Posts Tagged ‘Tom Waddell MD’

Kaiser Permanente at the Olympic Games

posted on August 4, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



Bob King wins high jump at Olympics, in The Capital Times (Wisconsin) 1928-07-30

Bob King wins high jump at Olympics, in The Capital Times (Wisconsin) 7/30/1928.

This year’s Thrive advertising campaign begins its launch on August 5 during opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Kaiser Permanente first began airing what was then its ground-breaking new campaign during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Then, as now, it focused on total health, demonstrating Kaiser Permanente’s long-held mission to improve both the health and well being of members—to help people “thrive.”

Kaiser Permanente has also been involved in the Olympics up close and personal, through participation by members, physicians, and employees.


Robert King, MD, one of the six original Permanente Medical Group founders, won a gold medal for high jumping at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

Tom Waddell, MD, (1937-1987) was a decathlete in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and a physician at San Francisco General Hospital’s emergency department. He founded the 1982 “Gay Olympics” (later named the

“Joe Rios’ 5’4” size didn’t handicap him at the U.S. Olympic trials in New York. “You can always compensate size with skill,” his teacher told him. Joe proved him correct.” KP Reporter, 8/1/1980

“Joe Rios’ 5’4” size didn’t handicap him at the U.S. Olympic trials in New York. “You can always compensate size with skill,” his teacher told him. Joe proved him correct.” KP Reporter, 8/1/1980

Gay Games after a challenge from the United States Olympic Committee). Dr. Waddell was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and his struggle to improve the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients at Kaiser Permanente was a continuation of his “never give up” spirit.

An article in the Kaiser Permanente Reporter featured this employee story:

Joe Rios, chief engineer at our Richmond (Calif.) Medical Center, finally realized his dream. “I made the team – the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team.” Although the United States didn’t compete in the 1980 Olympics, trials were conducted for selection of competition teams. Joe competed in two forms of fencing- foil and sabre – and won medals in both. Each event began with 75 participants. Six were finally chosen for the team. Comments Joe, “I fenced in an 11-hour match to win the silver medal in foil and a 15-hour match to win the bronze medal in sabre. It was absolutely the most fantastic experience. Everything seemed to fall into place for me.”

Shirley Craddick, RD, trains to carry the Olympic torch. Planning For Health 11/2/1984.

Shirley Craddick, RD, trains to carry the Olympic torch. Planning For Health 11/2/1984.

The United States had boycotted this Summer Olympic Games in Moscow as a protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In opening the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Shirley Craddick, a Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian, carried the Olympic torch for one kilometer as a representative of the Oregon Dietetic Association. Craddick was active with the Health Service Research Center’s “Freedom From Fat” project.

The Olympic Games and Kaiser Permanente – carrying the flame for fitness and health.


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The “Positive Lounge” at the 2012 International AIDS Conference

posted on July 24, 2012

By Bryan Culp
Heritage director

Kaiser Permanente, not a newcomer to the 30-year struggle to alleviate the suffering of AIDS patients, is the sponsor of The Lounge for People Living with HIV/AIDS at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. The “Positive Lounge,” a quiet corner of rest and support, provides refuge from the hurly burly of the momentous event.

This week 25,000 clinicians, researchers, activists and journalists from the world over convene for a week chock-full of lectures and symposia on the epidemiology of the disease, research for a cure, and progress on halting the rate of infection. Not a few of the delegates and attendees live with HIV/AIDS, and we anticipate 12,000 or more visits to the “Positive Lounge.”

One observer has described the biennial congress, first held in 1985, as a “cacophonous, confusing, crowded, interesting and exhausting” event for all involved, especially for those attending who are living with HIV. Each conference has a way of “calling up feelings of despair, surprise and solidarity.” Midst all of this the Lounge offers intervals of rest for those who need it.

Tom Waddell, MD, Olympic decathlete, SF physician, AIDS patient, and activist for better medical care for people with AIDS, 1987.

According to UNAIDS, the United Nations agency that tracks HIV/AIDS, of the 34 million people worldwide who live with HIV, 8 million partake in the growing armament of anti-retroviral therapies, and one million of these live in the United States. The medications taken in a combination of three or more, the “drug cocktail,” may induce fever, nausea, and fatigue. Daily regimens require strict adherence and involve the downing of several pills with or without meals and/or other medications. The drugs can rob one of appetite even while diets high in protein and carbs are needed to combat weight loss and fatigue.

