San Francisco Medical Society Blog


Providing news to the San Francisco Medical Community.

SFMS Member Appointed Newest San Francisco Health Service Board Commissioner

Stephen Follansbee, MD, a SFMS member and retired HIV and infectious diseases specialist, was appointed and sworn in as a member of the San Francisco Health Service System Board by Mayor Ed Lee early this month.

The Health Service System Board oversees all activities of the Health Service System, administering health benefits for more than 111,000 people, including employees of the City & County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Unified School District, the San Francisco Community College District, and San Francisco Superior Court. The board ensures eligible members and dependents have access to quality health care.

Dr. Follansbee’s nomination was strongly endorsed by the SFMS. Follansbee, former Director of HIV Services at Kaiser San Francisco and recipient of the 2013 UCSF Associate Clinical Faculty Special Recognition Award, has been a past president and delegation chair of the SFMS, among many other positions and contributions.

SFMS Applauds Governor Brown for Passage of End-of-Life Option Act

The San Francisco Medical Society wishes to publicly thank Governor Jerry Brown for signing into law the End-of-Life Option Act (ABX2-15). His moving personal message conveys how difficult and controversial the issue of “physician-assisted dying” can be. 

Although most medical groups have historically opposed this practice, our organization studied it intensively last year and, citing both surveys of physician opinion and the reassuring evidence from other states, successfully advocated that the California Medical Association become neutral on the bill and topic, thus allowing the legislation to reach Governor Brown. We will continue to work for improved end-of-life care and patient choice, and feel that this bill will advance those goals for all Californians.

ABX2-15 will permit physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months.

The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on health care, which may not be until next year — January at the earliest, November at the latest.

Click here to view Governor Brown’s signing message.

Additional information or resources on end-of-life care can be found in the April 2015 issue of San Francisco Medicine.

Noridian Launches Web-based Provider Enrollment Workshops

Noridian, the Medicare Administrative Contractor for California, announced that it will offer web-based workshops focusing on provider enrollment. These webinars are intended for the Part B provider using the online Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) to change enrollment information, track revalidation or set up a sole proprietorship. 

The Internet-based PECOS process can be used in lieu of the Medicare enrollment application (i.e., paper form CMS-855).

The advantages of PECOS are:

  • Faster than paper-based enrollment (45-day processing time in most cases, vs. 60 days for paper)
  • Tailored application process means you only supply information relevant to YOUR application
  • Gives physicians more control over their enrollment information, including reassignments
  • Easy to check and update your information for accuracy
  • Less staff time and administrative costs to complete and submit enrollment to Medicare

There is no registration or teleconference fee. The presentations will be conducted through a web-based training tool that requires an Internet connection and a telephone (toll-free number provided in confirmation email).

Click here for workshop schedule and registration information.

Eli Merritt, MD: SFMS September 2015 Member of the Month

Eli Merritt, M.D., is a psychiatrist and mental health expert who consults widely in the Bay Area. Founder of Merritt Mental Health, a Care Navigation practice that helps patients and family members navigate the mental health system, he is past president of the San Francisco Psychiatric Society and past member of the Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Stanford. He completed a B.A. in history at Yale, M.A. in ethics at Yale, medical degree at Case Western Reserve, medical internship at the Lahey Clinic, and residency in psychiatry at Stanford. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including The Gulevich Award in Psychotherapy and Humanistic Psychiatry, the Humanism in Medicine Award, and the Saunders Award in Family Systems. Born in Nashville, he lives in San Francisco with his wife and two sons.

Click here to view Dr. Eli Merritt's practice information.

Why are you a SFMS member?

I am an SFMS member because I believe in two fundamentals of social psychology and medicine: 1) the power of the group and 2) the power of advocacy. SFMS advocates for the health and well-being of patients and their families. This central mission, joined with providing the best treatment possible to our patients, is what most motivates me every day in the consulting work I do with patients and families at Merritt Mental Health.

Which SFMS member resource is most helpful to you? 

The wonderful magazine, San Francisco Medicine, and socializing with colleagues.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

For one thing, I do try to exercise, whether I enjoy it or not. And I can say categorically that I do greatly enjoy playing squash and tennis with my two sons, Alejandro (11) and Cameron (8). It is always a highlight of my week when we find the time. 

In addition to this, I enjoy reading and writing. Over two recent weeks in Spain I re-read Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables. It is, to me, one of the most powerful works of literature ever written. Hugo, Jean Valjean, and the other characters in this novel are a great inspiration for me.

