With 25 years in the health care field, and 13 of those in hospice care, Sandra Lew's promotion to President and CEO of Hospice By The Bay & Foundation in April is well-earned.
She served as both Vice President of Clinical Operations and former Chief Operating Officer during her five years with Hospice (formerly Hospice of Marin). She has a passion for end-of-life care, and "allowing people to die with dignity - however they define a dignified death - on their terms."
In various leadership positions, Sandra has worked in the field of aging with Catholic Charities and On Lok Senior Health Services in San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center's Hospice Services for the Oakland/Richmond Medical Centers, and Hospice by the Bay in San Francisco. Like many who choose to dedicate their professional lives to helping others, she values "finding ways to give back and contribute to society."
A social worker by training, her early experiences with death and dying came during the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. "No social work training could have prepared me for that experience and the enormity of it all. I was trying to help people who were my age or a little older who were dealing with their mortality, loss of friends, reuniting with their families, and some who were struggling with their homosexuality with their families. At the same time, people I was working with were dying too. It was the closest to a war zone I will probably ever witness, and that just stays with you forever."
As a leader, she says she has a collaborative style, and that she enjoys "mentoring new leaders, watching and encouraging growth and development." To that end, she believes in an "open door environment," where "staff are always welcome to come and talk to me." She appreciates the sharing of information and data with staff members who can contribute to decision-making, saying "I have made my best decisions with the input and wise counsel of supervisors closer to the pulse."
As a leader of Hospice, Sandra feels she brings an important perspective and appreciation of cultural sensitivity and awareness. One of her leadership goals is to create strategies to connect Hospice with communities of color and to address their cultural perceptions about end-of-life care.