The case could be made that the Lounge, as part of the Conference, mimics the range of treatments for AIDS itself. There is an intensity to a conference, a rapid paced relentless sea of schedules and presentations. The Lounge, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to reflect, to absorb, and to recalibrate. Good medical care requires an understanding of pacing, of tempo, and of balance. Too many drugs too fast can cause harm – and everybody responds a little differently, as does one’s own body over time.

During the early years of the epidemic there was so little known about the disease and of treatment options that mistakes were made. But with analysis, reflection, and the direct participation of patients and caregivers, solutions were found. Kaiser Permanente researchers contributed to the body of knowledge needed to improve HIV/AIDS care.

When two nurses at a non-KP facility were so fearful that they refused to enter a patient’s room, Kaiser Permanente reacted. San Francisco Medical Center Infection Control nurse Barbara Lamberto remembers: “We called a department head meeting immediately [and] we talked about our personnel policies and our posture about that kind of situation, and I think in the long run it made a difference because everybody knew [that] this is how we felt. We are a health care organization. We are here to care for patients.”

The epidemic is far from over and more solutions remain to be found. Kaiser Permanente is proud to help be part of that process.

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Kaiser Permanente’s early struggle to stand up to AIDS

posted on December 2, 2011

This illustration of a Kaiser Permanente physician with an AIDS patient was originally published with a 1988 article about AIDS and medical ethics in in-house publication, Spectrum.

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


How did Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans, deal with the outbreak of a new and unpredictable disease? Depending on who was talking in the 1980s, that answer ranged from “not nearly well enough” to “better than any other provider.” And both were true.

The epidemic appears

AIDS was first reported in the summer of 1981. The next year, when the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center began treating its first patients, diagnosis and treatment protocols were in their infancy. Doctors, nurses, administrators, and other caregivers struggled to know what to do.

Sometimes standard procedures worked fine, other times they were inadequate. One early conflict erupted in 1983 when two nurses at a Santa Clara, Calif., hospital (not a Kaiser Permanente facility) resigned over a dispute regarding caregiver safeguards in that facility’s first AIDS case. “I think most nurses would agree. . . There really isn’t anyone who wants to go in the room,” one nurse said.

However, the president of the Registered Nurses Professional Association concluded that “enough precautions are being taken” per the hospital’s AIDS guidelines. 1

At Kaiser Permanente  San Francisco, Infection Control nurse Barbara Lamberto described Kaiser Permanente’s response:

“We called a department head meeting immediately [and] we talked about our personnel policies and our posture about that kind of situation, and I think in the long run it made a difference because everybody knew [that] this is how we felt. We are a health care organization. We are here to care for patients.” 2

Michael Allerton, Operations and Policy Practice Leader for The Permanente Medical Group, describes the situation as he saw it: “Here was a disease that was invariably fatal, in a horrible way, and nobody knew where it came from, how it was transmitted. . . and in this incredible environment of fear and anxiety, our doctors walked in those rooms. Our nurses walked in those rooms. Our engineers went in to fix TVs. We had people who really rose to the occasion.” 3

The lack of solid data compounded treatment of “the mysterious disease” in unexpected ways. In a 1985 interview, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco RN Grace Rico-Peña explained the challenge in the early years:

“This is very different than any other illness we’ve needed to educate about. We’re trying to dispel myths and rumors. When news media reports stories about AIDS they have a certain bias — they want to make things seem a little more dramatic, a little more exciting, and so they highlight certain parts of the story and get everybody all charged up about it.

“There are a lot of people with crazy ideas about AIDS. I remember one story about a bus driver who didn’t want to take money when he was in the “gay areas,” people who don’t want to wait on people. That’s part of our getting sensitized and taking care of these patients. AIDS patients frequently become social lepers.” 4

She describes how Kaiser Permanente responded with reason and balance:

“Our philosophy in our educational approach, which has been dictated by our top level administration here in Epidemiology, has been to not let ourselves get carried off into emotion, or political controversies, but to educate very solidly along the lines of the information that’s known. We’ve done educational programming always on the facts. [We ask] “What are our patients’ needs, how are we going to meet those needs?”

Tom Waddell, MD, Olympic decathlete, SF physician, AIDS patient, and activist for better medical care for people with AIDS, 1987.

Patients get involved in care

And, as is true with all quality care, part of the solution came from the patients themselves. Tom Waddell, Olympic decathlete and a physician at San Francisco General Hospital’s emergency department, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986.

