KTVU’s Claudine Wong visited our Redwood City Food Pharmacy, the first of its kind in California, as part of a story on hunger in the Bay Area. To view the segment on Samaritan House, please go to 2:25:
KTVU’s Claudine Wong visited our Redwood City Food Pharmacy, the first of its kind in California, as part of a story on hunger in the Bay Area. To view the segment on Samaritan House, please go to 2:25:
Over the past few months, Samaritan House has been featuring our Healthcare partners as we approach The Main Event on March 24, 2017 – Health Heroes Unmasked, What’s Your Super Power? We hope you will join us to celebrate volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses and other volunteers who have kept our Free Clinics in operation for decades. It is through their individual and collective support that tens of thousands of uninsured, low income patients have received quality, primary and specialty healthcare.
Mary Dunbar: Samaritan House is grateful for the years of support from Kaiser Permanente and for all the volunteer physicians who’ve supported our Free Clinics. How did you first become involved with us?
Dr. John Skerry: Each year our medical staff gathers to plan and prepare for the coming year. When I became Physician in Chief here five years ago, I decided I wanted to devote a chunk of that time towards getting our doctors out into the community. Now we spend time each year doing volunteer activities within the community. It was our anesthesia department that got involved in serving meals at Safe Harbor Shelter.
JS: We also come together every March to celebrate National Physicians Day and I realized that we would get these little tchotchkes to recognize our doctors and I couldn’t believe how much money we were spending on them. Now, instead of buying tchotchkes, we make a donation to an organization where our doctors are volunteering. And so, Fan Xie, Jamila Champsi, Jerry Saliman, and Sid Rosenburg, both active and retired, were working at Samaritan House. So, we honored their work by making a donation.
JS: That’s where I think it also dovetailed nicely with the fact that we’ve been a partner with Samaritan House for several years now. It’s part of our mission. We’re trying to improve the health of the communities in which we live and work. Sometimes it’s volunteering using your own clinical skills, however, I was just as pleased when our anesthesia department went and served meals at Safe Harbor because it gets us out in the community. I’m no longer operating, but as an ophthalmologist by training, I went on several medical missions to Guatemala. As satisfying as practice is when you’re doing it as a part of your career, when you get in the places where you’re actually really doing it out of the goodness of your heart, boy, it gives back tenfold.
MD: Tell me about some of the partnerships that Kaiser is really proud of in this community?
JS: Healthy eating is one area where we partner; we work with the Food Bank and others. We have our farmer’s market every week. And we focus on getting people active because, again, obesity is one of the big risks in San Mateo County. Our pediatricians are great about getting out in the community providing education. If our goal is to try to improve the health of the communities in which we serve, Samaritan House is the epitome of the kind of causes we like to support.
MD: What inspired Kaiser to start offering farmer’s markets?
JS: Again, it dovetails entirely with our ethic about keeping people healthy and intervening when they’re ill…it started in Oakland and stemmed from the passion of one physician, Dr. Preston Maring. He realized the Oakland Medical Center was located in a food desert so he started a farmer’s market. That idea just spread like wildfire. Now we have farmer’s markets at virtually every medical center. The markets allow local growers to participate, and since medical centers tend to be busy places, you’re pretty much guaranteed good foot traffic. It’s worked out really well.
MD: What was your first inspiration to become a doctor?
JS: Here’s a funny story…I’m the youngest of four boys, Jim, Jay, Jeff, and John. And Jim’s an engineer, Jay is a lawyer, Jeff is an accountant, and I became a doctor. My dad said he wanted to buy land in Maine and start his own town. Right? He’d have all the professions covered.
MD: That’s funny! How’d you choose Ophthalmology? Ophthalmology is very specific.
JS: I always had an interest in medicine and then, interestingly, I thought I was going to be an internist or a neurologist but then, when I did my surgery rotation, I realized I liked surgery. So, then I did an ophthalmology rotation and it appealed to my attention for detail. I liked the precision of eye surgery. It’s been incredibly satisfying.
MD: When did you begin your career at Kaiser Permanente?
JS: Quite frankly, I sort of stumbled into The Permanente Medical Group – it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s an amazing group. I had grown up in the east coast, didn’t know much about Kaiser Permanente or The Permanente Medial Group. I took the job partly because it was an area of the country I wanted to live…The longer I’m here the more I’m impressed, you know? It’s been 23 years now as of December 2016, all of it at Kaiser, and all of it in South San Francisco.
