It’s never easy being accused of doing something illegal, or foolish, or unethical. But there’s a special sting when an accusation involves discrimination. Which is what happened to us this week, when the CNA accused CPMC of discriminatory practices against hiring Filipino nurses. You may have seen the story in Friday’s Chronicle.

Let me begin by saying that nothing could be further from the truth. We are an equal employment opportunity employer; we cherish the diversity of our staff; and we encourage people from all walks of life to work here. More to the point, we have hired more than 150 Asian nurses in the past three years (we don’t keep track of who’s Filipino—that would be illegal!). Just take a walk on any of our campuses and you can see the panoply of people who have chosen CPMC.

This is personal

If I take the accusation personally, there’s a good reason. I learned much of what I know about medicine from a group of outstanding Filipino nurses on unit 5R (the respiratory and medical intensive care unit) at San Francisco General Hospital. They took me under their wing when I was a medical student and intern, and tried their best to keep me from making mistakes. They taught me how to recognize who was really sick and needed immediate attention, and who could wait. They showed me how to quickly resuscitate someone in hypovolemic shock (“Lift his legs, Warren. Both of them. High!”). I learned how to start IV’s in patients who had no visible veins and how to place an NG tube in a jiffy.

I loved working on 5R, so much so that I volunteered for extra months in the unit during the second and third years of my residency. (OK, maybe that was partially because of the lumpia at midnight.)  I will never forget Amor, Edith, and Lily and the rest of the nursing staff. Amor in particular stood out—it seemed like she was always around to keep me and the rest of the house staff out of trouble.  Only later did I learn that she worked so much overtime because she was paying the hospital bills for her sister, who had leukemia.

I remember one episode as if it happened yesterday.  One of my fellow interns (let’s call him Gerry) was taking care of a patient with end-stage liver disease (back then, we just called it cirrhosis). The patient was deeply comatose, and Gerry wrote an order to treat him with lactulose in an attempt to wake him. But Gerry didn’t quite get the dose right (he was off by a factor of five or ten). Amor, in her good-natured way, came up to us and said “Gerry, you ordered a 5000 cc lactulose enema. Gerry, Gerry—the BED will wake up.”

After my residency, I spent a year traveling around the world, including a glorious month in the Philippines, visiting the places that Amor and her colleagues had talked about, like Baguio and the Pagsanjan falls. I never did garner the strength to try balut (if you don’t know what one is, Google it), but I did get to see the rice terraces of Sagada and the white sand beaches of the outer islands. To this day I regret not buying a hand-carved chess set from a remarkable man in Banawe who had been in Apocalypse Now, which was filmed in the Philippines.

Being the target

I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough to know that CPMC is going to be a prominent target as we go through the entitlements process with the City for our new hospitals at Van Ness and Geary and St. Luke’s.  Sometimes I just wish it wasn’t so. That way, we could sooner join our colleagues at San Francisco General in breaking ground for our new facilities