News

Five candidates join the race for El Camino Healthcare District board

El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. Photo by Michelle Le.

Whether it's the global coronavirus pandemic or steep challenges facing local hospitals, the normally quiet El Camino Healthcare District has some unusual competition this election season. Five candidates have filed with intent to run for the district board this November, while one incumbent is calling it quits.

As of Thursday, incumbents Julia Miller and John Zoglin confirmed they are running for reelection this year, both saying they have the experience needed to guide El Camino Hospital through the coronavirus pandemic. The third incumbent, Gary Kalbach, said he does not intend to run for reelection this November.

In contrast to the incumbents with a long history of hospital leadership, three challengers -- all of whom have a health care background -- are seeking a change of pace. Dr. Jane Lombard, a physician and longtime cardiologist; Dr. Carol Ann Somersille, an obstetrician and gynecologist; and Dr. Meghan Fraley, a clinical psychologist, have all recently filed for candidacy.

The El Camino Healthcare District is one of the few public agencies left in the state that still has oversight of an independent community hospital. This gives elected members of the board a rare ability to oversee both a large nonprofit corporation with a $1 billion budget as well as millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, which are redistributed each year to public health programs.

Lombard, a Los Altos Hills resident, has worked as a clinician in the Bay Area for 30 years, recently parting ways with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation to work full time at a women's heart center at El Camino's Mountain View campus. She said it's the only cardiology center specializing in women's health in the area outside of large academic institutions like Stanford.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Lombard said she wants to join the health care district board because of her passion for social justice in health care, and the potential for El Camino to leverage its power as a public agency to help underserved communities. Diabetes, hypertension and obesity are all serious issues in the region, and it only stands to get worse with unemployment through the roof.

Jane Lombard

Particularly in light of COVID-19 and its disproportionate effects on communities of color, Lombard said the focus needs to be on population health and preventing people from needing to go to the hospital in the first place.

"The hospital really is the last place you need to go, and you hope to keep everyone out of the hospital and healthy," she said. "We need a comprehensive approach to health care."

Carol Ann Somersille, who pulled nomination papers this week, is a Mountain View resident who has lived in the same neighborhood as the hospital for nearly two decades. She has largely spent her career as an independent physician with a practice on the Peninsula and in the South Bay since the 1990s, but also spent time working at a community clinic providing care for underserved residents.

Somersille did not respond to a request for comment. When she vied for an appointed seat on the board in 2017, Somersille said she wanted to take a balanced approach as a board member for the health care district, maintaining the financial health of the hospital while also supporting the needs of the community.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"These two goals may seem at odds with each other," she said at the time. "They don't have to be."

Fraley has spent the last eight years as a psychologist and clinical director working with patients from all walks of life, particularly teens and college students experiencing depression and anxiety. She has also been a vocal advocate on issues affecting Mountain View, including raising the minimum wage and opposing the city's recent oversized vehicle ban.

Meghan Fraley

Fraley said the mental health care system has been broken for a very long time, and people have been forced to go without care because of poor public investment in mental health services. The health care district could become a leader in fixing these problem in a holistic way -- promoting things like telehealth and preventative programs -- but there needs to be willpower on the part of its board of directors.

"We are currently facing a huge mental health crisis, and as a clinical psychologist and community advocate, I think it's necessary to have mental health expertise on the board and someone who is connected to the community," Fraley said.

One of the district's big roles in the community is to collect taxpayer dollars and spend the majority of it on grants for public health initiatives, which this year totaled $7.3 million. Fraley said that money goes to fund good programs and services, but the health care district should take a much more proactive role than collecting and redistributing tax funds.

"I think our community benefits program does give money to needy organizations, but I think we can do more than write checks," she said. "We can be working on the state level working with legislators, collaborating and creating new policies to rebuild and improve the mental health structure."

Two incumbents seeking reelection

Julia Miller is seeking her third term on the health care district board this year. A former Sunnyvale city councilwoman, Miller said she sees herself as an important liaison between the community and the hospital, and believes that kind of connection will be important during the coronavirus pandemic.

Julia Miller

Miller said she's proud of her last eight years on the board, and that strategic decisions and investments have kept the independent and relatively small hospital financially solid going into the pandemic. While it has taken a hit in recent months with the loss of elective surgeries, which generate significant revenue, she said it's only resulted in small reductions to salaries and vacation time.

"People still have their jobs," she said.

Miller said she was particularly proud of supporting the creation of a new behavioral health building for mental health patients, which she said was a dire need in the community. Miller said she believes her work with the El Camino Hospital Foundation has helped the hospital raise millions of dollars over her terms in office.

John Zoglin, the longest serving board member, was appointed to the health care district in 2007 and has been reelected three times since then. Zoglin has worked for large tech companies in the area, but also owns a small business as a Sylvan Learning Center franchise owner.

John Zoglin

Zoglin said he is running for another term this November, and believes that his experience will be crucial in supporting community health at a time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. But he also flagged long-term problems in the world of health care that El Camino has an obligation to address.

