Sunday Message: Community Efforts Against COVID-19

Dean Jon Levin writes to the Stanford GSB community sharing efforts across the university and Stanford Health Care to help fight COVID-19.

April 12, 2021

It was the first time in thirty years that I had celebrated Passover with all of my siblings and cousins, and the first time ever with their families. We started with expressions of gratitude: for relatives who had been sick and were recovering, for scientists and healthcare workers, for being together in our homes, for being able to connect at a distance. At the end of a long meal, everyone agreed it was one of our best Seders.

At Stanford GSB, we continue to acclimate to virtual instruction, virtual activities, and remote work. Our full slate of classes is now running. The Business and Society, and Last Lecture classes have launched with hundreds of students participating. I particularly would like to thank students and staff in Schwab and McDonald Hall for their ongoing efforts to respect social distancing. Our ability to maintain safe residences is a major issue at Stanford. We hope to set an example of how it can work.

With spring quarter underway, I expect to switch to bi-weekly updates, unless there is pressing news. This week I would like to share some stories I have been hearing from across Stanford, which have reminded me of how fortunate we are to have inspiring colleagues in our fellow Stanford schools leading remarkable scientific, healthcare, and educational efforts.

Stanford Healthcare & Covid

I have taken special pride in hearing about the efforts of Stanford physicians to care for Covid-19 patients. It also has been remarkable to see healthcare systems innovate rapidly. In a shift that parallels our move to virtual classes, Stanford physicians have gone from performing a thousand tele-medicine visits each month, to several thousand each day.

Many of us have been following Stanford’s efforts to develop and scale up Covid testing. Stanford scientists developed one the first Covid-19 tests to be fast-tracked by the FDA, and are pioneering new approaches such as pooled testing, where samples from many patients are tested together. Last week, Stanford launched the first study of antibody testing for immunity, expected to be an important tool in safely restarting activity.

A good deal of recent news has focused on how hospital systems are preparing for Covid outbreaks. A Stanford research team called Systems Utilization Research for Stanford Medicine, or SURF, has developed a forecasting tool for hospitalization that is now being used in California and other states. Kudos to Stanford GSB students and to faculty member Stefanos Zenios who have been working with the SURF team.

Efforts across the University

I have been delighted each day to receive emails about work being done by Stanford faculty, students, staff, and alumni to help their communities. Here is a small round-up of some of the recent things I’ve been hearing:

  • SLS faculty member Mark Lemley and others have developed an Open Covid Pledge, to make royalty-free licenses available for Covid-related IP. Stanford, MIT, and Harvard are initial signatories.
  • Stanford Engineering faculty members Chris Piech and Mehran Sahami started Code in Place, a free version of Stanford’s famous CS106A. They closed applications after receiving more than 80,000!
  • Mike Smith, MBA ’86, creator of the AIDS memorial quilt, has been using extra fabric to sew masks for the homeless in San Francisco.
  • GSB students continue to find innovative ways to support others. A recent one is Learn From A Chef, founded by Querida Qiu, MBA ’21, where chefs are offering online classes to earn income during the lockdown.
  • Stanford historians Kathryn Olivarius and Walter Scheidel have published fascinating op-eds teaching us how the impact of historical pandemics has interacted with existing societal inequities.


One of the memorable lines in the Passover Seder is: “next year may we all be free.” Needless to say, it had special resonance this year when so many people are sacrificing for a larger purpose. At the same time, the last week has brought hope. It brought evidence that social distancing policies are working, locally and across the country. It brought recognition that our collective efforts are making a difference — a difference that will save lives.

Stay safe and optimistic.


Jon Levin
Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean

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