KCBS Radio Food Pharmacy Story

KCBS with Patient Cropped

Samaritan House was in the news again talking about our revolutionary #FoodPharmacy program done in partnership with Sequoia Healthcare District and Second Harvest Food Bank! The story aired July 31, 2017. Many thanks to KCBS Radio Reporter Margie Shafer (740 AM/106.9 FM) for visiting our #RedwoodCity Free Clinic and speaking with our patient, Laura. Take a listen.
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Health Partner Profile

David Entwistle Photo

David Entwistle, President and CEO, Stanford Health Care
An interview with Mary Dunbar, Samaritan House

Over the past year, Samaritan House has featured healthcare partner leaders in celebration of their generous financial, in-kind and volunteer support of our Redwood City and San Mateo Free Clinics. We are grateful to the many volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses and other volunteers who have kept our Free Clinics in operation for 25 years. It is through their individual and collective support that tens of thousands of uninsured, low-income patients have received quality, primary and specialty healthcare in San Mateo County.

Stanford has partnered with Samaritan House since 2005. In this feature, we spoke with David Entwistle, President and CEO of Stanford Health Care:

Mary Dunbar: David, Stanford Health Care is one of the most recognized and innovative medical institutions in the country. How did you find your way here?

David Entwistle: I’ve spent my whole career in academic medicine. I started my career at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, then I moved on to the City of Hope in Los Angeles, then to the University of Wisconsin, and most recently, the University of Utah. I just love academics. Stanford Health Care is one of the most recognizable brands among academic medical centers. We are truly unique. There are some innovative things that we’re doing here that aren’t being done anywhere around the country.

MD: David, you’ve accomplished a lot, and you have a track record and deep experience working in large, teaching healthcare institutions. Are there advantages for the patients who receive care in this environment?

David Entwistle: Absolutely, yes. Without a question. Let me share my own experience. I was involved in a bicycle accident and, unfortunately, ended up in the hospital for some period of time, about eight or nine years ago. I was being treated in the academic medical center where I worked. The nice part about being in a large academic medical center is that it has every specialty available. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury — I was in need of a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, interventional radiology, trauma, and all the things that go along with each of those specialties.

The exciting part, and what we feel provides an advantage to the community, is being able to have all of those resources in place for when the patient needs it. Not only will you have access to the very best physicians who are training our next generation, you’ll also have all specialties and services in one place. That’s part of the reason I have only worked in academic medical centers, because I feel so strongly about the comprehensive nature of the care.

Why do we need all these resources? It’s because we’re teaching the next, great, could be neurosurgeon, could be general surgeon, could be oncologist. They are being trained here, and, so, having all the specialties and services is what enables us to train effectively. When you take a look at Stanford in addition to all those things, you don’t just have good medical professionals, you have the very best. Even as you look at national rankings, we’re the top in the country. It’s not that we’re in quest of a prize, but I think it validates what you can get by coming to Stanford, the expertise and the individuals. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this subject. So, yes, there’s an advantage. And having taken advantage those resources personally, it’s something I feel very strongly about.

MD: What inspired you to choose a career in healthcare administration?

DE: I took three years of Latin in high school. You might be asking yourself “Why did you take three years of Latin going into healthcare?” Actually, I was determined to be an attorney. I went through all the prep work, selected pre-law in my application for college and then did a two year volunteer mission for the LDS Church. While I was out for two years volunteering, and very determined, I met several attorneys. I had the opportunity to interact with them, and thought, “I don’t know if that’s a career I necessarily want to get into.” I had also met several hospital administrators. At the end of the day, I really wanted to be in a field that has a benefit to people. This career really felt like it was the right fit for me.

MD: Community benefit programs provide critical support to organizations like Samaritan House. What kinds of community partnerships does Stanford Health Care engage in on the Peninsula?

