A scientist's job is to search for answers, to investigate the mysteries that stand between current knowledge and future progress. At the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, these explorations take place at the PAMF Research Institute. For more than 60 years, the research institute has served as a home for clinic doctors and other investigators to explore therapeutic ideas.
PAMF founder Russel Van Arsdale Lee, M.D., also founded the Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation (now called the research institute) in 1950 as a center for basic and clinical research. Its first director was Marcus Krupp, M.D. An internal medicine physician with experience in laboratory work, Dr. Krupp would serve as head of the research institute for 36 years.
Initially the research institute was modest. It had just two scientists and four support staff members. With a $90,000 donation from the Lucie Stern Foundation, the staff set up shop in a two-story Victorian house on Channing Street in Palo Alto, a residential neighborhood close to the clinic.
It didn't take long for the research foundation to begin building an international reputation. The research foundation was able to recruit promising young scientists who disliked the teaching requirements and constraints of academic settings. Many of these researchers came and stayed for their entire careers.
In 1956, the research foundation was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant for the construction of new research facilities. With a new building completed in 1958, the research foundation was able to expand its staff. Scientists studied a variety of topics, from the genetics of microorganisms to the genesis of schizophrenia.
Among the standout researchers who joined the organization in those years were Jack Remington, M.D. Dr. Remington is a recognized national and international authority in the area of infectious diseases. He has served as president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the International Immunocompromised Host Society.
Dr. Remington is also a leading expert on toxoplasmosis. He has served on numerous editorial boards and is an editor of the books Current Clinical Topics in Infectious Diseases, Infectious Diseases of the Fetus and Newborn Infant, In Defense of the Brain, and New Concepts Immunopathogenesis of CNS infections.
Dr. Remington is the author and co-author of more than 650 peer-reviewed papers and 15 international patents. He has received numerous awards in recognition of his contributions to medicine and science.
Another well-known PAMF researcher is Anne Scitovsky, who helped lay the foundation for the field of health economics. At the research institute, she conducted the country's first scientific studies on medical expenses. Decades ahead of the current healthcare cost debate, Scitovsky used the clinic's patient records to assess how costs of care had changed since 1951. Her work was used on a national level in analyzing programs such as Medicare.
Research Priorities Through the Years
Through the years, the research organization's areas of focus have changed, depending on the scientists it has employed. One mainstay was bio-engineering, with emphasis on the physiology of the heart.
In the 1970s, a team headed by Neil Ingels, Ph.D., invented a technique to monitor heart motion that has led to breakthrough discoveries about how the heart pumps blood and influenced treatment of heart disease, post-operative heart bypass care and mitral valve repair. Immunology and infectious diseases has been another longstanding area of research.
As the 21st century dawned, healthcare researchers worldwide began to expand the focus of their work from traditional laboratory and clinical studies into broader questions about how healthcare is delivered. Because the research institute had worked collaboratively with the doctors of the multispecialty Palo Alto Medical Clinic group (today the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group), it was uniquely positioned to dive into this type of research. In 1997, the research institute established its Department of Health Services Research.
In 1999, the work of the research institute was further aided when it moved into its current home in the Ames Building on the 305,000-square-foot Palo Alto Center campus located on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. Now located on the same state-of-the art campus as PAMF's doctors, the researchers can leverage their close connection with healthcare delivery to design, execute and rigorously evaluate new models of health promotion and healthcare.
Dr. Lee's original vision for the research institute as a place to conduct scientific and social research programs, train promising young scientists, and foster the exchange of ideas among scientists, clinicians and the public continues today. Renowned health economist Hal Luft, Ph.D. became the research institute's director in 2008.
PAMFRI is now a full member of the Health Care Systems Research Network, a collaborative effort of 18 outstanding research centers located within healthcare delivery systems. PAMFRI collaborates in research projects with other centers across Sutter Health and is a formal affiliate of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Programs at both Stanford and UCSF. It is building the next generation of researchers through its post-doctoral training programs.