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The SMLMA keeps you up to date on the latest news,
policy developments, and events


2024 Physician Wellness Leadership awards announced

Nominations and award recipients were announced at the Physician Wellness EXPO and Dinner on April 26, 2024, in Petaluma. Awards were presented to physicians in six categories of wellness leadership achievement. Click here or the icon below for the full dinner program, which includes photographs and statements from each of the nominees. Additional details and list of awardees may be viewed in May 2024 News Briefs.

2024 Physician Wellness Expo & Dinner



December 2009

SCMA dinner attracts full house

The banquet room at the Vintner’s Inn was completely full onWednesday evening, Dec. 2, as SCMA honored a quartet of baby-boomer doctors,along with the residency program that trained many of the attendees. SCMAPresident Dr. Richard Powers emceed the event with alacrity, easily holding theattention of more than 150 doctors, spouses and guests.

The first award, for Outstanding Contribution to theCommunity, went to Dr. Walter Mills. Presenter Dr. Bob Schulz praised Mills forhis kindness, compassion and energy in support of the residency program, theNorthern California Center for Well-Being and many other local projects. Millsresponded, “This award is about the past, but the future is what has meexcited.”

Jack Neureuter, CEO of Alliance Medical Center, presentedthe Outstanding Contribution to Sonoma County Medicine award to Dr. JeffSugarman, calling him “a combination of Peter Pan and the Pied Piper.”Neureuter said the dermatology clinic Sugarman established at Alliance hasbecome a model for specialty access throughout the county.

Former president Dr. Leonard Klay presented the OutstandingContribution to SCMA award to Dr. Brad Drexler, calling him “a man of ideas”who has championed anti-smoking legislation and Medicare reform. In hisacceptance speech, Drexler showed a flair for humor, offering two well-timedjokes.

Dr. Mark Sloan presented the Article of the Year award toDr. Mark Netherda for “Sonoma County’sLagging Immunization Rates,” which appeared in the Winter 2009 issue ofSonoma Medicine. Netherda urged the audience to stop being “polite nodders” inthe immunization debate and become stronger advocates for immunizing all theirpatients.

Dr. Rick Flinders concluded the evening by presenting theSpecial Award for Recognition of Achievement to the Santa Rosa Family MedicineResidency Consortium, a now-disbanded group that helped preserve the residency.He called the Consortium “an idea whose time had come, and then, like ashooting star, had gone again.”


Flu Shot Saturday set for December 5th

Flu Shot Saturday—which is targeted to low-income,underinsured and uninsured patients—will proceed as planned from 9 a.m. to noonon Saturday, Dec. 5. Both seasonal and H1N1 shots will be given, but the supplyis limited. Some people may be turned away, depending on availability ofvaccines. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Seasonal shots can be given to any individual over 6 monthsold, including pregnant women, but there are several priority groups forreceiving H1N1 vaccine.

The suggested donation is $10, but no one will be turnedaway due to inability to pay. The shots will be offered at locations throughoutthe county. For a complete list, visit or call707-565-4477.


SCMA to assist with primary care survey

SCMA, which maintains an extensive database on all localphysicians, will be a key player in an upcoming survey of primary carecapacity, innovations and shortages. The survey is being conducted by thePrimary Care Workgroup, one of several groups formed by the Sonoma CountyDepartment of Health Services to improve community health for county residents.

The workgroup, chaired by Dr. Bo Greaves, will use the SCMAdatabase to contact primary care physicians regarding their practice capacityand the degree to which they have adopted patient-centered care innovations.The workgroup will also collect data required to designate any Primary CareHealth Professional Shortage Areas, which may be eligible for federal funding.

The survey results will be used to develop recommendationsfor ensuring primary care capacity and promoting patient-centered care. 


PFMC awards nearly $25,000 to four North Bay projects

The Pacific Foundation for Medical Care has awarded nearly$25,000 in grants to four North Bay health projects. The grants are given twicea year to support projects that enhance the availability or quality of healthservices in counties served by PFMC. The latest grants were given to:

·      SCMAHealth Careers Scholarship Committee to fund scholarships for studentspursuing medical careers.

·      NorthernCalifornia Center for Well-Being (Santa Rosa) for childhood obesityprevention programs.

·      SonomaCounty Academic Foundation for Excellence in Medicine (Santa Rosa) tosupport strategic planning and faculty development for the Santa Rosa FamilyMedicine Residency.

