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Melissa Welch Named Chief Medical Officer for Center for Elders’ Independence

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Melissa Welch, MD, MPH, a Bay Area leader in managed care, long-term care, and cultural diversity, has been named Chief Medical Officer for Center for Elders’ Independence (CEI). Dr. Welch has successfully improved quality, operations, and critical financial results in a in a number of leading health care organizations during a career that spans more than 25 years as a physician executive. Her CEI appointment is effective immediately.

Now in its 36th year in the East Bay, CEI helps at-risk seniors live at home, rather than in nursing homes, through its national model of care known as PACE (the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly), which has been replicated in 255 PACE centers in 31 states.

“I am delighted that Dr. Welch is joining CEI during these challenging times in health care,” said Linda Trowbridge, chief executive officer. “Her passion for improving clinical outcomes and her extensive experience in care management for seniors will be valuable contributions to CEI’s leadership team and our continued success in providing quality health care for seniors.”

Most recently, Dr. Welch served as Chief Operating Officer for the San Francisco-based Institute on Aging, where she stabilized its operations in community healthcare, including a local PACE program, and integrated behavioral health services. Previously, she was Vice President, Clinical Quality, Network and Markets Support at Blue Shield of California. She concluded ten years at Aetna as National Head of Regional Care Management, where she led care management for 15 million commercial insurance and Medicare members.

Earlier in her career, Dr. Welch served as Chief Medical Officer for San Francisco’s Community Health Network, an integrated health care delivery system, and Medical Director for a San Francisco community clinic. Additionally, she was an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

“I am excited to join CEI and its exceptional PACE model of care,” said Dr. Welch.” Physicians need a team to care for at-risk patients because we can’t do it alone. With PACE, our doctors coordinate closely with caregivers, nurses, therapists, social workers, and other specialists to improve health outcomes and quality of life. Even though PACE seniors have  health challenges that qualify them for nursing home level of care, more than 96 percent continue to live and thrive at home with outstanding support from CEI, ” she added.

As President of Welch Perspectives, Dr. Welch offers mentoring, leadership development training, and strategic health care consulting for health professionals. She was Principal and Founder of Perspectives of Differences Diversity Training and Consultation for Health Professionals, and is an experienced diversity and cultural competence trainer. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Welch is Board Certified in Primary Care and Internal Medicine. She received a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. As a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign, her philanthropic interests include raising awareness for the prevention of heart disease in women.

For more information about Center for Elders’ Independence, visit elders.org or call (510) 433-1150.

 

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Community

OUSD Ended Oakland High’s Onsite COVID Testing, Parents and Teachers Want It Back

Oakland High School students attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when they get off school around 1:30 p.m. This allows them one day a week in which they have enough time to get tested after school. When testing is onsite, students can get tested during the school day.

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Oakland High School on September 13. Photo by Zack Haber.

On August 30, The Oakland Unified School District informed Oakland High School that they would stop providing onsite COVID-19 testing at the school, but many teachers and parents want the testing services to resume.

“If you don’t test for it, you don’t see that it’s there,” said Christy Mitchell, an Oakland High School teacher. She, and the other teacher who spoke to The Oakland Post for this article requested to use pseudonyms because they fear possible retaliation for speaking out.

Mitchell thinks it is likely there have been COVID-19 cases present in the school that the district has not documented because student and staff’s ability to get tested was greatly reduced when consistent onsite testing left campus. She worries there could be people attending school who have COVID but are not showing symptoms and could unknowingly spread the virus.

Anya Burston, another Oakland High School teacher, was directed to other OUSD COVID sites when she wanted to get tested last week, but she found them inaccessible.

“They gave me the list of the other sites where we could get tested, but they’re only open from 8 to 4,” said Burston. “We work from 8:00 to 3:30.”

If one factors in commuting time, Burston claims, it’s effectively impossible for teachers to get tested at district sites if they are not at the school a teacher is already working at.

Oakland High School students attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when they get off school around 1:30 p.m. This allows them one day a week in which they have enough time to get tested after school. When testing is onsite, students can get tested during the school day.

According to OUSD Director of Communications John Sasaki, the district wants to bring back consistent testing to the site but is facing difficulties related to capacity. The district provided a one-day pop-up testing service on Wednesday, and said he said such a service possibly could happen again next week, too.

