Cheryl Fama: Taking Peninsula’s health care to next level

If there’s one word to describe Cheryl Fama, the newly appointed executive director of the Peninsula Health Care District, it might be “fearless.”

“You can’t be afraid to try new things in your career,” Fama, a lifelong San Mateo County resident, said. “When you get comfortable, you’re less effective.”

It’s a philosophy that has led her from her first job as a registered nurse to the highest levels in healt care administration. In early May, Fama was named the first director in the district’s nearly 60-year history.

An executive with more than 30 years of hospital experience, Fama was most recently the CEO of St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, a role she stepped down from in November due to family health concerns.

A love of what she does and a positive attitude are two qualities Fama brings to the job.

“You have to know the mission and believe in the mission of your organization in order to succeed,” she said. “I’ve always been passionate about patient care, and every job I’ve had has focused on that.”

The Peninsula Health Care District serves the health care needs of Burlingame, Hillsborough, Millbrae, San Bruno, San Mateo, and parts ofSouth San Francisco and Foster City.

The PHCD owns the building and land for the Peninsula Medical Center, which has been operated by Mills-Peninsula Health Services, part of Sutter Health, since the mid-1980s. Last fall, voters approved a new 50-year lease for the district through Measure V, which allows Mills-Peninsula to build a new state-of-the-art hospital, scheduled for completion in 2010.

As the new executive director, Fama will be responsible for overseeing the district’s asset management, act as an active landlord for the district’s properties and work closely with the district’s board to get its strategic plan for the new hospital into action. In addition, Fama will oversee the PHCD’s allocation of funds to programs that help the community’s underserved and uninsured individuals, which includes donations to such local programs as Samaritan House and a communitywide safety net insurance program.

Communication with the district is also a key function. “One of my other roles is to let taxpayers know why the PHCD is a valuable organization in ensure the area’s health care needs are being met,” Fama said.

Fama is excited about the possibilities the new position entails.

“This is an opportunity to build something,” she says. “We can really create community-based programs that help people stay healthy, so that they don’t need hospital care.”


New project: Establishing a new location and office for the district

Last project: Getting up to speed on LASKO’s MSR service review

Number of e-mails a day: 50

Number of voice mails a day: 2 to 3

Best perk: Working close to home, in her own community

Education: Nursing and master’s in Public Administration degrees from USF

Last conference: Catholic Healthcare West’s Quality Summit

First job: Hospital attendant

Career objective: To make a difference and really enjoy what I’m doing


Age: 59

Likes: Spending time with family

Dislikes: Complainers

Defining quirks: Has a plan mapped out for every day

Hometown: Millbrae

Sports/hobbies: Gardening, travel, trout fishing

Transportation: Drives a Lexus ES350 but often walks to work

Vacation spot: Pine Crest Lake

Role Model: Jessie Miller, her mentor and first director of nursing at Mary’s Health Hospital, and her husband

Reading: Just finished a Donna Leon mystery

Worst fear: Doesn’t live her life in fear

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