice heard and taking action. Our Department Well-Being Directors (DWBDs) are a crucial touchpoint between physicians and leaders as they learn about emerging issues, communicate them to leadership, and galvanize action to remedy them.

Driving culture transformation requires catalyzing a change in the organizational conversation, building coalitions, attending to leadership behaviors that promote professional fulfillment, advancing a mindset of distributed ownership of healthcare professional well-being, creating a network of change agents in each work unit (department, division, section, and clinic), and creating visibility and accountability for well-being performance metrics (department and work-unit leaders, executives, and boards). Essentially, culture change requires the organizational mindset that physician well-being is truly everyone’s job.

Our approach incorporates both near-term as well as longer term improvements and structural changes required to promote well-being at Stanford Medicine. We follow a rapid, iterative experimental model where we identify targets (drivers of burnout or professional fulfillment) and then develop, evaluate, and apply innovative interventions to improve them. This approach ensures that we only scale and share widely what works and what’s been proven, as we work to advance the field, both inside and outside of Stanford Medicine.

Finally, to optimally deploy the Center’s resources and ensure sustainability of physician well-being efforts over the long term, strategic alignment, prioritization, and internal collaborations across the organization are critical.

For more about how to promote well-being at an organizational level and design an effective strategy for a well-being center of excellence, see the Well-Being ToolKit™ for Organizations.

Transforming an organization’s culture into one promoting well-being requires six main elements.


Like the translational science approach, the rapid, iterative well-being experimental model first identifies and characterizes the target, then pilots novel programs to impact that target, rigorously evaluates their efficacy, refines the intervention based on results, and only scales programs after they have been both proven effective and optimized.