Stanford Woods Institute Executive Director Debbie Drake Dunne will move on from the environmental institute she helped develop to lead a new interdisciplinary center focused on improving the quality of medical research and patient care.

Dunne is leaving Woods after more than nine years of service and 25 years in the environmental field to become executive director of METRICS, a new center at the Stanford School of Medicine.

“For the past nine years Debbie has been a very effective leader at the Stanford Woods Institute, and her contributions in external relations and strategic planning in particular will be greatly missed,” said Perry L. McCarty Director Jeff Koseff. “We have benefited tremendously from Debbie’s work to expand the Institute’s reach and impact,” said Perry L. McCarty Director Buzz Thompson.

Dunne came to Stanford in 2005 as an established figure in the conservation field, who previously held positions with The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and as a former Assistant Secretary for Conservation Programs with the California Resources Agency. She brought a wealth of experience, connections and a new perspective on external engagement with the public and private sectors when she joined the Stanford Woods Institute as director of the Leopold Leadership Program.

Dunne began her tenure at Woods by leading Leopold’s strategic planning process and implementation of the program’s goals related to providing outstanding mid-career academic researchers with tools for integrating science into policy.

She leveraged her position with Leopold to help create other leadership programs including the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum, which provides professional development, continuing education and informative networking opportunities to regional fishery management council members. She also created a training on California’s pioneering Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32) for climate researchers at the University of California, Davis, the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford.

When she assumed the newly created position of executive director in 2009, Dunne drew on her experience and networks to map external engagement strategies for researchers to link their knowledge to action. She raised the profile of Woods and facilitated key relationships for Stanford and its researchers with decision-makers in government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.  

Examples of that work include Dunne’s engagement efforts with state and federal policymakers to determine their research needs around climate adaptation. As a result of those dialogues, Woods, in partnership with the Center for Ocean Solutions, commissioned a national climate adaptation survey to inform adaptation efforts, and held a related policy briefing at the National Press Club. This work also resulted in numerous opportunities for researchers to testify and brief policymakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. on key climate issues.

Dunne’s work with Woods to advance environmental decisions let to the development of programs like Conservation Finance Boot Camp, a program focused on helping land trust professionals navigate the conservation finance landscape. She developed a pilot program into a cornerstone of Woods’ work to develop environmental leaders with the creation of the Rising Environmental Leaders Program (RELP). Now in its fourth year, the program helps graduate students and postdoctoral scholars build networks and develop their leadership and communications skills to maximize the impact of their research. Dunne was the driving force behind the program’s DC Bootcamp, an intensive weeklong introduction to national policy development, partnership-building and public service careers. 

Woods’ vision and plans for the future owe much to strategic planning efforts led by Dunne, such as the development and implementation of Woods 2012-15 strategic plan. This comprehensive effort resulted in a reframing of Woods strategic goals, objectives and priorities and drove the Institute’s rebranding and the redesign of its website to be more focused on external audiences. Most recently, Dunne has been instrumental in designing the next-generation of Woods keystone Environmental Venture Projects with a focus on scaling up breakthrough environmental solutions to foster their implementation.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished during my time at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment,” Dunne said. “I look forward to the Institute’s future growth in developing solutions to environmental challenges around the world.”