Fred Ferrer

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Fred Ferrer – former CEO of The Health Trust and now CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley – talks about how he dealt with homophobia with his family, Santa Clara University and his career.

Frederick Ferrer grew up in Marin County, just twenty minutes outside of San Francisco, but to him the gay world felt “millions of miles away.” He knew he was gay as early as kindergarten, but it was the era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t even think about it.’

Although Ferrer was unable to fully be himself growing up, he felt surrounded by love. “I learned to love from my family, from my church and from my government, but I also learned how to hate from those three places as well. I experienced this notion that it wasn’t even okay to think you were going to be gay.”

In 1976, Ferrer left his Catholic Mexican family home life for a Catholic institution to pursue an undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University. He partied hard and studied harder to fit in, but noticed other queer men were missing from the social gatherings he frequented. They spent their days off making secret trips to San Francisco; their classmates oblivious as to what they were doing. Ferrer remained in the closet.

He went on to grad school at San Jose State to study to be a therapist. There, he worked with students who were coming out. But Ferrer felt emotionally unequipped to guide others on the journey he himself had not yet taken, and ultimately switched career paths. “I didn’t stay as a therapist because there was just too much internal pain, and I really wasn’t going to be a good therapist to somebody else if I couldn’t deal with this stuff myself.”

Instead, he entered the nonprofit world and began working with low-income Latino families in the early childhood care system, drawing on his education in child development.  Though he was still not out at the time, colleagues often assumed Ferrer was gay, but he did not confirm it. Still, the support from those around him, which included out gay executives, made him feel welcome in the valley as an advocate and leader who served on nonprofit boards. 

While he was growing more comfortable with this identity in his professional life, it wasn’t until tragedy struck in his early thirties that Ferrer began to reckon with his struggle to come out to his family. When his mother died of cancer at age 54, he knew it was time to come out, and he entered therapy to help him do so. “It really helped me come to grips with who I was, what I wanted to do, and what I was doing that wasn’t helpful to my personal and spiritual growth as a gay man.” 

Ferrer’s father’s reaction to his being gay was as he always expected: He immediately began seeing his son through the lens of demonizing stereotypes.  With his family situation rocky, Ferrer missed a few years of family events and tried to make up for lost time by socializing in the bars of San Francisco and San Jose. “It was like I was celebrating my twenties all over again.”

Coming out in the nineties brought its own challenge. Ferrer lost many high school and college friends to HIV. “I was going through all kinds of turmoil with dealing with the death of my mom, the aftermath of dealing with my father, and then dealing with this incredibly sad pain of losing high school and college gay friends to HIV and not having anyone to share that with.”

Despite that trauma and isolation, after he came out, he began advocating for LGBTQ-inclusion in early childhood settings. He taught a curriculum called: Makng Room in the Circle to help involve LGBTQ+ parents.  Ferrer pushed on with his LGBTQ advocacy. As vice chair of the Santa Clara County United Way board in 1992, he led efforts to defund the Boy Scouts because the local chapter would not sign a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation. This debate led to conducting a needs assessment of the LGBTQ community and the ultimate funding of programs like the Billy DeFrank Center.

His work with the United Way showed him the power of putting money where your mouth is and walking the talk when it comes to fighting discrimination.

When Ferrer entered his new role of CEO of The Health Trust 1987, he was upfront about being gay from the start.  He ensured HIV services were a top priority, and transformed and expanded the programs based on the best practices and highest standards of care. He upgraded the food baskets that HIV-positive clients were given, allowing them to choose products themselves from stores like they would if they ahopped at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. “I was able to have Michelin star chefs come in and do cooking projects with us. It was great.”  Later he would co-chair a county-wide LGBTQ+ Health Assessment that would also lead to funding LGBTQ programs. 

Ferrer’s identity remains deeply intertwined with his work in the nonprofit sector, being it was the first safe community he found after experiencing a homophobic culture in college.

In 1995, Santa Clara University graduates wanted to form an LGBTQ alumni group, but the school prohibited it, thinking it would somehow be approving of homosexuality. It brought back memories of the pit Ferrer had in his stomach during his four years of undergraduate enrollment. “It brought back all of the homophobia that existed when I was a student and why it wouldn’t have made sense for me to come out. It also inspired me to make a difference and to work in the world of nonprofits.”