Related to my enjoyment of reading, this fall I will complete a book, Suicide Risk in the Bay Area: A Guide for Parents, Physicians, Therapists, and Other Professionals. Primarily, the book is a public health initiative whose aim is to increase awareness, education, and training in the area of suicide risk assessment and management. My plan for the rest of the year is to work tirelessly to get the word about suicide prevention and to encourage all people in all walks of life to “Talk About It.” I have a personal family history of suicide; my mother died by suicide when I was child. Added to this, I am heartbroken and pained every time I hear another story about an adolescent or young adult who took his or her life. I feel we have a moral imperative to improve the mental health and well-being of the young and, especially, to prevent the young from dying this way. I would be honored if SFMS members purchased the book, gave me feedback, and joined me in this important health initiative. Discount Code: “Prevention” SFMS members can pre-order the book at a 15% off. Just go to my website, add the book to your cart, and enter the code in the shopping cart on the following screen. Starting October 1, the book will be available through Amazon.

What is the most important thing you learned in medical school or residency?

That excellent medical care involves a great deal of care & relationship. With the accelerating pace of society and medicine, as well as the rapid and exciting advance of technology in all fields, including psychiatry, I believe both of these cornerstones of medicine are under threat. I am on a personal and professional crusade to keep care & relationship at the center of everything we do. The book, Suicide Risk in the Bay Area: A Guide for Parents, Physicians, Therapists, and Other Professionals, is part of this crusade. wh

What are some of the biggest opportunities or challenges you see in health care within the next five year?

Two things: 1) affordability and 2) keeping care & relationship as the twin foundation stones of the structure of medicine and all medical decision-making at all times. This includes making more room in medicine for the families of our patients. Doctors need more time to listen and to get to know their patients. It matters profoundly to the patient and can save money and time, in the long run, as well as mitigate the anxiety which is so often the impetus for so many unnecessary tests and procedures.

What do you love most about practicing psychiatry?

Most of all, I still love direct patient care--that is, my combination psychotherapy-psychopharmacology practice. Also, in the spring of 2014 I launched Merritt Mental Health, a new concept in psychiatry care. At Merritt Mental Health I consult with patients and family members on their current struggles with psychiatric illness and with our fragmented mental health care system. In response, I provide them with the best advice, guidance, and care navigation possible. I work a great deal with adolescents and young adults and their families, which is extremely satisfying work. I consult widely in the area of addiction, positively one of the most difficult illnesses across all medical specialties, and increasing in the area of suicide risk.

What is a special talent that you have?

I would say that there are two talents I am always striving to develop and improve: 1) being a good father and 2) expanding my capacity for empathy, compassionate listening, and remaining calm when the storm strikes. Storms can strike, of course, at work and at home (-:

What is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?

Dolores Park Cafe on 20th & Dolores, not far from where I live. Both of my two sons first tasted the flavors of Dolores Park Cafe when they were infants, with their heads poking out of a baby bjorn. We still go there often. It is filled to the brim for me with memories of my children’s lives in San Francisco. Their great delight there is the hummus plate (Cameron) and the mozzarella sandwich (Alejandro).

If you weren't preparing to become a physician, what profession would you like to try? 

I would be a writer, either as a professor or an independent scholar..

SFMS Champions Public Funding of Family Planning Services; Asks Physicians Statewide for Support

SFMS has been a state and national leader in advocating for women’s reproductive health and choice, including access to all medical-indicated services. The SFMS delegation has submitted a resolution to the 2015 annual meeting of the California Medical Association (CMA) House of Delegates (HOD) asking for support for full funding of Planned Parenthood and Title X Family Planning Services. The resolution is posted below and also on the CMA HOD page for CMA/SFMS member comment.


Each year, physicians from all 53 California counties, representing all specialties and modes of practice, meet to discuss issues related to medical practice, public health, health economics and finance—and much more. The import of this is that these policies guide CMA and AMA lobbying—and those are powerful presences in Sacramento and Washington. Our efforts have positively impacted countless patients and physician practices, and that’s why we persist.


Resolution No. 212-15


WHEREAS, the CMA HOD has in recent years adopted policy resolutions calling for mandated coverage of contraception, increased use of medical abortion where appropriate, endorsement of effective sex education/contraception programs, and opposing any political interference in the discussion and provision of approved medical services; and,

WHEREAS, currently many politicians are advocating the defunding of Planned Parenthood and Title X Family Planning Funding to the degree that they threaten to shut down the national government over this issue, based upon their opposition to abortion and heightened most recently by deceptively filmed and edited videos from Planned Parenthood clinicians discussing fetal tissue research; and,

WHEREAS, the services provided by Planned Parenthood and Title X are overwhelmingly non-abortion services that are often contraceptive and educational services which prevent unplanned pregnancy and abortion, so that defunding such services would most likely result in more unplanned pregnancies and more and later abortions; and,

WHEREAS, the provision of fetal tissue for research, which is most likely to provide many benefits in the long run, including for children, cannot be done for profit by law, and there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has profited from providing fetal tissue to researchers; and,

WHEREAS, the large majority of Americans strongly support the provision and public funding of such services; therefore be it,

RESOLVED: That CMA supports full funding of Planned Parenthood and Title X Family Planning services to both prevent and provide abortions, as well as providing many other essential health services, and opposes the politicization of abortion and fetal tissue research; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That this matter be referred for national action (to AMA).

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