MD: What do you think is unique and special about Kaiser’s South San Francisco Medical Center versus other Bay Area medical centers?
JS: There’s so many ways in which we’re unique, but I think one of the ways we really are different is that it truly is a group practice. The sense of collegiality is just amazing. It’s not something you necessarily get in every practice. What really does impress is our self-perception is that we are a local, community hospital. However, when you look at our performance, we match up against any hospital in the United States, if not the world. No joke. When you look at the rest of the nation, if someone has hypertension there’s about a 50/50 chance that it’s under control. But because of some of the leadership in this medical center, people like Dr. Mark Jaffe, we’ve embarked on a regional program to improve hypertension control. While the rest of the country is controlling hypertension at about 50%, within Kaiser Permanente Northern California it’s 85-86% controlled, that’s a huge difference. Here in South San Francisco, it’s closer to 90%. If you stacked up every medical center in the United States, you would not find many medical centers that control hypertension at a 90% rate. I think what it shows is the power of group practice. There’s almost nothing that we accomplish based upon the heroics of any one person.
JS: Virtually everything we do is a team effort. Modern medicine is a team sport. A surgeon, Atul Gawande, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a writer for The New Yorker authored a great article a couple years ago about medicine moving from cowboys to pit crews. It’s a big adjustment for a lot of doctors. And we’ve had pit crews all along. That’s the secret sauce for us.
MD: In your role as Physician in Chief, you’re leading teams of doctors. What does it mean to you to have your peers acknowledge and recognize you by putting you in this role?
JS: I sometimes call myself the accidental Physician in Chief, because this wasn’t the role that I was really looking for. I joined the group and I was a general ophthalmologist and I think I did a good job at that, and then I became the chief of the ophthalmology department, and again, it wasn’t something I was necessarily prepared for but I really enjoyed it. It was great fun to see things change, to see things improve. The person who was in the role before me, Michelle Caughey, who is a great mentor to me, asked me if I wanted to become one of her assistants, and I did. Thinking that was probably as far as I was going to go with it, Michelle got promoted, the opportunity arose, it was now or never, and so I threw my hat in the ring. I was just fortunate enough to have people think well enough of me that I became the Physician in Chief. That’s what I’ve just loved about my career here is the sense that I’ve been here 23 years, yes, I’ve been an ophthalmologist, but I’ve had five different careers within that time.
MD: Thank you for sharing your story with me, Dr. Skerry. We hope you’ll join us for The Main Event this year so that we can recognize you and your colleagues for being our Health Heroes!
Dr. John Skerry received his undergraduate degree (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna cum Laude) from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and his medical degree (Alpha Omega Alpha) from Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, New York. He completed his Ophthalmology residency training at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and is the Physician in Chief at Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco Medical Center in South San Francisco, California.
Laura Blackwell is a nurse practitioner at the Samaritan House Redwood City Free Clinic, and one of the many Health Heroes you will see if you come in to visit us there. She had originally worked as a hospital nurse, and changed paths out of a desire to work with patients long-term, in a more relaxed setting.
“Samaritan House gives me an opportunity to see patients, keep my skills, and I really enjoy it, so I continue to volunteer here over the years.”
One of the advantages of working with recurring patients is that it provides the opportunity to teach patients how to improve their diet, exercise regime, and self-care. She asks patients about the choices they make, and delights in witnessing improvements in diet, fitness, and weight loss. Medical providers usually have to have these conversations in the doctor’s office, in a removed setting away from delicious but unhealthy foods that may be tempting their patients. It’s one thing to say you will choose broccoli over cake, it’s another to remember that at a family gathering surrounded by your favorite foods. This isn’t the case at the Redwood City Free Clinic.
Laura had an opportunity to see these choices in action at a potluck thrown by the clinic. She noticed that following the year in which staff particularly stressed nutritional education, patients brought healthier foods, like vegetarian options and salads to the event. “You could see that people had incorporated this into their life, and you could see the example with things they brought in the following year.”
This type of prevention and education is necessary for long-term improvements in people’s health. In Laura’s words, “This is why the clinic is so crucial. By keeping people well instead of having them end up in an emergency room situation where they’re very, very sick, we can treat them before their illness reaches a point where they require emergency care and keep them healthy. I think it’s very important that people have this place to go.”