In 2014, then president Father Michael Engh invited Ferrer to chair a Presidential Blue Ribbon Task force on Diversity and Inclusion at the school.  “To have a gay latino man come back as the chair of the presidential commission, I think it showed how far the university has come.”

In 2010, the university established the Rainbow Resource Center. Ferrer now serves as a mentor at the Rainbow Center, working with young gay undergrads who share similar backgrounds. “I see the power of mentorship and the power of having the university recognizing you, and giving you a place to fit in and find like-minded people so that you can continue to develop in ways that may not be normative but in ways that you become more authentic.”

Today, in his role as CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, Ferrer advocates for the LGBTQ+ children in the foster care system, who make up a disproportionate part of the population. He is grateful for the opportunities he has had to work with children, given that one of the biggest arguments against gay marriage concerned children and their development.

Over his lifetime, Ferrer has seen Santa Clara University grow from a place where he had to remain closeted to an institution that seeks out his queer leadership. In 2014, Ferrer was granted an honorary degree from Santa Clara University for Public Service, the first gay man to ever receive this prestigous award.  He saw HIV begin as a death sentence that ostracized the gay community further, and later become a chronic health condition that has lost much of the heavy stigma it used to carry.

“I keep thinking what are the ways that we, as a community, can come together to end the kind of discrimination, homophobia, and now transphobia that exists and then work to change it. I know we will have a better community when those things no longer exist it.”

Dr. George Kent

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Read and listen to longtime HIV/AIDS physician Dr. George Kent as he discusses his 32 years of work at the Santa Clara County PACE Clinic and what he sees as the new challenges ahead for treating patients with HIV.

Dr. George Kent has been caring for people at the Santa Clara County’s AIDS clinic for over 32 years. He started in 1989 when he began splitting his time between working with HIV patients and being a primary care physician with his own clinic.

“I’m not making this up,” the longtime ally said. “I would deliver a baby in the morning, then go to my private practice, and then to the HIV clinic. After work, I would go to the house of someone who was dying of AIDS and help his caregiver and partner with hospice. The circle of life was amazing to me.”

He has seen the disease evolve from one that was untreatable and incurable to what is now a chronic condition.

 As someone who has treated patients since the early days of the epidemic, he remembers how difficult it was. “People my age were dying in the prime of their lives. Many were gay and estranged from their families. There was social stigma. It was a terrible time.”

The Stanford and Case Western Reserve graduate came to the HIV field after a residency at the UCSF-affiliated program in Santa Rosa, followed by training at the CDC as a medical epidemiologist, then returning to San Jose and completing an HIV mini-residency with the AIDS Education and Training Center at UCSF.

Afterwards, he looked around San Jose to see who was caring for HIV patients. One day he went to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“The clinic was in this little corner in the outpatient department; there were a few exam rooms. A person I met there was Dr. Ira Greene, a dermatologist and wonderful guy. We hit it off. After he got to know me and checked me out a bit, I said, ‘Ira, do you need some help?’ He said, ‘sure, you can join us.’ That was in 1989, and I’ve been there ever since.”

Kent reflected on some of the difficulties in the early days. “We felt a little like a M.A.S.H Unit. At one point we were in a flimsy little trailer in a parking lot. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It made us more cohesive because we really did feel like it was us against the world.”

The PACE Clinic, or Partners in AIDS Care and Education, assembled an interdisciplinary team from the beginning. “You had oncologists, you had infectious disease, you had primary care, and you had dermatology because a lot of these conditions manifested with skin problems.”

Working with HIV was the ultimate medical education for Kent. The virus was a multifaceted issue that impacted family relationships, societal attitudes, and the whole of the LGBTQ+ community when it first hit the United States. There were concerns over confidentiality and end-of-life planning that just did not exist when it came to other terminal illnesses.

“It certainly has made me a better doctor,” Kent said of caring for his patients.

In the PACE Clinic, the staff kept a whiteboard where they recorded the names of the people that died each month. “At the end of the month, we’d have a service. We would all get in a circle and say something about each person that died. We light a candle and have a memorial service, and then we’d have to erase the whiteboard and start over the next month.”

Witnessing the deaths of so many young people took a toll on Kent, and he needed time to cope with the stress and burnout. “I took two months off during the height of it,” he said.