He encourages students and staff to pursue other testing options.

“We also encourage our students and staff to visit our regional testing hubs, take advantage of community clinics, or get tested by their healthcare provider,” Sasaki said. “Likewise, we have provided at-home tests at all of our schools for families and staff to take when needed. Students are not allowed to miss class for COVID testing.”

The take-home tests are rapid tests, which have a higher rate of false positives and negatives then CRP tests, which take longer to deliver their results. Burston said she asked for an at-home test after not being able to get tested at Oakland High School, but was told there were none available because the school had run out.

She was eventually able to get tested at the pop-up service on Wednesday, but she said when she accessed the service she saw only one other teacher getting tested. She thinks people missed out on utilizing the pop-up testing service because the district informed staff and students about the site less than 24 hours before it appeared.

Sasaki said the district stopped providing regular on-site testing to Oakland High School after the number of positive cases began to decline at the school. During the first week of school, the district has confirmed there were 22 positive cases among staff and students at Oakland High School. This number dropped to five cases during the schools’ second week and then dropped again to one case during the third week.

Oakland High School had the most positive cases of any public school in Oakland during the first week of school, which lead to an entire class of students going into quarantine. The school also had abundantly available testing at that time.

Mitchell and Burston said during the first week of school, when some Oakland High School teachers heard a student in their class had come into contact with a person who had tested positive for the virus, they would take their entire class to get tested on site. At almost all other district sites during this time, students and staff did not have onsite testing available.

“Obviously with that amount of testing you’re going to have a lot more cases coming up,” said Mitchell. “The more testing we did the more cases we found.”

By the second and third week of school, Mitchell and Burston said although tests were still provided onsite, the school would run out of them. When teachers would take their classes to get tested, sometimes there weren’t enough available for everyone.

As testing became less available, COVID-19 numbers went down. During the fourth week of school, when testing facilities had left the site, the district documented no COVID-19 cases at Oakland High School. Last week, the fifth week of school, there were two documented cases.

“I think the optics are a huge concern for the district,” Mitchell said. “But pretending it’s not happening while you’re not testing for it is very disingenuous.”

A group of Oakland High School teachers are working to change the situation and hoping to pressure the district to bring back onsite testing. A few days after they received official word that the district was removing onsite testing, they began talking with each other.

“Many of us are really frustrated and we collectively felt we had to do something if the school and the district isn’t doing anything,” said Burston.

The teachers decided to spread word about the issue through flyers they created demanding onsite testing every day at the school and other COVID-19 safety measures.

They printed 300 flyers they put on walls throughout school and about 1,600 smaller flyers that they distributed to parents and students. The flyers linked to an online petition, which over 150 teachers, students, educators and community members have signed. The petition has interactive elements, in that it asks if those signers would be interested in attending a parent/student/teacher safety meeting.

Jennifer, a parent of a student at Oakland High School, signed the petition. She asked to only be identified by her first name, as other members of her family work at OUSD and she fears they could be retaliated against in reaction to her speaking out. She works in an ER and sees devastation COVID causes first hand.

“I know there’s a lot of kids out there with COVID because our ERs are packed,” she said. “I always support the teachers and I think onsite testing is definitely a necessity.”

Mitchell said teachers are considering direct actions to work towards improving COVID-19 safety measures at Oakland High School.

If Oakland High School teachers were to take such actions, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent history they have done so. On December 10, of 2018, the vast majority of Oakland High School teachers called in sick en masse and rallied outside of Oakland’s City Hall to protest what they saw as low wages and ineffective tactics of the Oakland Education Association, their union.

On January 18, of 2019, they participated in a similar “sickout” action, but this time students and teachers from other schools joined them. Participants estimated over 300 people in total marched to support teacher demands. These actions came just before the Oakland Education Association sanctioned educator strike, which lasted from February 21 to March 1, 2019.

But Oakland High teachers say before they engage in an organized actions related to COVID-19 safety, parents first need to understand what they are working toward, and teachers need their support.

“I think it’s really vital for parents and teachers to be working hand in hand on this,” said Mitchell.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Digital Issues

Oakland Post: September 15th – September 21st, 2021

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post for the week of September 15th – September 21st, 2021.

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The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post for the week of September 15th - September 21st, 2021.

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Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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