DE: We typically look at things that are in alignment with our core capabilities. Every three years, we do a community needs assessment. Stanford does a local assessment as well as a regional, a national and even an international assessment of each population of patients that come here for care. When we look at the local communities that we serve in San Mateo, Santa Clara and several other counties around us, we look at the unique needs in each of those areas. Then we focus on providing care for those specific needs. We also think it’s important for the greater community to have access to care at Stanford, which is why we’ve done so much expansion in the region.

When we are working with our community partners, we look at the things that can help with some of the preemptive community needs to prevent patients from getting to the point where they have to use the emergency room. Whether it’s Samaritan House, or another partner, we want to help provide access to local resources before the patient’s needs become an emergency. As you and I were talking about earlier, sometimes people are reluctant to access services because they are uninsured or lack financial resources. The question is how can we encourage access on their own turf where they perhaps will be more apt to utilize the services versus waiting until they get so ill they need to go to the emergency room? They can be pretty far down the road with an illness when that occurs. We want to help remove that barrier to healthcare access through our partnerships.

MD: Many of the patients that come to us are referred by word-of-mouth, or they’ve heard about Samaritan House because they’ve gone through one of our health partner’s emergency rooms. Through our partnership with Stanford Health Care, and other partners, a crucial patient referral network has been built. We appreciate it. We know that the patients we see are utilizing the emergency rooms less.

DE: We appreciate the partnership too.

MD: I realize that you’re new to the Bay Area, have you had an opportunity to be personally engaged in the community?

DE: Yes, we have. We’d had a number of service activities that we had been involved with, including helping individuals who are elderly with visits and making sure they have their needs met. There’s a sweet lady that my son and I have been working with, she just turned 84, in fact, today! We had the opportunity to see her on Sunday and enjoyed a pre-celebration with her. This is an amazing community, there’s so many wonderful people in it.

MD: Since you arrived in the Bay Area, what’s been a standout experience for you and your family?

DE: We’ve had a lot of great experiences. We spent yesterday with a group of individuals down at Santa Cruz beach, which we had not been to before. That’s probably the most memorable place so far. I love to ride bikes, whether it’s riding in the Sequoia Forest or locally. We’re having a great time here. To get out and see this wonderful community and landscape, it’s amazing.

MD: Thank you so much, David. Stanford Health Care and the community is lucky to have you!

David Entwistle joined Stanford Health Care as CEO in July 2016 with extensive executive experience at leading academic medical centers.  Most recently he served as CEO of the University of Utah Hospital & Clinics (UUHC). He previously served as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin and as Vice President of Professional Services and Joint Venture Operations at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Brigham Young University and a Master’s in Health Services Administration from Arizona State University. He also was awarded a postgraduate administrative fellowship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.


Keys to Hope: Gary’s Story

In the Spring of 2016, I lost my job due to cutbacks, faced hard times and became homeless. That summer, I was able to get into Safe Harbor Shelter, where they gave me the chance to pause, regroup, and grow. I was assigned Healthcare Case Manager Kat Barrientos and we met weekly. We set up goals for me. I started saving aggressively at Safe Harbor, and during that time, Kat was an ear and mentor who didn’t judge me. She kept an open mind and held out hope for me until I was ready to accept it myself.  She provided just the right amount of support. Within my first week at Safe Harbor, I got a job. It started out as part-time, 5 hours a day, but soon came to be full time.  This was a very positive turning point in my life.

Late August 2016, I went from an emergency bed into a transitional bed. I would then start meeting with my case manager every two weeks.  She always had an open door policy when the extra support was needed. I increased my saving amounts consistently with the knowledge that I would need to rebuild. Much to my excitement, at the end of January, I was granted a housing voucher from the County of San Mateo.  In March 2017, I got an apartment of my own.  I also received an additional salary increase from work. In a short 7 months, I went from being homeless to having my own apartment and a great job.

Gary's Keys of Hope
Gary’s Keys to Hope

To be successful, you have to be willing to do the work. It takes dedication and hard work on the part of the client.  Kat always told me ‘I am not here to do everything for you, but to support, encourage and give you the tools to be successful without me.’ That is her greatest gift to me.