Amid rising health care costs, Zoglin said he believes the hospital "must do whatever it can" to keep services as affordable as possible, including pumping the brakes on price increases to stay below inflation. The hospital can't just tout high-quality services, it must also keep the costs of those services down when possible, he said.

Zoglin said the hospital has also made progress with price transparency, also a sticking point in the world of health care and consumer advocacy. The pricing structure remains opaque, but he pointed to the hospital's estimator tool as a step in the right direction.

Board chair Gary Kalbach, who was appointed in 2018, said he does not plan to run for reelection. Kalbach has had a presence at El Camino for years, helping to found the Fogarty Institute and later serving on the hospital's governance and finance committees.

Kalbach's background includes 40 years as a venture capitalist, starting companies and serving on hospital boards and nonprofits throughout the Peninsula. He said he enjoys the challenge of strategic planning and working on creative ways to approach the hospital's finance and quality of care, but that he hasn't really liked the political stuff that comes with elected office.

"I'm not a fan of politics," he said. "I don't intend to run again."

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Five candidates join the race for El Camino Healthcare District board

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 31, 2020, 4:25 pm

Whether it's the global coronavirus pandemic or steep challenges facing local hospitals, the normally quiet El Camino Healthcare District has some unusual competition this election season. Five candidates have filed with intent to run for the district board this November, while one incumbent is calling it quits.

As of Thursday, incumbents Julia Miller and John Zoglin confirmed they are running for reelection this year, both saying they have the experience needed to guide El Camino Hospital through the coronavirus pandemic. The third incumbent, Gary Kalbach, said he does not intend to run for reelection this November.

In contrast to the incumbents with a long history of hospital leadership, three challengers -- all of whom have a health care background -- are seeking a change of pace. Dr. Jane Lombard, a physician and longtime cardiologist; Dr. Carol Ann Somersille, an obstetrician and gynecologist; and Dr. Meghan Fraley, a clinical psychologist, have all recently filed for candidacy.

The El Camino Healthcare District is one of the few public agencies left in the state that still has oversight of an independent community hospital. This gives elected members of the board a rare ability to oversee both a large nonprofit corporation with a $1 billion budget as well as millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, which are redistributed each year to public health programs.

Lombard, a Los Altos Hills resident, has worked as a clinician in the Bay Area for 30 years, recently parting ways with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation to work full time at a women's heart center at El Camino's Mountain View campus. She said it's the only cardiology center specializing in women's health in the area outside of large academic institutions like Stanford.

Lombard said she wants to join the health care district board because of her passion for social justice in health care, and the potential for El Camino to leverage its power as a public agency to help underserved communities. Diabetes, hypertension and obesity are all serious issues in the region, and it only stands to get worse with unemployment through the roof.

Particularly in light of COVID-19 and its disproportionate effects on communities of color, Lombard said the focus needs to be on population health and preventing people from needing to go to the hospital in the first place.

"The hospital really is the last place you need to go, and you hope to keep everyone out of the hospital and healthy," she said. "We need a comprehensive approach to health care."

Carol Ann Somersille, who pulled nomination papers this week, is a Mountain View resident who has lived in the same neighborhood as the hospital for nearly two decades. She has largely spent her career as an independent physician with a practice on the Peninsula and in the South Bay since the 1990s, but also spent time working at a community clinic providing care for underserved residents.

Somersille did not respond to a request for comment. When she vied for an appointed seat on the board in 2017, Somersille said she wanted to take a balanced approach as a board member for the health care district, maintaining the financial health of the hospital while also supporting the needs of the community.

"These two goals may seem at odds with each other," she said at the time. "They don't have to be."

Fraley has spent the last eight years as a psychologist and clinical director working with patients from all walks of life, particularly teens and college students experiencing depression and anxiety. She has also been a vocal advocate on issues affecting Mountain View, including raising the minimum wage and opposing the city's recent oversized vehicle ban.

Fraley said the mental health care system has been broken for a very long time, and people have been forced to go without care because of poor public investment in mental health services. The health care district could become a leader in fixing these problem in a holistic way -- promoting things like telehealth and preventative programs -- but there needs to be willpower on the part of its board of directors.

"We are currently facing a huge mental health crisis, and as a clinical psychologist and community advocate, I think it's necessary to have mental health expertise on the board and someone who is connected to the community," Fraley said.

One of the district's big roles in the community is to collect taxpayer dollars and spend the majority of it on grants for public health initiatives, which this year totaled $7.3 million. Fraley said that money goes to fund good programs and services, but the health care district should take a much more proactive role than collecting and redistributing tax funds.

"I think our community benefits program does give money to needy organizations, but I think we can do more than write checks," she said. "We can be working on the state level working with legislators, collaborating and creating new policies to rebuild and improve the mental health structure."

Two incumbents seeking reelection

Julia Miller is seeking her third term on the health care district board this year. A former Sunnyvale city councilwoman, Miller said she sees herself as an important liaison between the community and the hospital, and believes that kind of connection will be important during the coronavirus pandemic.

Miller said she's proud of her last eight years on the board, and that strategic decisions and investments have kept the independent and relatively small hospital financially solid going into the pandemic. While it has taken a hit in recent months with the loss of elective surgeries, which generate significant revenue, she said it's only resulted in small reductions to salaries and vacation time.