Initially publicly critical of the treatment of AIDS patients at Kaiser Permanente  San Francisco, he fought for better care. “I made a lot of noise,” he said. Other patients did so as well. On June 8, 1988, the Kaiser Patient Advocacy Union (with the suitably explosive sounding acronym “K-PAU”) was formed, demanding a voice in a range of issues. This was a life-and-death issue, and emotions flared.

But, as Dr. Waddell later admitted, “Much to Kaiser’s credit they responded.  I think they may now have a model program for treating AIDS patients.” 5 It was clear that motivated, informed patients needed to be part of the solution.

An HIV Support Group Program was established in 1988 at Kaiser Permanente  San Francisco, and the next year a system-wide Kaiser Permanente  HIV Member Advisory Panel was formed. In 1998, Kaiser Permanente hired the top San Francisco HIV specialist, Dr. Stephen Follansbee.

Documentary highlights Kaiser Permanente’s central role

In the year 2000, Critical Condition, an independent three-hour documentary about the politics of managed care, observed this high-stakes match between institution and critics. One segment included footage of AIDS activists picketing Kaiser Permanente, angry that it moved slowly and would not prescribe medication other than standard and approved drugs. 6

Tensions were high and tempers flared, but the strategic choice of Kaiser as a target was revealing:

“We only picketed Kaiser — not because it was the worst but because you knew where Kaiser was.  It’s like the big kid on the block.  If you can bring that kid to his knees, the others are going to get in line also.” 7

Another protestor reflected on the choice: “Do I think those protests were effective?  Absolutely.  I think it slapped Kaiser in the face and I think Kaiser stood up to it and said, ‘Okay.  What can we do here?’ ”

A third activist agreed: “The fact is we still have to acknowledge that Kaiser is the only HMO that I know of that’s ever allowed the members to come in and be part of the process.” 8

The strength of many

The San Francisco Bay Area quickly became one of the national centers confronting the epidemic. By 1989 two cities (San Francisco and Oakland) accounted for 67% of the region’s cases.  But other Kaiser Permanente regions were affected as well and mounted their own responses.

In 1989 Kaiser Permanente Colorado created an AIDS-specific social services program to help patients manage their own care, led by Barry Glass.  Glass’ holistic model proved so effective that it was extended into other areas, including care of the elderly and those with catastrophic illness. Broader health care lessons were being learned.

Some answers were found through the strength of massed medical resources. In 1987 Kaiser Permanente established a multidisciplinary Interregional AIDS Task Force, expanding to an Interregional AIDS Committee the following year.

James Vohs, Kaiser Permanente health plan and hospital president and CEO in the 1980s, reflected on that process: “One of the best interregional committees that we established was in response to the AIDS epidemic. It was an excellent way to educate our other regions on the basis of the experience that we had in Northern California, especially because we had so many AIDS cases.

“Kaiser covered something like 2 percent of the population of the United States when I was there, but we had about 5 percent of the AIDS cases. . . Having the Interregional AIDS Committee was very, very helpful in providing a good knowledge base of what was working, what wasn’t working, and how to organize services. It was extremely successful.” 9

Kaiser Permanente continues to lead

Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater actors rehearse scene from 1989 Bay Area production of “Secrets,” a play about HIV/AIDS.

At the 30-year anniversary of the first diagnosis of the mysterious disease, Kaiser Permanente continues to be a leader in AIDS treatment and research, and in partnering with community-based efforts. Kaiser Permanente Southern California has provided grants totaling over $4 million to nonprofit organizations for a variety of services for people living with HIV and AIDS, including dental care, youth education and screening programs.

The nature of the epidemic has changed, but the work remains, and Kaiser Permanente has demonstrated its commitment to applying the full weight of its health care resources to finding solutions.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s response to the AIDS epidemic at the Center for Total Health.

1 Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, June 12, 1983.

2 Transcript from Kaiser Permanente video interview, 3/1985; HIS07-508

3 Kaiser Permanente: 30 Years of HIV/AIDS with Coordinated Care, Compassion, and Courage, video produced by the Kaiser Permanente BSCPR Department winter 2011.

4 Transcript from Kaiser Permanente video interview, 3/1985; HIS07-509

5 Article in Spectrum, Summer 1987, p. 7.

Jay Lubbers, from film transcript, available at

7 Dave Mahon, from film transcript, ibid.

Mr. Sokolksi, from film transcript, ibid.

James Vohs interview, courtesy of Regional Oral History Office. The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, Calif., 94720-6000;“Ascending the Ranks of Management, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, 1957-1992,” by Vohs, James A.; Malca Chall, editor,1999 (issued)

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