I want to thank all Samaritan House and the Safe Harbor Staff for allowing me the opportunity to better my situation, as well as the great support they give out.

Artists in Residence

work by Willie

By Safe Harbor Shelter Clinical Case Manager, Julia Parmer

I was in my office, trying to seize on a small window of opportunity to tackle a pile of paperwork, when a client came running through my door. “Julia! You have to see this. Willie built an easel!” I knew, or rather, I had heard, that my client Willie was an artist. A likeness of Janet Jackson, almost eerie in its uncanny resemblance to the pop star, had floated for many years from office to office at Safe Harbor, left long ago by Willie after a previous shelter stay. But I had never seen his current work, nor had I seen him in action. I went outside where, indeed, Willie had, using two chairs, some posterboard, and other odds and ends, fashioned himself a makeshift easel and was hard at work, charcoal pen in cramped, blackened hand. I joined the gathered group of spectators who stood in silence, eagerly watching as Willie put pen to paper and the shape of a face began to form.

We soon decided to move Willie’s art supplies upstairs into our second floor Learning Center; a new room at the shelter, designated for onsite programming. In this room, we offer a host of courses for our residents, such as financial literacy classes and resume workshops. These classes are meant to help our residents make the most productive use of their time at the shelter; to further assist them in their goals of self-sufficiency, employment, and permanent housing. But this room also serves a second, and equally important purpose; to build life skills, to expand creative abilities, strengthen social emotional and physical well-being. To that end, we’ve offered yoga, nutrition, color therapy, arts and crafts, knitting, and, of late, Willie’s fine arts studio.

Artists in Residence by Julia Parmer 061517 3

In March, one of our staff members started a weekly women’s group in that same Learning Center. The group is not therapy; it’s a safe space to explore and navigate the challenges of living in a shelter as a woman, as well as a place for women to express their creative sides. Recently, they put together vision boards; empowering artistic collages to express ones’ dreams, goals, and hopes for the future. They made these using simple materials that we’ve had donated; old magazines, colored markers, stickers. The results were extraordinary. Sometimes I leave work feeling powerless, nearly hopeless at the homeless situation in our County. How is it, I thought to myself, as I looked at each finely crafted board, that our residents, despite the hardships, the heartache, the struggles, were able to draw on such inner strength and creativity to produce such things of beauty? And why is it that I ever doubted they could?

Earlier this year, a formArtists in Residence by Julia Parmer 061517 2er client emailed me to ask for a recommendation letter as she was putting together an application for an MFA program in creative writing. I had not seen this client since she left the shelter more than two years ago, but she felt that it was during her time at Safe Harbor that she experienced the personal and artistic growth to propel her to reach for this long-held dream of hers to go back to graduate school. I was deeply moved that she had found her experience at the shelter to be so transformative, and, more importantly, that she was taking these brave steps (at the age of 50 no less) to fulfill this goal of pursuing a career and a life in the creative arts.

So often I am surprised by the imagination and the thirst for knowledge that I witness on a regular basis at work. We’ve had guitarists, sculptor, painters, writers; so many creative and capable individuals. It is so easy to stigmatize that which we don’t know or which we fear. The concept of homelessness, of a homeless shelter, does not necessarily immediately lend itself to the notion of the creative arts. So we make assumptions and snap judgements, as we are naturally all prone to do.

But on that day, watching Willie begin to sketch out a future masterpiece in the front parking lot of our 90 bed facility, surrounded by his fellow residents, I had to simply take a moment to reflect and to remind myself that there is so much beauty in the world, if only we open our eyes to it.

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charcoal on paper works by Willie

Health Partner Profile: Dr. Diana Baker, California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates


Dr. Diana Baker_2

Samaritan House Director of Development, Mary Dunbar, recently sat down with Dr. Diana Baker of California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates (CAIMA) to talk about CAIMA’s commitment to the health and well-being of our neighbors in need. CAIMA donates upwards of $90,000 worth of imaging services to Samaritan House each year, so that the volunteer doctors at our two free healthcare clinics have the tools they need to adequately diagnose and treat the patients in their care.

