Doctor In the House: St. Mary's Medical Center



There were many, many doctors in the house at Tosca Cafe recently when owner Jeannette Etheredge and her pal Blanche Brown hosted a reception there for St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Fans (and former patients) celebrated the dedicated doctors of this 152-year-old institution -- the oldest continuing operating hospital in San Francisco. Now under the umbrella of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the hospital was originally founded and run by the Sisters of Mercy Order from Ireland.

The swell soiree featured a succulent spread dished up by MeMe Pederson and mercifully brief speechifying.

But words were needed as this party was also a preview for the hospital’s fall capital campaign which seeks to raise $8.75 million for the construction (by A.R. Sanchez-Corea & Associates) of two new medical additions at St. Mary’s.

“This is one of the first major campaigns we’ve ever undertaken,” announced Dr. Robert Murray, a longtime St. Mary’s surgeon and hospital Board member. “We are building two institutes not currently available which the city needs.”

The first is a 14K-square-foot Cancer Center which will offer patients advanced technologies in their fight against cancer. Through the sponsorship of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Foundation has received almost $500K in federal funds towards the purchase of the new Center’s linear accelerator.

The second project enhances St. Mary’s reputation as of the Bay Area’s leading cardiac programs with a new Vascular Suite which will unite doctors from the disciplines of cardiology, radiology and vascular surgery.

Willie Brown, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Catholic Healthcare West President Lloyd Dean

And naming rights are available. But Dr. Murray hopes to dedicate the Vascular Suite in honor of one of his favorite St. Mary’s patients: Jeannette’s late mother, Armen Baliantz -- a renowned restaurateur and saloonista who attracted the famous (and the infamous) wherever she went. Including St. Mary’s.

“I’ll never forget her at the hospital, sitting in the middle of the room holding court with a steady stream of visitors,” said Murray, laughing.

Serving as emcee (at the behest of Etheredge and Blanche Brown), former Mayor Willie Brown paid tribute to “this extraordinary collection of healers.”

“The doctors and staff at St. Mary’s offer such a unique delivery system of care and talent that at first I thought they were all hippies,” teased Brown. “But on the recommendation of Jeannette, Blanche had the honor, privilege and good luck of being a patient there.”

Blanche Brown is an expert in traditional Haitian Dance and has long served as an instructor at ODC. And the good doctors of St. Mary’s have attended to both her knees and her heart.

Upon learning she needed a pacemaker, Blanche sadly assumed her dancing career was over.

But Dr. Richard Podolin, a cardiologist and Chief of St. Mary’s Medical Staff, was determined to get Blanche back out on the dance floor. However even with the addition of this electronic enhancement, Blanche continued to feel sub par. She returned to Dr. Podolin on three occasions for tweaks to her ticker.

Each visit resulted in an increase of heartbeats until Podolin finally adjusted Blanche’s pacemaker to mimic the heartbeat of a 25-year-old.

“Yeah,” responded Blanche, gratefully. “That finally feels about right!”

Now her ODC students call their instructor the Bionic Woman.

“And whenever I work them too hard,” said Blanche Brown, with a laugh, “They threaten to turn down my pacemaker!”

Check out more photos below

St. Mary's Medical Center CEO Anna Cheung and Margine Sako

Josie McGann and her husband, St. Mary's Chief of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Bill McGann

St. Mary's Foundation Board President Doug Dillard and his wife, Michele Dillard

Jeannette Etheredge and Blanche Brown surrounded by the good doctors of St. Mary's (from left) Dr. Ken Mills, Dr. Bill McGann, Dr. Robert Murray and Dr. Richard Podolin

Karen Sanchez-Corea, her husband, St. Mary's Foundation Board member Tony Sanchez-Corea and fellow Board member John Espiritu

St. Mary's Foundation Development Director Mary Poppingo and Sister Joanne

Dr. Remo Morelli with Dolores and Ed Presley

Warren Hinckle and Linda Corso

Eleanor Johns, William Coblentz and Gina Moscone

Brad Heinzen and Bloomberg reporter Dan Levy

Related Articles
Now Playing at SF Symphony
View this profile on Instagram

7x7 (@7x7bayarea) • Instagram photos and videos

From Our Partners