·      CoastalHealth Alliance (Pt. Reyes Station) to address risky behaviors among WestMarin youth.

The next deadline for PFMC grant applications is April 2,2010. Instructions on how to apply for the grants are posted on PFMC, a nonprofit organizationdedicated to improving patient access to physicians, includes many SCMAphysicians in its provider network.


Buildings dominate November medical news

The ever-changing medical landscape in Sonoma County got afew more buildings in the foreground during November, even as the economicbackground continued its steady decline. Among the highlights:

·      The Veterans’Administration opened a 21,000 square foot outpatient clinic near theSonoma County airport. The facility, twice the size of the old VA clinic inSanta Rosa, includes more than a dozen exam and treatment rooms and will employup to 70 medical providers, including physicians, dentists and physicaltherapists. At least 5,000 local veterans are expected to use the new clinic.

·      Not to be outdone, the Southwest Community Health Center doubled the size of its clinic insouthwest Santa Rosa and signed an agreement to buy a 40,000 square foot officebuilding in the northeast corner of the city. The new facilities will allowSouthwest to increase its patient base from about 25,000 to nearly 35,000.

·      St.Joseph Health System bought a 60-bed convalescent facility across thestreet from Memorial Hospital. The hospital previously rented the building.Plans for the facility have yet to be announced.

·      Instead of a building, the Sutter Medical Foundation North Bay bought the seven-physicianDoyle Park Family Medicine group, whose offices are near Memorial. The purchaseswelled the ranks of local Sutter physicians to 85. The Doyle Park groupincludes Drs. Renee Armstrong, Laurie Cederburg, Kathy Horan, Naomi McAuliffe,Gary McLeod, Amy Shaw and Larry Slater.

·      KaiserPermanente and the Redwood CommunityHealth Coalition will be taking over responsibility for the Healthy Kidsprogram, which was previously administered by Sonoma County. The change wasprompted by decreased funding from the state and other sources. Healthy Kidsserves about 8,000 local uninsured children.

·      The KozelStroke Institute at Healdsburg Hospital received a Participation Award fromthe American Stroke Association for following specific guidelines in providingstroke care.


Three prominent local physicians die during November

Drs. John Shearer, Theodore Stashak and James West, all ofwhom had long careers in Sonoma County, died during November.

·      Dr.Shearer, a family physician in Petaluma for more than four decades, was apassionate advocate for health care reform. In “The Case for SinglePayer,” published in Sonoma Medicine in 2003, he wrote, “It is no longercredible to maintain that the current system works; it is also no longermeaningful to proceed with modifications of a system that has failed.” Amonghis many accomplishments, Dr. Shearer helped found the Children’s HealthcareAccess Coalition and volunteered at the Jewish Community Free Clinic. He was77.

·      At the opposite end of the political spectrum, Dr. Stashak was an ob-gyn in Santa Rosafrom 1949 to 1990. He was a staunch supporter of the John Birch Society andserved as president of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association. He deliveredmore than 10,000 babies and worked for many years with Dr. Alexis Maximov.Stashak was an avid cowboy and hunter, owning both a cattle ranch in Santa Rosaand a hunting preserve in Cloverdale. He was 91.

·      Dr. Westwas a pediatrician in Petaluma for nearly 50 years. When he started hispractice in the 1950s, he was the first and only pediatrician in town. Heworked tirelessly during that era, even as he and his wife Gilly raised fivechildren of their own. In 1972, Dr. Jeana Levinthal joined his practice; theyworked together until both retired in 2004. West served on the board of BloodBank of the Redwoods and Petaluma Valley Hospital. He was 85.


Blue Shield plans to publish physician ratings based on faulty data

Despite concerns expressed by CMA and an advisory panel,Blue Shield plans to publish physician rankings based on faulty data from theCalifornia Physician Performance Initiative (CPPI). Over the past two years,CPPI has used claims data from private PPO patients from Anthem Blue Cross,Blue Shield, and United Healthcare to measure physicians on a set of qualitymeasures.

CMA has serious concerns with the validity and accuracy ofthe data that has been collected. Results of CPPI’s own reconsideration processin 2009 found significant inaccuracies, with 33% of physician scores beingoverturned.

Because the CPPI program relies solely on claims data, itfails to comprehensively document the care a patient receives or the reasonswhy a patient may not receive care. For example, one physician reported that hewas marked down for not recommending cervical cancer screening to patients whohad undergone hysterectomies.