Things started looking up for HIV patients in the early nineties, more than a decade after the first cases were discovered in the United States. With protease inhibitors and other medical therapies, the virus no longer claimed the lives of the majority of people in Kent’s care. “People just came back to life.”

Some of those individuals are still alive today. “I have these 25-year relationships with these patients who were basically at death’s door.”

Although Kent recognizes the magnitude of his work back in the early years of the AIDS crisis, he doesn’t want to glorify it. “We were all there on the front lines, and we felt like we were doing something important and meaningful.”

Today, HIV is no longer a death sentence. It is a chronic condition that can be managed with medications and even prevented with treatments like pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  Kent is hopeful some of his patients might see a cure for HIV in their lifetime.

He believes more primary care physicians need to be trained to work with HIV to expand access to treatment and help normalize the condition. By giving patients the option to see their regular doctor, the medical community can make living with HIV part of mainstream medical care. 

“I see HIV as a primary care condition,” Kent said. “I don’t think you have to go to a specialty clinic just because you have HIV.”

Advances in HIV treatment have only been part of the battle; the other is getting people into care and keeping them in care.

Today, healthcare disparities among those affected by HIV complicate the “Getting to Zero” mission, which aims for zero new HIV infections, zero deaths, and zero stigma.

In particular, he highlighted the importance of reaching vulnerable and underserved communities like the homeless and people of color living in the South. Two barriers that keep Black HIV patients from getting the care they need are medical racism and mistrust of doctors.

“We definitely need more outreach into those communities with culturally-competent clinicians who can establish trust, because our biggest challenge right now is accessing these communities.” 

In Santa Clara County, medical teams serve homeless encampments and bilingual Latinx community outreach workers manage care for Latino HIV patients. “The outreach workers will go to someone’s house. If we have a patient that missed their appointments, or didn’t refill their medication, they’ll go to their house. They’ll meet them where they work.”

Translators of every known language are available at the PACE Clinic, which offers additional services like counseling, psychiatry, nutrition guidance, and a treatment adherence program.

“We have world-class institutions here in Santa Clara County with the expertise that you don’t see hardly anywhere else in the world, much less, our country or our state.”

Kent grew up admiring his father’s impact on people as an obstetrician. Working at the PACE Clinic has helped him to fulfill the societal benefit of the medical career he always wanted. 

Working in Family Medicine at Stanford Health Care and the PACE Clinic has proven beneficial to him and his patients.

“If one of my Stanford HIV patients loses their insurance, then I can see them at PACE Clinic. I love that because then I don’t have to lose them. So, I have one foot in both worlds—enabling that continuity of care that I think is really helpful. I feel very fortunate.”

Judge Julie Emede

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In the second of a series, read about Julie Emede, an openly lesbian judge who has served on the bench since February 2010. 

Even when members of the LGBTQ community feel comfortable in their own identity, fears can still seep in about being accepted and respected in daily life. 

Stemming in part from her experiences finding acceptance as an out lesbian from Michigan to California, Emede prides herself on trying to have a greater understanding of people’s circumstances when they become before a judge.

“I think coming to court for anybody is scary, but I think it’s additionally scary if you feel like you’re different and have something else that you have to think or worry about than anybody else,” Emede says. “It’s really important to me as a judge that when people come into my courtroom, they feel like they can say whatever they need to say about their circumstances and not be afraid that they’re going to tell me something that will cause me to treat them with any less respect or any less dignity and they’re entitled to it in my courtroom. I work really hard at that.”

Emede had a “classic Midwest life,” growing up in a medium-sized town in Michigan. But after graduating from Michigan State in 1984, she began coming out and questioning whether the Midwest would be a place she could find happiness and acceptance. 

“So, I moved to California,” Emede says. “I definitely believe that the way my life is now and the things I’ve been able to do professionally, I could not have done if I’d stayed in Michigan.”

That’s when she acquired a job at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, where she worked for seven years in a range of positions, eventually managing the production scheduling for product lines from Malaysia and Singapore. Eventually, she took a voluntary severance from HP, which ended up paying for the first year of law school at UC Hastings College of the Law, commuting from San Jose to San Francisco. 