Mary Dunbar: Diana, I’m so glad that you’re here.
Dr. Diana Baker: Thank you for having me.
MD: Tell us a bit about CAIMA and how long have you been partnering with Samaritan House?
DB: I’m a partner at California Advanced Imaging Medical Associates, which is a group of radiologists in the Bay Area. We work with several hospitals in the Bay Area including Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, San Mateo Medical Center and Sequoia Hospital among others! Between Mills-Peninsula and Sequoia Hospitals, we donate $90,000 of professional services to Samaritan House each year. We’ve been working with Samaritan House and donating free professional services for as long as any of us can remember, it’s probably close to 25 years.

Our Samaritan house patients are seen during our regular hours, alongside all of our other patients. The Samaritan House clinician orders whatever imaging study they feel is important for that particular patient’s care, whether that is a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound etc. The professional services for that exam is then donated by us for free.  Each of us participates.

MD: Wow. First of all, that’s incredibly generous. Thank you.
DB: It’s our pleasure.
MD: The partnership with the CAIMA doctors is so important, because radiology alone is quite a major expense when you think about it.
DB: It is so important for people to be able to get the imaging studies that they need, whatever they may be. Imaging studies are expensive but they can be incredibly important.
MD: I heard a story that the doctors at CAIMA were donating the pro bono services and it comes out their bonuses, is that true?
DB: It does come out of our personal salary which includes bonuses. We split it evenly among the partners.
MD: That’s incredibly generous when you think about how it impacts the doctors financially. That makes it an even more special and unique gift to the community.
DB: Certainly, and we are thrilled to do it. We all live in this community. We all are really happy to help and it is a valuable service that we can uniquely provide.
MD: Your expertise is obviously something that’s highly needed. Have you had any personal experiences with the Samaritan House patients you see? Is there one story that stands out?
DB: Several Samaritan House patients come to mind! I remember a few years ago there was a patient who had been experiencing episodes of severe abdominal pain for several months but had not had the time to see a doctor. The episodes were so severe that she was often unable to work. She finally sought care at the Samaritan House, and the clinician ordered an abdominal ultrasound.  We found that she had gallstones and had even developed a serious complication from them.  She had surgery and has fully recovered!
MD: What inspired you to get into radiology?
DB: In medical school, at first, I thought I wanted to be a surgeon, and I did a lot of surgical rotations and research. I found myself in every single one of those rotations most interested in going down to the Radiology department and looking at the patients’ images.   I realized “wow, when I am working in OB/GYN I’m most interested in looking at the ultrasound pictures. When I do surgery I’m most interested in looking at the CT …“ That is how my interest in radiology began.  I signed up for radiology rotations and fell in love with it!

The other thing I love about radiology is that we see everything. We can help to diagnose a brain tumor one minute and the next moment we may be looking at an ultrasound of an unborn baby to be sure that is developing normally. The following day we may be reading mammograms. We are involved with every aspect of healthcare from beginning to end, and I love that. I love the images. I’m a visual person.