Samaritan House extends a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who participated in GivingTuesday yesterday! We appreciate YOU, for freely dedicating your resources and time, and embodying the true meaning of the Holiday Season with a full heart – “giving”. YOU have made a tremendous impact, inspiring others to give not only on GivingTuesday, but throughout the entire year – for that, we can not thank you enough!
If you weren’t able to participate yesterday, it’s not too late to take part! You can still give to Samaritan House in many different ways. To learn about ways you can contribute, visit: http://bit.ly/HowYouCanHelp-SamaritanHouse.
However you choose to get involved, we can not express our gratitude, so thank you for supporting Samaritan House and your neighbors in need. Now, here’s the fun part – the results!
THE RESULTS ARE IN! Over 98 countries participated in this global day of giving with over $168 million raised. For more info about GivingTuesday, visit: https://www.givingtuesday.org/data-project,.
Every year thousands of children and adults receive food, toys, books and warm coats in November and December, all donated by the community through Samaritan House. Last year, Samaritan House gave more than 5,000 toys and over 500 new coats to more than 1,000 children in our community at our Holiday Toy Shop. This year our goal is to give every child who comes to our Holiday Toy Shop, a new coat.
Samaritan House’s 2016 Holiday Program is in full swing. If you’d like to be a part of the magic, here are ways that you and your family can help out:
DONATE TOYS New, unwrapped toys such as dolls, Legos, craft kits , action figures, and sporting equipment sportswear are great! We especially need large toys for girls ($50). Visit our Amazon Wish List and send a toy donation directly to Samaritan House with the click of a button!
RUN A CHILDREN’S COAT OR TOY DRIVE Use our Holiday Drive Toolkit to run your very own Community Donation Drive to benefit Samaritan House. Check out the PDFs and other templates we’ve put together for you to use during your drive.
FAMILY AND SENIOR SHARING PROGRAM Once you fill out an application, you’ll be matched with a family or senior/s and you will provide them food and toys/gifts for the holidays. You will deliver the items directly to the people’s homes.
RUN A GIFT DRIVE The holidays are not just for children. More than 1,000 of our adult clients are in need of clothing, toiletries, work clothes and more.
DONATE MONEY Donate to Samaritan House online, right now and even choose what you want to support.
—-GIFT CARDS FOR TEENS—- We have 330 teens registered for our Toy Shop. Teens are past their toys phase, and many parents are unable to afford gifts. We need 170 more $20 Target gift cards so our teens can pick out something special for themselves.
—-COATS FOR ALL AGES—- We need NEW coats for children, size toddler through teen. We accept clean, nearly new coats for adults that are not more than five years old. This Winter could be an especially wet one, and Samaritan House has a shortage of new (or nearly new) coats to keep our clients warm.
Donations can be brought directly to our headquarters; 4031 Pacific Boulevard, San Mateo, CA 94403. For more information on our holiday program, visit HOLIDAY PROGRAM
Our clients are afraid and this election has made them even more so.
Believe me, it doesn’t matter whether you voted for or against rent control, housing or school bonds, one presidential candidate or another – or even voted at all! What matters is that you care for the people in our community who need us the most right now.
Mothers are afraid that they cannot feed their children dinner each night. Fathers are afraid that, as they shuttle between 2 jobs to barely survive, they might be picked up and deported leaving their kids alone. Grandmothers are afraid of being on the street, because their long term apartment rent just skyrocketed, while their Social Security stayed flat again. Solo business owners are afraid that their health care will be cancelled, while they have serious ongoing illnesses to heal.
Those are their everyday fears, now made worse by the rhetoric, rancor and rumors generated during and following this election.
You are reading this because somewhere along the line you demonstrated that you care about our community, whether it has been as a donor, a supporter, a volunteer, a board or staff member.
Please continue to care about and for them. Please remember that, as you see them in person or in your mind, their fears have merit and they need our help to survive and thrive again. Please remember to treat their worries with kindness and understanding. That is why we are here at Samaritan House.
Remember that those working the food line with you, those to whom you hand clothes at Kids Closet, that worker you employ at the Worker Resource Center – and ALL the people around you doing the same thing – are our neighbors. We have to keep being good neighbors in order for our own lives to remain livable.
I always say that Samaritan House is the “Great Heart of a Great Community.” Prove me right!
Your friend and neighbor,
Our own “magic chef”, Ruby Kaho, is being honored with a Jefferson Foundation Award this month!