Despite worries her sexuality would impact her success in the profession—particularly in passing the “moral application” required of all law students—Emede graduated and passed the bar in 1995. She worked for nearly two years in a “boutique” civil law firm in Tiburon, before ultimately ending up at a San Jose firm, where she eventually became a partner.

She says she was drawn to family law because she wanted to do a practice in an area that dealt with people with their real everyday lives, and was able to get her start from connections she made playing softball, of all things. 

The idea of a judgeship had never really crossed Emede’s mind, since only a few lesbians had ever donned those robes when she started off as a lawyer. But by the late 2000s, she started giving real consideration to the idea of becoming a judge, from not only coworkers but also fellow LGBTQ lawyers who successfully were appointed. Despite being a Democrat when then-Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office, Emede submitted her application in early 2008 and was appointed to the bench by the end of 2009.

However, the application for judgeship brought back the same anxieties and questions she felt when applying for the bar: would being a lesbian threaten her chances at this career?

“It’s sort of a black box, it’s very behind the scenes,” Emede says. “But I knew I did really want to do something different that I felt was more public service.”

Emede and her partner, Marci Garcia, have been together for 31 years. After registering as domestic partners in 2001, they married in October 2008—hoping to tie the knot before the Prop 8 election would possibly take that right away. The couple were involved in different aspects of the LGBTQ community; she was on a clogging team that performed at Pride and was elected co-president of the political organization Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, or BAYMEC, while her wife was a contestant in gay rodeos. 

“If I hadn’t been involved with BAYMEC, I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to seek appointment,” Emede says. “I recognize that I’ve benefited from all the hard work and groundbreaking that happened long before I was here. Without having people like Ken Yeager and Wiggy Sivertsen’s influence, I just don’t think that my path would be the same.”

However, Emede had to tone down that open involvement in LGBTQ community politics and events once she was appointed to the bench. While it was a sacrifice she had to make, she says it was worth it to be able to make a different kind of impact.

“Judges all understand that when we take our oath that we can’t be involved politically in the same way that we were before,” Emede says, even though she does still openly mention her wife in various settings, like at Bar Association meetings and when teaching lawyers and judges.

“I do look forward to someday being able to participate in a way again, but it’s been very different inside the system—working on cases one at a time as opposed to trying to work on broader change.”

Emede prides herself on her work as a judge, from broadening recognition of people’s pronouns in courtrooms and managing cases of name and gender changes on her court calendar. 

“I think it’s important that there are people on our bench that reflect what people in our community look like, and I feel like it mattered for there to be an open lesbian on the bench,” Emede says. “I don’t think we’re probably out in the world enough for people to see that it does matter that we have judges on our bench that are LGBTQ. I think that that is a really powerful thing for the community to know.”

Judge Charles Adams

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Not much is known about the six LGBTQ+ judges that serve on the bench in Santa Clara County. In the first of a series, read about Charles Adams, an openly gay male judge who has served since 2018.

Judges often lead lives of privacy, as they strive to unbiasedly guide others through the legal system’s stresses and hardships.

For Judge Charles Adams, who serves in Santa Clara County’s family courts, being “out” as a gay man at work means frequently setting that element of his personal life aside.

The 43-year-old is by no means the first LGBTQ judge in California; Judge Stephen Lachs hold that title, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1979.

More than 40 years after that historic ‘first,” Charles proudly serves as one of 73 LGBTQ judges in California in 2021, after he was appointed in 2018—also by Gov. Brown, during his second term.

After growing up as the son of two teachers in Antioch, a relatively small town in the East Bay, Charles went to college at the University of California, Davis, followed by law school at Pepperdine down in Los Angeles, where he started working in civil litigation and family law.

Charles stumbled into a job as a research attorney for the Superior Court in Santa Clara County in 2006, combining his desire to focus on finding solutions with a homecoming back to the Bay Area.

One of Charles’ career highlights began in 2011, when he began working as a permanent staff member under Judge Edward Davila in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, prior to his own 2018 judicial appointment.

Charles says he thrives serving on the bench, as his role in the justice system revolves around being careful, caring and wanting to do the right thing to help people.

After alternating between family and criminal court, Charles became a supervising judge for family court, overseeing cases involving issues like domestic violence, restraining orders, probate and guardianship.

