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Zachary Wettstein; SFMS August 2015 Member of the Month

Zack is a Pittsburgh native in his third-year of studying medicine at UCSF. He moved to California to study Human Biology at Stanford, where he concentrated in infectious diseases and global health. After graduating in 2011, he spent a year working with the Dengue Relief Foundation, Sustainable Sciences Institute, and PATH in Matagalpa, Nicaragua on mobile health initiatives as a Field Fellow. He returned to the SF Bay Area to work as a Project Manager with Medic Mobile where he oversaw the mobile health projects with community clinics in Palo Alto and Redwood City to empower patients to manage their diabetes with cell phone tools.

At UCSF, Zack has been an active member of his CMA and AMA chapter, serving as a co-director of the chapter and the Vice Chair of Policy in the Medical Student Section of the CMA. He co-authored a resolution with his UCSF colleagues that resulted in AMA support of the FDA revised nutrition labels and recommended labeling changes for sugar-sweetened beverages. He co-directed a student-led course on Environmental Health and Social Justice and was awarded the Dean’s Prize in Research and Scholarship for his contributions to a community-based air quality and biomonitoring study in a region of hydraulic fracturing in Wyoming. He hopes to pursue a career in medicine that combines patient-care with public, environmental health and policymaking.

Why are you a SFMS member?

I’m a proud member of the SFMS because I see local, organized medicine as the best way to engage with our communities and local government on issues of public health and patient care. I got involved as a first-year student at the annual UCSF-SFMS mixer where I met SFMS physicians and residents who were eager to welcome us to the world of medicine and offer mentorship and support. We’ve had great success over the last year engaging students and faculty through on-campus collaborations, such as our Panel on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes, or direct action in San Francisco and Sacramento.

Which SFMS member resource is most helpful to you? 

As a medical student, I’ve been most appreciative of the SFMS physician leadership -- both past and present -- as well as the staff who serve to keep us engaged despite our busy course schedules and student turnover. Jessica Kuo has been a fantastic resource and liaison, keeping us connected to SFMS leadership and identifying any and all opportunities for student participation. Steve Heilig has also been a fantastic resource from a public health standpoint, particularly in engaging us in resolution-writing and contributing to the SFMS journal.

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

I’m an avid cyclist, hiker, and runner, so I take every opportunity I can to be out on the roads, trails, and parks of the Bay and Northern California. I enjoy drawing and painting, appreciating live music performances around the Bay, playing in the garden, and experimenting in the kitchen with microbes to brew beer or kombucha.

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

Humility! The countless stories and experiences that patients, instructors, and colleagues have shared about illness, pain, suffering, and resounding resilience have been deeply moving. Through the clinical immersion in preceptorship, Homeless Clinic, and work at the VA, I’ve been reminded over and over that while I have much to learn from my textbooks and lectures, I’ve got even more to glean from my patients and colleagues..

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

Before attending UCSF, I spent a few years working both abroad and domestically on mobile health projects, utilizing cell phones to facilitate chronic disease management and data collection for infectious diseases. I found that these tools are both accessible and empowering for patients and their families to take control of their diabetes or respiratory diseases. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface and I expect that we’ll be incorporating these tools into our daily practices to build stronger connections with our patients. 

 Cell phones and other technologies are not a panacea, however – they’re merely tools that we need to incorporate thoughtfully and carefully into our practices. I believe the increasing challenges of diabetes and asthma, particularly in children, need to be addressed through upstream public health policy initiatives. Prop E was a tough battle this past year, but one that was particularly inspiring for me and my classmates. The challenges and battles will continue, but we’re ready for them especially with access to technology and social media for engaging partners.

What do you love most about medical school?

Without a doubt, it’s been the people I’ve met and the colleagues I’ve had the great fortune of working with and learning from. I ultimately decided on UCSF because of the wonderful people I’d met during the interview and open-house sessions. They blew me away with their incredible passion for a wide range of topics, diversity of life experiences, and their dedication to patients. It feels like almost every day that I’m floored by an interaction with one of my colleagues and return home feeling humbled and grateful to be at UCSF.

What is a special talent that you have?

I studied at the San Francisco School of Massage and honed my massage skills through the Massage and Meditation elective offered to first- and second-year medical students at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. I’ve felt fortunate to share these skills not only with friends and family, but also through one of the SF General Hospital cancer support groups with classmates from UCSF.

What is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?

Palmyra in Lower Haight is a wonderful, family-run Syrian restaurant in my neighborhood that has been a second-home for me over these past two years. Hummus is my comfort food and during difficult weeks of study, but when preparing my own food has taken a back seat, Palmyra has been there for me with a delightful plate of all my favorite Syrian mezze (not to mention the stories that always come with it).

