Mount Zions director: Its simply time to move on

It is undecided as to whether a successor will be hired or if the director's duties will be divided among other managers.

Diamond used his aforementioned skills to steer several hospitals, including Mount Zion, through the shifting waters of high-powered mergers. He also rescued Mount Zion from near bankruptcy just before the hospital's merger with UCSF in 1990.

Apparently, Diamond will have his work cut out for him in Walnut Creek. John Muir just merged with Mount Diablo Hospital of Concord.

During his tenure at Mount Zion, Diamond implemented programs that targeted the neediest of city dwellers — victims of domestic abuse and random violence, low-income families with ill children, immigrants and the elderly.

"He was absolutely committed to making that hospital a community-based institution to people in the immediate neighborhood as well as to the Jewish community," said Ann Lazarus, CEO of Mount Zion Health Systems, the corporation that oversees health funds provided by Jewish donors.

"Mount Zion, today, epitomizes the type of institution that Marty wanted it to be," she said.

"He's enormously dedicated to the ideals of a hospital," added David Melnick, chair of the UCSF/Mount Zion advisory board and a Mount Zion board member before the 1990 merger. "He's also one of the hardest working people I know."

Melnick said the merger of Mount Zion and UCSF was one of the most important aspects of Diamond's tenure. The hospital chief not only finessed the deal but also has successfully integrated two distinct hospital cultures — one of academic and research orientation and the other devoted primarily to community medicine.

But while Diamond thrives on the challenges of a hospital merger, last year's UCSF-Stanford pact added one too many institutions to the Mount Zion equation, he said.

"This enterprise is far more complex in terms of governance than I have experienced before."

He speculated that he would have a diminished role in such a scenario and concluded that his skills would be best used elsewhere.

"I feel most passionate when I'm close to patient care and feel that I have some impact on it. That's what feeds my soul and that's what I'm going to do," he said.

Diamond feels proud that the hospital has retained a Jewish mission and character despite its 1990 merger and the loss of its kosher kitchen. Twenty percent of the patients are Jewish, as are most of the board members. Many of Mount Zion's longtime auxiliary volunteers also are Jewish, he said.

There's no missing its Jewish character when you walk into the hospital. Mezuzot adorn the doorways of both the lobby and the meditation room. A menorah graces the landing above the entrance, said Diamond, whose voice broke with emotion as he visualized the place he had come to know so well.

The most important aspects of the hospital's Jewish character, he said, are its programs that adhere to the Jewish concepts of tikkun olam (healing the world) and gemilut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness).

As early as his 1985 arrival, Diamond began to aid neighbors in the gritty Western Addition District, which is home to some of the poorest and most crime-addled of the city's residents.

His programs include:

*A virtual giveaway of Mount Zion Health Systems' property to Jewish Family and Children's Services for a domestic violence shelter.

*Domestic abuse education offered to neighbors via area schools and community service groups.

*A gun turn-in campaign.

In other hospital programs, he hired an art therapist to help terminal patients express their feelings through visual media, and with the help of Mount Zion Health Systems sold Mount Zion property for only $40 to establish the Ronald McDonald House. The facility houses out-of-town, low-income families while their children are in the hospital.

Mount Zion also is home to a chaplain's training program, which collaborates with Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. And the hospital is in the process of hiring its first medical ethicist.

Diamond's work won the hospital a coveted national award from the American Hospital Association for having the best community service program in the country.

"We have restored the hospital to prominence. It is a jewel in the crown of the [UCSF-Stanford] organization," Diamond said.

"I have tremendous feelings for Mount Zion in my soul, and I'll never leave it emotionally."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.