Notably, Charles was not previously openly “out” at work before becoming a judge. That changed in a simple yet meaningful moment: deciding to check a box identifying him as a part of the LGBTQ community on the application to become a judge.

“It’s not a required question, but for me it was going to be sort of the first public acknowledgement of being gay or LGBTQ,” Charles says, adding that he only recently began feeling comfortable and safe bringing his partner of 12 years to work events. “From then, it never came up.”

That may be, in part, because there is often little crossover between the bench and LGBTQ politics, unlike many politicians and other public figures, who often share their personal lives to connect with other residents and build community.

Charles says that judges often live lives outside of the public eye in order to avoid any potential impacts to their perception of impartiality, especially within family courts. While anyone serving on the bench has their own attributes and feelings—consciously or unconsciously—he rejects any idea that personal characteristics should be reason for disqualification, regardless of whether judges are Latino, female or LGBTQ.

“When you’re sitting on the bench, who you are is important, but it’s not necessarily relevant,” Charles says. “Personally, I think it’s smart to not put too much out there so that people don’t have preconceived ideas of how you’re going to be, how you’re going to rule and what your perspective is going to be.”

Fortunately, he has yet to run into any problems.

“Going into every case, I only see what the issues are, what the law says, what the facts are as I find them and I make a decision based on that,” Charles continued, adding the he and his colleagues take the issue seriously. “I think just understanding how people, feelings, and families work translates beyond not being a parent, myself.”

Charles has years of practice, first seeking out privacy of his personal life beginning in law school—an often competitive environment where it’s natural to be careful about what others know and slowly learn who to trust.

“It’s not something I wanted people to really know about or have a reason to think differently of me, just because of that,” he explains. “It really wasn’t until I moved back to the Bay Area that I was a little more willing to have that part of my life shared.”

That’s one reason Charles hopes that the fact that he’s gay provides another example for future lawyers and aspiring judges to know it’s possible to be successful, despite any personal background that is different from the “norm.”

“I remember being a law student and there weren’t really any role models that I knew for what I wanted to be—to see that someone could be successful,” Charles says. “What I hope is that people in the same position I was in can see me doing the things I am, now saying they could do it, too.”

Speaking up About Marriage Equality

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A diverse group of leaders in Silicon Valley in 2010 explain why they strongly believe that the civil right to marry should be extended to committed same sex couples. These leaders come from business, government, law, religion, the arts and community service organizations. Their comments can help us articulate a powerful case for changing our culture to embrace same sex marriage and to promote the healthy families that such changes will allow. The film-making group became acquainted as Senior Fellows of the American Leadership Forum in Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to joining and strengthening leaders for the common good.

Bartending at Mac’s with Rafael

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Rafael Cuilan was a very popular bartender at both Mac’s Club and later Renegades. Rafael was always great with faces and drinks, so no matter how long it had been since you’d been in the bar, he’d remember your drink and be busy mixing it up before you even sat down.

Mac’s was a kind of “gay family” bar, and Rafael, Skip, and Rich treated their customers like family. It was always great to sit down at Mac’s and enjoy a drag show and conversation with everyone sitting around you.

Rafael moved to Germany in 1994 but he’s back now and enjoying his retirement by getting deeply involved in helping elect progressive politicians. 

The Struggle to Gain U.S. Citizenship for Legally Married Couples

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Long distance relationships are never easy, even when two people are in the same country. Living in different countries separated by an ocean makes it even more challenging. Prior to U.S. Supreme Court decisions, another layer of hardship existed for same sex couples because the main criteria for granting citizenship is being a married spouse, child, or relative of a U.S. citizen. Because same-sex couples couldn’t get married, bi-national couples had limited time they could stay in the other spouse’s country.

Since same-sex couples could not get married until rather recently, the issue of getting citizenship for a loving partner was always near impossible. DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, compounded the problem.

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Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo celebrate their domestic partnership at Billy DeFrank Center

Section 3 of the law defined marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Thus it explicitly denied same-sex couples all benefits and recognition given to opposite-sex couples, such as Social Security survivor benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Learning all these aspects of immigration law and how it discriminated against same-sex couples, San Jose native and longtime LGBTQ+ activist Judy Rickard took on the issue by lobbying federal officials locally and in Washington, D.C. She wrote a book in 2011 which shared her story and the stories of others facing this heartbreaking discrimination.