Ruby is being recognized for all the amazing work that she does, not just through Samaritan House, but also in our community. She is widely known by our volunteers, all over our food rescue operations with the grocery chains, by the many centers for kids and seniors who enjoy her cooking, as well as being loved and respected in her own Pacific Islander community.
This is personally very gratifying for her, as Ruby joins her and our good friend John Kelly, who was honored several years ago. Ruby and John are very close, see each other daily, and John was thrilled to have her recognized in this way.
KPIX television, as part of their sponsorship of the Jefferson Awards in the Bay Area, has created a video of Ruby at work for public viewing. Her interview will also be aired on KCBS Radio and on all CBS Radio stations in our region, including Alice, Live 105, and 997 Now. They will have a viewable version on their website as well.
KPIX Channel 5:
All News 106.9 FM & KCBS 740 AM
CBS Radio stations – Alice 97.3 FM, Live 105.3 FM, 997 Now 99.7 FM
It’s October, which means that all of the kiddos have gone back to school in the Bay Area. A new school year usually means new clothes and shoes, but for many of our neighbors, this can be a challenge financially. In fact, a lack of adequate shoes and clothing is the biggest barrier to school attendance, performance and engagement. Samaritan House is grateful to partner with My New Red Shoes on their Clothing for Confidence Program to help low-income children in our community feel good on their first day of school.
Thanks to this program, Samaritan House’s littlest clients received a new pair of shoes and a $50 gift card to a major clothing store. This year, we were able to give out more than 150 pairs of shoes and gift cards to help our children start the school year off right. Thank you My New Red Shoes!
Vernon is a hardworking, responsible man, who works as a ramp attendant at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and lived in a room he rented at the Christie Hotel in South San Francisco. His world fell apart when the building he lived in went up in flames during an electrical fire. Everything he owned was destroyed by the fire. With no place to go and nothing but the clothes on his back, Vernon was thankful to be alive, but he knew he needed help.
Homelessness was a new concept for Vernon. He had always had a steady job and income, but the financial losses from the fire quickly rendered him without any savings. In partnership with local agencies, Samaritan House was able to place Vernon and other victims displaced by the fire at Safe Harbor Shelter.
Vernon lived at Safe Harbor for six months while he continued to work and save money to find a new home and to provide financial support for his son who lives with his mother in New York. Vernon says that of all the things he’s proud of in his life, his son is first among them.
Last month, Vernon’s case manager recommended him for a three year housing subsidy through the San Mateo County Housing Authority. The subsidy was quickly awarded and, with the help of his case manager, he was able to find an apartment he could afford.
He received financial support from Samaritan House for his move-in costs, and he recently received the keys to his new home. On Labor Day weekend, Vernon was filled with pride when his son flew out to visit him and stay with him in his new apartment. They cooked together, visited the sights of the city and had wonderful time. With a renewed sense of optimism, Vernon is confident that, his future is going to be a bright one!
Last Friday night, in the sleepy little town of San Mateo, on a street like any other, the League of New Samaritans gathered at a secret… cinema! The Leaguers were in for a night of movie magic under the stars and the cinema was well equipped with wine, beer, and hors d’ oeuvres! Laughter escaped out onto the street as The League ate, drank, networked and watched a warm, uplifting film about overcoming adversity. All proceeds from this event benefit Samaritan House’s Safe Harbor Shelter, which provides more than 32,000 nights of safe, warm sleep for San Mateo County’s homeless each year.
Are you a 21 to 40-something who wants to help your neighbors living in poverty? If so, join The League of New Samaritans, Samaritan House’s new young professionals group! The League is a group of young people, brought together by a common commitment: to support Samaritan House and all the incredible services and resources they provide to those in need in our community.
All are welcome at The League’s quarterly social events, ranging from happy hours, to picnics, to outdoor movies. Each event provides a great opportunity to learn more about how you can help someone who is hungry, homeless, or without healthcare, while networking, meeting new young professionals in the area, and enjoying an evening out. But, only members are invited to a yearly heroes-only soiree and have access to perks and discounts associated with membership. JOIN NOW!
Contact Lisa Wheeler at 650-523-0809 or email@example.com for more information.
Follow The League of New Samaritans on Instagram and don’t miss a second of the fun: https://www.instagram.com/the_league_of_new_samaritans/