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Reflections on 2020

President's Blog

I think we can all agree this year started out one way and is ending as quite another.  Surprisingly, I find when I look back at it my overall feeling is one of awe and inspiration.  So I wanted to share some thoughts on what I consider some incredible work and moments of this year which risked going un-remarked and unnoticed against an equally amazing response to the pandemic.

Getty Images

2020 San Francisco Trans March
We were proud to sponsor this year’s Trans March, SF’s premiere Trans pride event, (one of the largest Trans events in the country).  And, I want to give a big shout-out to the event’s organizers who didn’t let “Miss Rona” stop it. This year’s event also focused on the lives of Black Trans Women as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We stand with its supporters and are committed to doing better and pledge to continue to be listening to the experiences of our Black colleagues, friends and neighbors.

The Gender Institute
Which brings me to the work of the Hospital’s Gender Institute.  Saint Francis has been at the forefront of caring for the Trans community through its world-class Gender Institute, which opened in 2016, and recently featured in Forbes (read article here).  In 2020, we elevated its work by making it the focus of our annual Oscars event and spent much of this year talking with donors and with community-based organizations around how we can better partner to ensure our services meet the health and safety needs of transgendered and gender non-conforming people.

Heidi Wittenberg, MD, Medical Director of Gender Institute with da Vinci XI Surgical Robot

Da Vinci XI Surgical Robot
We were also pleased to provide the Hospital with state-of-the-art technology like the da Vinci XI Surgical Robot.  I find comfort in a time where science and technology are increasingly ignored or diminished when I witness medical marvels such as this robot, which is changing the way our surgeons perform our most complex procedures.  This latest piece of medical technology joins other equipment provided to the Hospital through our Innovation Grants Program which, in Fiscal Year 2020, awarded more than $1.3M.

Red Sky at SFMH

Bothin Burn Center
Apropos of the year, we just completed the worst wildfire season on record, which has altered many of the state’s iconic forests and harmed our fragile ecosystems.  Who can forget the ominous red skies we awoke to in early September?  That meant, of course, our Bothin Burn Center saw many serious and life-threatening injuries resulting from the more than 1,000 fires this year.  It’s incredibly difficult medical care, which is always expertly provided by the doctors and nurses in the Center and we are proud to support it.

Staff of Saint Francis Foundation
While I’m the one who gets a blog, there are many dedicated non-profit professionals who facilitate the Foundation’s work and for whom I am grateful.  Amidst all that I just mentioned, my team kept up – and then some, most notably including our (First ever) Planned Giving Educational Series which reached potential new donors to continue the work of the foundation; we recently announced a $1M in funding annually for three years Community Grant Opportunity for Mental Health, Behavioral Health and Substance Use and capped-off the year with the incredibly successful Hob Nob fundraiser, raising more than $300k.

Hob Nob 2020 Virtual Gala Photobooth: Daniella and Aneal Vallurupalli, Board Members

COVID-19 Response
Of course, 2020 will be remembered mainly for the coronavirus.  And, just as we have for every other major, natural disaster and public health crisis in San Francisco in the past 130 years – Saint Francis is at the forefront of our city’s response.  As most of you know, we took the lead serving as the city’s primary COVID-19 Critical Care Unit.  The foundation committed $1M to a Community Crisis Response Fund, another $1M for a Hospital Staff Emergency Relief Fund and worked to celebrate and support our Health Care Heroes throughout this period.  As extraordinary as that sounds, if you have the chance to speak with our doctors and nurses they would tell you this is what they do.  Humble, as always.  I stand in awe of our medical staff.

Health Care Heroes of SFMH

2020 Election
Of course, there was another major event in the year – an election.  The country has spoken.  For many, it is not the result they hoped for.  For others, it’s a validation we Americans value honesty; we recognize the contributions of science (particularly when it comes to medicine); we believe equitable access to health care is a human right, and prefer humanity and compassion as traits which guide our elected officials.

Irrespective of national elections, our work continues: our Emergency Department doesn’t follow politics, it remains open and turns no one away; our Specialty Care Units aren’t red or blue, they’re colorblind and provide the most advance care available and our COVID-19 response is not dependent on who serves as Commander in Chief or Speaker of the House, rather it relies on the tireless, self-less dedication of healthcare professionals.  This is how we prefer to be remembered by history: as unifying a city as diverse as our country and making a deeper contribution to San Francisco’s health.

2021 – New Year – New Day
There is much to look forward to in 2021 – chief among them is the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine (learn more about the vaccine here).  Our unbelievably hardworking doctors, nurses and staff must be protected and they began receiving doses mid-December.

The Hospital will be led by a new President Daryn Kumar and the Foundation looks forward to a robust and productive partnership.  Our Community Grants will be awarded in the spring, reinforcing our determination to fund good work which strengthens our community and our Hospital which proudly serves it.

Our priorities are clear: enabling the Hospital’s focus on technology and innovation; its commitment to meeting the needs of an aging population; being prepared for our role in caring for and treating patients during community crises, and taking our already formidable experience in mental health, behavioral and substance abuse care to the next level.

We’d be pleased if you would join us for another year of our journey.

We go forward with renewed hope and positivity.

Mark Ryle