1. O'Shaughnessy, Patrice


Catherine Dodd in the City by the Bay.


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Catherine Dodd sighed. She was headed to a meeting, where she and other city officials were set to slash another $22 million from the San Francisco budget. As deputy chief of staff in Mayor Gavin Newsom's office, she oversees health and human services; aging services; and children, youth, and family services. Dodd, at age 52, has worked in public health at every level of government and on boards of nonprofit organizations dedicated to caring for the medically underserved.

Figure. Catherine Do... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Catherine Dodd, deputy chief of staff in San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's office, left, with Cecil Williams, pastor of Glide Memorial Methodist Church, a "24-seven social service agency with a nurse-managed clinic." Photo courtesy of Catherine Dodd.

"I've been funded and I've been cut," she said, "but I've never seen things this dire."


The economic meltdown is resulting in massive cuts in health care, and cities are struggling to maintain programs. "We have a $12 billion city budget," said Dodd, "and $1.5 billion is discretionary spending. Our deficit is close to $600 million. To think of cutting half of the general fund [horizontal ellipsis]" Her voice trailed off.


Like many who grew up in the area, she said that her heart is in San Francisco. She has worked as a nurse in its hospitals and clinics and volunteered in its community organizations. As she spoke in January, she had the proposed federal stimulus bill open on her computer screen, "combing every line for what is shovel ready, plug-in ready."


She came to the mayor's office with much public health experience: she was district chief of staff to House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a job that meant long days, and before that she served as director of Region IX (Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii) of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. Dodd has been in the mayor's office for just over a year. In January 2008, when she was hired, officials were already making serious budget cuts.


In her travels, she has seen much worse economic conditions than these-in Micronesia, along the southwestern border of the United States, in parts of Hawaii. "We are so rich in services here by comparison. The reason we live, work, and contribute in San Francisco is that it is the city of helping people lift themselves up," she said. "The double whammy now is the philanthropic community is squeezed, so the nonprofits are getting less."


Dodd was born and raised in Oakland and in 1979 got a bachelor's degree from the University of California, San Francisco, where she also received her master's in nursing in 1983 and her PhD in sociology in 2007.


Dodd lamented that cuts were made to nursing care for chronic illness and that nurses have been replaced because "we can't afford them." She feared that prevention efforts would go by the wayside. But she pointed to recent accomplishments of the administration she serves, such as the expansion of the program that provides needle-disposal boxes in clinics and near soup kitchens.


San Francisco will come through these rough times, as it has before, "whether it's an earthquake or a financial disaster," she said. "The president has called on us all to be part of the solution."


Patrice O'Shaughnessy