"People still have their jobs," she said.

Miller said she was particularly proud of supporting the creation of a new behavioral health building for mental health patients, which she said was a dire need in the community. Miller said she believes her work with the El Camino Hospital Foundation has helped the hospital raise millions of dollars over her terms in office.

John Zoglin, the longest serving board member, was appointed to the health care district in 2007 and has been reelected three times since then. Zoglin has worked for large tech companies in the area, but also owns a small business as a Sylvan Learning Center franchise owner.

Zoglin said he is running for another term this November, and believes that his experience will be crucial in supporting community health at a time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. But he also flagged long-term problems in the world of health care that El Camino has an obligation to address.

Amid rising health care costs, Zoglin said he believes the hospital "must do whatever it can" to keep services as affordable as possible, including pumping the brakes on price increases to stay below inflation. The hospital can't just tout high-quality services, it must also keep the costs of those services down when possible, he said.

Zoglin said the hospital has also made progress with price transparency, also a sticking point in the world of health care and consumer advocacy. The pricing structure remains opaque, but he pointed to the hospital's estimator tool as a step in the right direction.

Board chair Gary Kalbach, who was appointed in 2018, said he does not plan to run for reelection. Kalbach has had a presence at El Camino for years, helping to found the Fogarty Institute and later serving on the hospital's governance and finance committees.

Kalbach's background includes 40 years as a venture capitalist, starting companies and serving on hospital boards and nonprofits throughout the Peninsula. He said he enjoys the challenge of strategic planning and working on creative ways to approach the hospital's finance and quality of care, but that he hasn't really liked the political stuff that comes with elected office.

"I'm not a fan of politics," he said. "I don't intend to run again."

Comments

Ellie
Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:24 pm
Ellie, Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:24 pm
12 people like this

Dr. Fraley has been a Mountain View advocate for years and has proven through various efforts, most notably minimum wage, that she can get things done. As a local student I will rest easier knowing there’s someone looking out for the mental health of our community, not just our physical health. I can’t wait to support her in this election!


Filling our gaps
Waverly Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:00 pm
Filling our gaps, Waverly Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:00 pm
9 people like this

Pretty impressive set of challengers this year! Fraley running as the only mental health professional makes me wonder why we haven't had behavioral experts on this board before??

With all of the cabin fever and depression that the COVID lockdown has caused I'm glad we have someone stepping up who can bring this long overdue skill set onboard. Especially with Miller's new mental health center, makes perfect sense to use it to it's full potential


Essy Stone
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Essy Stone, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:17 pm
9 people like this

Like the other commenters here, I’m very excited to see a mental health care provider in this race—I think with everything that’s going on, we are going to need to drastically step up our community care and support for each other, especially for our children. Dr. Fraley has my vote!


Steve Syracuse
Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:31 am
Steve Syracuse, Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:31 am
6 people like this

Having read the websites of the candidates and meeting a couple by Zoom, Fraley and Miller stand out. both care about mental health and rare in these times financial prudence. likely will bullet vote for them.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Aug 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Aug 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm
Like this comment

For those who may not know: Bullet Vote is a way to very slightly increase the odds - of the candidates you REALLY WANT to win, actually winning in a multi-candidate race.

In this race, with 3 positions, the above poster's effort will leave one potential vote upcast. Thus slightly INCREASING the percentages of the two candidates he REALLY WANTS.

This is generally good advice if 'looking for change' against "incumbent advantage". I will probably vote as Steve, but I have a lot more study to do!


ECH Board that reflects our ECH District
Registered user
another community
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:16 am
ECH Board that reflects our ECH District, another community
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:16 am
1 person likes this

The ECHD Board needs more women! I am going to vote to return Julia Miller to the Board, and then also choose two of the other 3 female newcomer candidates. Dr. Somersille has been a long-time positive and hard-working community member and would happen to add some African-American representation to the Board. I like Fraley’s approach to reviewing the money the ECH District can spend on community health. Zoglin will tell you that ECHD is spending a lot of money on this (he’ll also claim that he’s responsible for it!), but it’s not enough to simply use a chunk of current tax dollars for community benefit. ECH District should be getting so much more return for the prime real estate it owns (which District residents bought!) and gives to the hospital for a pittance (which benefits hospital executive management and doctors’ business interests). Getting a fair return on our investment would increase funds for community benefit to provide much-needed mental health and preventive health services in our District that will make all of us healthier.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:00 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:00 am
Like this comment

ROI. Return On (public) Investment: that is an interesting perspective to bring to the (public) hospital district governance discussion. In the past decade of MVWSD governance, one of the (IMO) 2 most fiscally liberating public policy shifts was this idea, for the MVWSD owned lands, that were being leased out to non-school district entities. Trustee (at the time) Bill Lambert - brought this item up, in much the same terms, and Interim MVWSD Interim Superintendent Skelly latched-on to the concept. This concept very soon resulted in the Board negotiating very much more favorable lease renewals with Google and two private schools leasing district lands/buildings.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.