Nonetheless, Blue Shield is planning to give digital “blueribbons” to physicians who scored in the top 50th percentile, and will possiblyreopen the reconsideration process for physicians who are interested inimproving their scores. Blue Shield plans to publish this information by theend of December.

CMA is working to dissuade Blue Shield from publishing the2009 CPPI results, and to fix the flaws in the CPPI data-gathering processbefore moving forward with the project.


CMA opposes current version of Senate health reform bill

CMA, which supports health reform legislation passed lastmonth by the House of Representatives, opposes the Senate health reform bill ascurrently written.

“There is no way health care reform can work if patientscan’t get access to a doctor,” said CMA President Dr. Brennan Cassidy. “TheSenate bill fails to fix major problems in Medicare and Medicaid, whichcurrently suffer from chronic underfunding that undermines access.”

Cassidy called for major improvements to both programs,including better funding. CMA is working with senators to draft amended legislationthat meets these goals.

“California’s physicians appreciate the support of senatorsand their sensitivity to critical issues affecting the well-being of patientsand the doctors serving them,” Cassidy said. “It’s essential that the Senate’sleadership adopt changes to help California and protect patients.”


House passes Medicare reform bill; Senate action pending

Last month, the House of Representatives passed the MedicarePhysician Payment Reform Act, which eliminates the Sustainable Growth Rate(SGR) formula that would have cut payments to physicians by 21% in 2010. Actionin the Senate is still pending.

After the House vote, AMA President Dr. James Rohack issueda statement saying, “The AMA urges the Senate to act quickly before the cutbegins on January 1. Fixing the Medicare physician payment formula once and forall is an essential element of comprehensive health reform. Congress needs tofulfill its current commitments as it considers expanding its obligations.Physicians must be assured of stable payments so they can continue to care forseniors, baby boomers and military families.”


Red Flag Rule delayed again; bill introduced to exempt physicians

For the third time, the Federal Trade Commission has delayedenforcement of the Red Flag Rule, which requires some physician practices todevelop and implement identity-theft detection and prevention programs. Therule is now scheduled to take effect next June.

Several factors appear to be causing the delays, includingobjections from organized medicine, accountants and attorneys. The American BarAssociation recently won a lawsuit in federal court holding that the Red FlagRule could not be applied to attorneys, a decision that may impact enforcementof the rule with physicians.

A bill (HR 3763) recently introduced in Congress wouldcreate an exemption for health organizations, including physician practices,with 20 or fewer employees.


State rejects expanding scope of practice for nonphysicians

The California Office of Administrative Law has rejectedregulations proposed by the state Department of Public Health that would haveexpanded the scope of practice of psychologists and potentially all otherhealth care practitioners working in licensed health care facilities.

CMA strongly opposed the regulations, which would haveweakened medical staff self-governance rights and could have been interpretedto allow unqualified health care professionals to carry out the duties of aphysician or surgeon.

The regulations would have allowed nonphysician practitionersto admit patients, perform medical examinations, place patients in restraints,complete medical records, coordinate care, and order transfers. The regulationswould also have circumvented the self-governance rights of medical staffs toestablish and enforce the rules, regulations, criteria and standards formedical staff membership and privileges.



Constance Earl, DO, Family Medicine, 3320 Chanate Rd., Santa Rosa 95404, 547-2220 Fax 303-3318, Univ New England 2007

Michelle Mertz, MD, Family Medicine, 3320 Chanate Rd., Santa Rosa 95404, 547-2220 Fax 303-3318, Univ Vermont 2006

Laura Norton, MD, Surgery, 121 Sotoyome St., Santa Rosa 95405, 525-6180 Fax 521-3854,, Indiana Univ 2002

David Siffring, MD, Diagnostic Radiology, 121 Sotoyome St., Santa Rosa 95405, 546-4062 Fax 525-4097,, Hahnemann Univ 1999

Andrew Wagner, MD, Family Medicine*, 819 Longwood Ln., Sebastopol 95472,, UC Irvine 1982

* board certified



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The Sonoma County Medical Association, a 501(c)(6) nonprofitassociation, supports local physicians and their efforts to enhance the healthof the community. Founded in 1858, SCMA is affiliated with the CaliforniaMedical Association and the American Medical Association.

© SCMA 2009
3033 Cleveland Ave. #104
Santa Rosa, CA 95403



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