Cheryl Fama, CEO of Peninsula Health Care District, with Mary Dunbar at Samaritan House



It’s great to have the opportunity to meet with you today, Cheryl!  Tell me a little on how you got your start with the Peninsula Healthcare District?
CF: I had recently retired when the District’s recruiter gave me a call. I really didn’t think I was the right person for this job because my whole career was in San Francisco and in acute care hospitals.  The recruiter was persistent and compelling, and as a lifetime resident of the District I thought – why not learn more.  And so I met the Board members and that did it.  I left the interview with one thought – “How could I not work for them” – five totally committed volunteer professionals that secured the new Sutter, seismically sound hospital on the district’s land and now were forging ahead in a new direction knowing their Peninsula Hospital would be torn down in a couple of years.
MD: How does the District partner with local service providers like Samaritan House and how does that influence your priorities or operations?
CF: The District exists to address the health needs of its constituents and each year the Board identifies 3-5 health priorities and then determines a plan to address them.  We are so fortunate in San Mateo County to have a rich fabric of public and private providers – Samaritan House being a premiere example, and so we look for productive partnerships with quality organizations that are addressing the needs.  How do we partner? – Through collaboration, problem-solving, grant investments to sustain and expand capacity, and then metrics of performance to track how District investments have contributed to community benefit.
  The other way the District addresses needs is to look for gaps in services that are not fully covered by the public health system and community-based non-profits.  Recent examples of this include the healthy schools initiative where we provided funding for nurses, counselors, PE instructors and wellness coordinators; bringing in a non-profit model of dental service to remove barriers to preventative and basic dental care for some of the most vulnerable populations in our district; and the Teen Mental Health Project which is a new 3-year pilot program in partnership with the San Mateo Union High School District to increase prompt identification, response, and improved coordination of mental health services for our high school students.
  You asked about what drives how we operate and that’s really to be a community benefit that addresses health, in the broadest sense. If you look at our mission statement, it says, “In partnership with others” because we know no organization can be truly effective if they tackle problems alone.
  What are our key drivers?  “Let’s make sure we address priority needs, keep connected with what’s going on in the community, seek out gaps and address them, cultivate productive partnerships, seek opportunities to be a convener, an innovator, a facilitator and make sure district investments truly impact the health of this community.
MD: Samaritan House, the executive leadership, the board and staff value the significance and importance of our relationship with Peninsula Healthcare District. From your perspective, what’s important about our partnership? How do we help serve the District?
CF: Great question, because, I can tell you, we revisit our partnership relationships every year and each year, based on the clinic services and new programs, the value of Samaritan House to our community is reaffirmed.

Number one for us is Samaritan House truly fills a major gap in access to basic health and dental services.  You are a “safety net to the safety net”.  The County health system does a phenomenal job, but they can’t cover everything or everyone.  Your clinics welcome those who would otherwise fall through the cracks.  That’s important to us.

  Number two is your holistic approach.  The breadth of the programs to make the family whole and the person whole and all done respecting the dignity of each person. That’s critical to really making a healthy community.
  The third important thing about your organization we value is your people – the board, volunteers, and staff.   The tenure of the leadership, the number of volunteers and the and breadth of their talents, the creativity and resourcefulness of the programs they carry out, and the commitment they bring to serving those in need are values very important to me and to my Board.
MD: That’s how Samaritan House operates.  It’s the code of ethics that we adhere to, right? To lend service to other people, just like a physician or a nurse, you’re answering to a higher power, if you will, and people’s lives are at stake.
CF: Selfless giving of time to serve those in need puts it in perspective.  That’s what your organization has been doing for many years.  It’s a well-run organization with a rich history of serving.  You make a difference.  And we are proud to call you “partner”.
MD: Thank you so much for sharing this time with me Cheryl. Samaritan House is proud to call the Peninsula Health Care District its community partner!