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

If I weren’t on the road to practicing medicine, I would probably have continued further down the path of bodywork and massage. I’ve always appreciated the healing power of the hands and simple touch, and have always struggled with the costliness and inaccessibility of many types of bodywork. I would’ve loved to explore opportunities to make massage and bodywork more accessible to all, through workshops, trainings, and other programs for the community.

SFMS Members Eligible for Complimentary Access to Health 2.0 Fall Conference

SFMS members may be eligible to receive complimentary access to the 9th Annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference. Health 2.0 is the premiere showcase and catalyst for the advancement of new health technologies.

2015 Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference

October 4-7, 2015

Santa Clara Convention Center

The conference will showcase new technologies in health care, examining what has changed in the past year and giving participants a sneak peek at what’s next. Attendees can look forward to live product demos, engaging panel discussions with expert speakers, and days of networking opportunities. An additional pre-conference session will focus on health care technology innovation at both an operational level as well as in the day-to-day workflow of clinical care.

To learn more about Health 2.0 sessions and speakers, click here.

Keep California Healthy. Stand with Dr. Pan.

Dr. Richard Pan needs our help! With our support, Dr. Pan won his election to the State Senate promising to work to keep Californians safe and healthy, and he did just that authoring SB 277 to abolish non-medical exemptions to school vaccinations. Now, anti-vaccination opponents are gathering signatures to recall the only physician in the California legislature.

Dr. Pan faced bullying and personal threats because he is a champion for medicine and public health. The TIMES recently acknowledged Dr. Pan as a hero for his leadership in fighting vaccine-preventable diseases.

Please join the SFMS Political Action Committee in standing with Dr. Pan to show our opposition to this misguided recall effort.

How You Can Help

Tobacco Bills Headed for Senate Floor; SFMS Physicians to Participate in Coalition Lobby Day

The SFMS/CMA endorsed tobacco legislation package heads to the Senator floor after Monday’s approval by the Senate Appropriation Committee.

Among the approved package of special session tobacco bills were SBX2-5, authored by Senator Mark Leno, which seeks to apply the same regulations imposed on traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, and SBX2-7, by Senator Ed Hernandez, which would raise the age requirement to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

In his testimony on Monday, Leno cited a statement by the California Department of Public Health, “which recommends that existing laws that currently protect minors and the general public from traditional tobacco products should be extended to cover e-cigarettes, and that’s what our bill will do,” he said.

Hernandez said there were about 18 billion fiscal reasons to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco up to 21. That's the estimated health care cost associated with tobacco products, he said, along with an estimated $3.5 billion spent every year in Medi-Cal to treat tobacco-related conditions.

Hernandez said his bill will significantly reduce the number of young people who take up smoking and result in significantly lower health costs.

“It should not be so easy for our children to get a hold of this deadly drug,” Hernandez told the panel.

The other four tobacco bills passed yesterday were:

  • SBX2-6 would add hotel lobbies, small businesses, break rooms and tobacco retailers to the list of smoke-free workplaces;
  • SBX2-8 would require schools to be smoke-free, including charter schools;
  • SBX2-9  would allow voters in local jurisdictions and counties to tax tobacco distributors; and
  • SBX2-10 would start a tobacco licensing fee program for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

SFMS is coordinating a lobby day with the Save Lives CA (a coalition with CMA, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Planned Parenthood, American Academy of Pediatrics, California Dental Association, SEIU, and more) to call attention and support for this broad group of tobacco bills.

Click here for more information about August 26 Tobacco Tax Lobby Day.

Proposed Rule Released Update to Physician Fee Schedule (i.e., changes to compensation and reimbursement rules)

In July, CMS released the first update to the Physician Fee Schedule since the repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate through the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). The proposal includes a number of provisions focused on person-centered care, and continues the Administration’s commitment to transform the Medicare program to a system based on quality and healthy outcomes. 

In the proposed CY 2016 Physician Fee Schedule rule, CMS is also seeking comment from the public on implementation of certain provisions of the MACRA, including  the new Merit-based Incentive payment system (MIPS). This is part of a broader effort at the Department to move the Medicare program to a health care system focused on the delivery of quality care and value. 

The proposed rule includes updates to payment policies, proposals to implement statutory adjustments to physician payments based on misvalued codes, updates to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), which measures the quality performance of physicians participating in Medicare, and updates to the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier (VM), which ties a portion of physician payments to performance on measures of quality and cost. CMS is also seeking comment on the potential expansion of the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, a CMS Innovation Center initiative designed to improve the coordination of care for Medicare beneficiaries.  

The proposed rule also seeks comment on a proposal that supports patient- and family-centered care for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries by enabling them to discuss advance care planning with their providers. The proposal follows the American Medical Association’s recommendation to make advance care planning services a separately payable service under Medicare.  

CMS is accepting public comments on the CY 2016 PFS proposed rule until September 8, 2015, and will issue the final rule by November 1. More information about the proposed rule can be found at

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