MD: Oh, that’s great. So it’s not just about diagnosing people with illness. It’s also about preventative care.
DB: That’s right. Much of what we do is preventative care.  A great example is screening mammography.  I also love developing relationships and interacting with patients. Many people think that radiologists sit behind a computer screen and never see patients! People are surprised to hear that we perform many of the exams ourselves, including breast ultrasound and interventional procedures such as biopsies, etc.
MD: Great, so you get a little bit of both. Just out of curiosity, how do you learn to become a doctor of radiology? You go through medical school like everybody else, but what’s the actual specialty?
DB: You do medical school which is four years and then you do a one year internship, typically in internal medicine, or surgery. That is followed by four more years of dedicated radiology, including night and weekend call.  In our group we have all also done an additional one or two year fellowship to specialize within the field of Radiology. Fellowships might be in Neuroradiology, Body Imaging, Breast Imaging, Ultrasound etc. My fellowship was in Ultrasound.
MD: Do you sometimes feel a bit like an investigator or a detective?
DB: Absolutely. Every day and every patient is different too, so you start looking at a case you never know what you’re going to find. It’s interesting. It’s never boring.
MD: Were you raised here on the Peninsula?
DB: No. I’m from North Carolina and I came out here when I was 17 to go to Stanford.
MD: Wow, 17!
DB: I came here and fell in love with the Bay Area. I went to Stanford for undergrad and I got a master’s degree there, stayed for medical school, and then I went to UCSF for residency and fellowship. I settled between the two in San Mateo at Mills-Peninsula with California Advanced Imaging, so here I am.
MD: That’s great. After you did your residency at UCSF and your fellowship, where did you go?
DB: Straight to work with CAIMA! This was my first job out of fellowship and I have been here for 14 years!
  Personally, I know all of us, including myself, have roles that we play in our community outside of work. I work with my daughter with National Charity League and I work with my son with Young Men’s Service League, outside of my professional world. The CAIMA radiologists do a lot of community service outside of donating our professional services, each one of us in our own way.
MD: You mentioned that you were here for something to do with a drive of some kind?
DB: Yes! My daughter and her friends got together and did a coat drive years ago. We collected coats and brought them all in. We then toured the facility and were amazed. It’s I think incredible for our kids to see what is happening in our community and to help.
MD: That’s powerful.
DB: All of us at CAIMA try to serve our community outside of work as well. Personally, I have three children who are 11, 13 and 15 years old. We are very involved in National Charity League and Young Men’s Service League. In fact, I am the incoming VP of Philanthropy for our National Charity League chapter. Of course, the kids also have their own schoolwork, sports and activities and I love to exercise and read in my spare time.
MD: That’s a lot. I don’t know how you manage that.
DB: It’s busy. It’s very busy but it’s fun.
MD: That’s good. But do you sleep?
DB: Yes, sleep is so important!
MD: It is! I don’t know if you’re aware, but both NCL and YMSL are both huge supporters of Samaritan House.
DB: Yes, we are so thankful for this partnership and absolutely love working with Samaritan House
MD: What inspired you to be so civic minded and philanthropic?
DB: I have always been involved in community service and I feel it is so important for young people to give back and serve their community. I wanted to share those experiences with my kids. I personally found it difficult as a working parent.  That is why I am so happy to be able to donate my professional services to Samaritan House.  Also, working with NCL and YMSL with my kids has been a wonderful and meaningful experience.
MD: And so you get to do a little bit of everything.
DB: Yes. I try to get the kids involved in many different kinds of community service. I hope they will develop a lifelong commitment to our community.
MD: Wow, that’s neat. You truly are a community leader then, leading by example for your children.
DB: It’s happened organically, just as a result of wanting them to get involved.
MD: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about CAIMA, your group, and the good works that you do in the community, about your practice?
DB: California Advanced Imaging like I said before is separated into divisions at different hospitals in the Bay Area. Each division is like a family. It’s nice for us to, as a family, feel like we’re helping and doing things for our own community. We’re a very close knit group of equal partners, so for us it’s definitely a community within a community.
MD: After learning more about what you do for the community, I think you qualify as one of our health heroes.
DB: Thank you. I think I can speak for my partners at CAIMA when I say that we really value our relationship with our Samaritan House patients and are so happy that we can contribute our specialized expertise!
MD: And your superpower is radiology.
DB: Ha! Thank you!

Health Partner Profile – John Skerry, M.D., Physician in Chief, Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco Medical Center With Mary Dunbar


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.


Health Heroes: Keeping People Well

Laura BlackwellLaura 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.”

Thank You for Your #GivingTuesday Support


Today is ThankYouWednesday!

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,.