A major nonprofit in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood has appointed a new medical director tasked with overseeing the health care crisis in the struggling community.
Lawrence Kwan, a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, has taken a new job as the chief medical officer at the St. Anthony Foundation, known for providing meals, clothing, health care and employment training to Tenderloin families and individuals dealing with homelessness and drug addiction.
“What I love about this new role is we see the need to serve a whole person,” Kwan told The Standard by phone, referring to the comprehensive services the foundation provides its patients. “[T]he additional wraparound services here are different than the ones provided in the hospital systems I have worked for in the past.”
The Tenderloin’s overlapping crises rank among the city’s top public safety concerns, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently assigned National Guard and state law enforcement to patrol the area. Kwan explained that he changed his career path because he wants to come back to the community and help those having trouble accessing health care.
Prior to his prestigious faculty position, Kwan worked with the homeless community as the medical director of the Valley Homeless Health Care Program in South Bay.
St. Anthony’s serves about 2,500 patients, about 20% of whom are children. Some 70% are below the federal poverty line. Many are immigrants from Asia or Latin America, with limited English proficiency.
In a statement, Nils Behnke, CEO of St. Anthony Foundation, said Kwan’s hire would benefit to the Tenderloin.
“[Kwan’s] extensive background, particularly serving people experiencing homelessness who are in need of medical care, is a tremendous asset to the foundation and our guests,” Behnke said.
Interestingly, Kwan didn’t start his career in medicine. Rather, he worked in technology marketing at Apple for four years before pursuing a medical degree. A Bay Area native and son of Chinese immigrants, he grew up visiting San Francisco’s Chinese American neighborhoods and businesses.
“I can understand Cantonese, but I can’t speak it (我識聽唔識講),” Kwan joked over the phone— in Cantonese.
Han Li can be reached at email@example.com