The book, Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law and published by Findhorn Press, included resources for affected couples and those who were allies. April, 2021 is the 10th anniversary of her book.

She and her wife Karin Bogliolo joined with immigration attorney Lavi Soloway to confront the injustice and seek a legal solution. Years of radio and television and newspaper interviews took the fight to the public, even while Judy and Karin were forced to be out of America to be together.

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Judy Rickard, attorney Lavi Soloway and Karin Bogliolo at Torn Apart book launch in Los Angeles, 2011

As the amazon.com book listing shared: “The horrors that thousands of lesbian and gay couples face are detailed in this moving political and personal story of immigration and love. As Judy and Karin’s legal battles reveal, when only one half of a gay couple is an American citizen, immigration struggles are confounded by the fact that the partners cannot legally marry in most parts of the United States.”

Publishing the book led to Judy being invited to speak on this immigration issue on a panel at the White House in March, 2013, as the DOMA case was being presented to the Supreme Court. A chance to visit President Obama in the Oval Office gave Judy a chance to remind him of the particular immigration issue she faced. Presenting on the panel one day and demonstrating outside the Supreme Court the next day with Karin, they were interviewed and pressed the message to national media outlets.

Though Judy and Karin were married in Vermont on April 6, 2011, by a Justice of the Peace, their marriage would not be federally recognized until DOMA was struck down. Nevertheless, they still met with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials. They were lucky that their officer did not reject out of hand Judy’s application to sponsor Karin for immigration. Instead, he shelved it to be reviewed later.

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Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo demonstrated against DOMA outside the U.S. Supreme Court, March, 2013

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in United States v Windsor, ruling that DOMA was unconstitutional, thus allowing married same-sex couples the same federal benefits as opposite-sex couples. The ruling meant that married same-sex bi-national couples can now sponsor spouses for immigration and receive all federal benefits other U.S. married couples receive.

When the case was settled by the Supreme Court, Judy’s application flew through the system. Karin received the first green card in California and the second in America for a same-sex spouse. Karin passed the U.S. citizenship test after three years and is now a U.S. citizen. They happily live in San Jose.

Torn Apart is out of print but available on amazon.com and used book stores.

Marty Fenstersheib

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You might have heard about Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s testing and vaccine officer who came out of retirement in 2020 to help in the fight against COVID-19. However, you may not know he worked for the county since 1984 and was instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib received his B.S. at Tulane University, M.D. at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, and M.P.H at U.C. Berkeley. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine. He always craved big challenges. He left his first job in private practice because he found it too easy. He entered U.C. Berkeley’s Public Health program and, as a fluent Spanish speaker, was soon working in a Spanish-language clinic in San Francisco’s
Mission District.

In 1984, he joined Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department as director of the immunization program. This was in the early days of the epidemic. “I actually was the first person in the health department that gave results to people that they were HIV positive. The test came out in 1985 and nobody knew what to do, so no one wanted to give the results. So, I did,” Fenstersheib said. “It soon became known that if you got the test and I came in the room—it wasn’t good news. After
that, there was nothing else to tell them.”

Fenstersheib achieved national prominence when he pioneered a then-revolutionary AIDS treatment that meshed medical care with education to keep infected patients from spreading the virus. He helped open a County clinic to provide education, referrals, and support. The approach was profiled in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The HIV Early Intervention Clinical Program he started in 1987 became the model for the State of California. More than two dozen similar clinics were subsequently established and funded across the state. When Congress significantly expanded
the federal funding for AIDS care in 1990 with the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act, Fenstersheib’s program became the national model for AIDS treatment clinics.

Throughout the epidemic, Fenstersheib continued to serve as a hands-on clinician, caring for HIV patients for more than 27 years, even after becoming the County’s Public Health Officer and later, after adding the role of the Public Health Department Director.

The epidemic had a profound impact on Fenstersheib personally. His partner was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1984 and died in 1992. In addition, Fenstersheib has sung with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus since 1983, and he reflects on the loss of more than 300 members of the chorus who have died of AIDS since the epidemic began.

Fenstersheib retired from the county in Sept. 2013. In 2020, due to his knowledge of public health and infectious diseases, he was hired back to be the COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer at the county’s Emergency Operation Center.