1179 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma 94954; 707-559-7575; phealthcenter.org

Age: 55

Residence: Petaluma 

Professional background: Hospital administrator, strategic planning consultant, community health center administrator 

Education:  Master’s degree in Medical Anthropology (community health and healing traditions around the world), Master’s degree in Health Care Administration

Staff size: 170 employees 

Describe your organization

The Petaluma Health Center provides high quality basic health care services to everyone who needs it in our community.  We remove barriers to care, such as financial barriers, with our sliding fee scales, as well as cultural and linguistic barriers with our many bilingual and bi-cultural staff.  We have 35+ medical, ob/gyn, dental, mental and behavioral health providers; including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nutritionists and health educators.  More than 18,000 patients come through our doors each year.  We do an amazing job with treating and slowing down the development of chronic diseases, we are now focusing even more on preventing disease, and keeping people healthy and well.  We have found that helping people effectively deal with the stress in their lives has a major impact on their physical health outcomes.  We often use a very successful “integrative” medicine approach to our patients, incorporating some alternative medical practices with “western medicine.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I grew up in a bustling family of 7, with 3 brothers and a sister, in Rochester, N.Y.  My mother was a teacher who stayed home and raised us until most of us graduated from college.  My father was a corporate executive.  I learned compassion from mom, and business from dad. I wished for world peace when I blew out the candles on my 16th birthday cake.  I have always been adventurous, and actually flew off by myself to Ecuador during a summer in college to immerse myself in another culture.  I always dreamed of living in foreign lands and have spent significant time all around the world.  I have two sons, 21 and 26, who live with me here in Petaluma.  I learn as much from them as I teach. I try to be a good role model by living what I believe in.  I believe in people, and that we need to live our lives the way we want the world to be.  I believe we are responsible for making ourselves happy and successful and that what we believe becomes our reality. 

I believe in participatory leadership and the value of diversity of opinion as foundations for any organization to be successful.  I believe in hiring and surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am, and then letting them be creative and achieve the goals on which we collectively agree.

What is your role in the organization?

My role is to inspire, support and lead an amazing team of health care professionals, staff and volunteers to deliver high quality primary health care and wellness, dental and mental health care services to everyone who needs them in our community.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Helping our organization become one of the finest and most highly respected and innovative community health centers in the country, while at the same time, funding, building and moving into our new 53,000 square foot building in Petaluma.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Raising the $3 million in funds to  finish building out our Center for Women & Children’s Health. It is the final 10,000-square-foot section of our new building that was not completed when we opened the new facility last year.  We are just now starting a capital campaign, and hope to raise half of the funds through grants and half through donations.

What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?

In addition to the Women and Children’s Health and Wellness Center, we  are finishing out our commercial demonstration kitchen. We have it all shelled out and only need to buy and install the equipment. In this kitchen we will teach people how to prepare healthy meals for families and those living alone. So many people today live on a very tight grocery budget and the price of food has increased significantly.  Our nutritionists and health professionals can share very helpful ways to stretch our grocery budgets and afford the healthiest foods at the same time. We can cook the food grown in our own garden at the health center!

What product or service is helping you do your job more effectively?

My iPhone when “on” and my meditation cushion when “off.”

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

Health reform and the economy will significantly impact health center leaders. Health reform will require us to expand capacity as more people have insurance coverage.  As the economy continues to struggle we will be challenged to fund the growth and provision of additional services. We must collaborate even more with our local partners and health care providers and change our health system from a system focused on “illness” to a system focused on “wellness.” 

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I admire all businesspersons who provide vision, focus, consistency, clarity and compassion to their organization.

Current reading: Meditations for InterSpiritual Practice, a collection of articles on meditation and prayer in a dozen different spiritual and religious traditions by teachers of those traditions, edited by Netanel Miles-Yepez.

Most want to meet: Deepak Chopra

Stress relievers: Meditation and prayer, laughing and playing with my sons, family and friends, “being happy,” swimming, hiking, walking anywhere outside and especially in nature like on the beach or in the woods, and playing with our 2-year-old “puppy”(husky/lab mix).

Favorite hobbies: Learning ... about everything!  Working with crystals and gems.

Words that best describe you: According to my children, family and colleagues: hard working, visionary, intuitive, fun, inspiring, gentle but strong spirit, tenacious, innovative, intelligent, enthusiastic, eloquent, modest, confident, excellence, patient, peaceful, generous, charming, and quick-witted.

Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add? What am I passionate about?: I passionately want to help transform the primary health care system in this country, away from the focus on illness to a focus on wellness.  I believe the key to health includes a balance between one’s mind, body and spirit. This is a very ancient concept, and I have spent my lifetime studying and living with people from all over the world to understand the universal common beliefs and activities of people who are healthy, and stay healthy throughout their lives. Two of these universal beliefs include being in a state of happiness, and living our lives as our authentic selves. I try to live my life being happy and authentic, and being a good role model for everyone. If we all do this, I believe the whole world will be healthier.