Helen Wilmot Pushes Boundaries at Stanford Health Care

How Helen Wilmot works with Stanford Health Care’s unique faculty members to manage the institution’s leading-edge and ever-expanding healthcare facilities

Helen Wilmot stands outside the expanded Stanford Health Care facilities. Portrait by Winni Wintermeyer
Helen Wilmot; VP of Facilities, Services, and Planning; Stanford Health Care Portrait by Winni Wintermeyer

When Helen Wilmot joined Stanford Health Care in 2005, it was the start of a new era for the institution.

At the time, Stanford was building the Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center, the first large, off-campus facility for the clinical program. Because it signaled the beginning of a new period of expansion for the healthcare system, the construction of the Outpatient Center also necessitated a shift in Stanford’s workflow processes and the need to create the “Stanford culture” for a large number of employees away from the main campus. Wilmot didn’t mind the challenge presented by the transition, though. Far from it.

“Stanford is a complicated, layered system of care providers, processes, and patients,” she says. “But I consider myself successful when I can clearly define a situation and then work to solve the problem. That’s important to me—the ability to absorb what’s going on around me, categorize it, and figure out how to make it effective for the patients and care providers.”

During Wilmot’s tenure at Stanford, first as vice president of ambulatory care and now as vice president of facilities, services, and planning, the organization’s footprint has only continued to grow. Wilmot currently oversees approximately 140 facilities across Stanford Medicine, including the children’s and adult healthcare systems, imaging centers, outpatient centers, physician and clinical offices, administrative buildings, and a call center that receives about 17,000 calls on any given day.

But those are just the existing facilities under Wilmot’s purview. She also helps manage the expansion of Stanford’s clinical campuses into areas such as Redwood City, South Bay, Sunnyvale, and Emeryville, as well as the construction of the new, 824,000-square-foot adult hospital on the inpatient campus. Stanford’s hospital, Wilmot says, is one of the most significant projects to be undertaken not just at Stanford but in the country at this time.

“We’ve been working on it for 12 years,” Wilmot says of the new hospital. “At $2.2 billion, it’s actually the single largest investment in a hospital in the United States at this time. I have been responsible for the operations planning and activation of the hospital, and when it’s finished, I will be responsible for the facilities management of the new hospital and for repurposing the existing hospital that was established circa 1989.”

Naturally, Wilmot has encountered a few challenges in the course of establishing these various facilities. “It is incredibly difficult to find real estate that fits the profile of what is required in the Silicon Valley real estate market,” she explains. “You have to look at the location—is there parking? Is it accessible to public transportation? You also have to consider the age of the building, the size of the building, and of course the needs of your customers, whether that’s your internal staff or the patients.”

According to Wilmot, Stanford is a unique environment to work in that is created through a natural byproduct of the type of faculty and staff employed at Stanford. The faculty is distinctive, Wilmot says, relative to community medical centers. “They have significant clinical knowledge as well as a scientific and academic focus,” Wilmot explains. “So, there is a constant push towards improvement, discovery, and new ideas, exactly as you would find in an academic environment.”

Helen Wilmot stands in the new Stanford Health Care facilities. Portrait by Winni Wintermeyer

As a result of that blend of clinical and academic approaches, Wilmot says, Stanford is able to provide high-level, cutting-edge medical care. But she also finds that it results in pushback against the idea of using mainstream processes, standards, and templates. When the faculty and staff work within a cycle of curiosity and innovation, she notes, the preference trends toward more customized projects and concepts.

In the expanded campuses in Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Emeryville, and other regions surrounding Stanford, Wilmot has paid tribute to that preference, supervising the operations planning and activation of custom-built and custom-repurposed facilities.

Despite those challenges, Wilmot loves working with and guiding the Stanford faculty and staff. “We attract a high-performing group of people,” she says. “From entry-level staff to front-line clinical providers there’s a desire to do more than just work—they aspire to have continuous improvement and work in a dynamic environment where there’s a constant infusion of ideas and challenges.”

That philosophy of “continuous improvement” fits in perfectly with Wilmot’s own mind-set, which she developed during her time in the consulting world. To Wilmot’s mind, there are endless opportunities for everyone, both clinical providers and non-clinical staff of all genders, to seek guidance and continue growing.

The Next Generation

Wilmot has passed on her determination and resilience to her daughter, Tierna Davidson (#12), who helped the US women’s national soccer team win the World Cup earlier this year. Wilmot says her daughter is the youngest player on the USWNT World Cup team since 1995.

“She’s a strong individual,” Wilmot says proudly. “Tierna has done this herself, in an overwhelming situation.”

Like her teammates, Wilmot’s daughter is joining the fight for equal pay in sports. Wilmot says that during the NYC celebratory parade held in honor of the USWNT, her daughter stood next to Governor Cuomo holding a placard stating, “Parades are cool, but equal pay is cooler.”

Swinerton celebrates Helen Wilmot for her leadership in delivering innovative and progressive healthcare. It has been an honor to partner with Helen and her Team at Stanford Health Care over the years, doing our part in building exceptional patient care environments—and making a difference—together. Congratulations! www.swinerton.com