From the San Francisco Chronicle, Otis R. Taylor, Jr.

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Fred Pons has knobby knuckles and the coarse hands of a jack-of-all-trades handyman.

The El Sobrante resident is a house painter, but when he’s not painting, he does odd jobs like landscaping to make ends meet.

Landscaping is how he got the spider bite this summer.

He was bitten on a Wednesday evening as he cleared wood chips from a yard in Berkeley. His hand and forearm swelled so that he looked like Popeye after scarfing down a can of spinach. He felt as if his hand was under a heating lamp. And he had a fever.

But instead of going to the emergency room, Pons gambled with his health. He has no health insurance and was afraid he’d struggle to pay any medical bills if he sought emergency help.

So, he waited until Friday morning to get medical help.

That’s when he went to the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, a free clinic in Oakland that’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday for walk-ins, and Tuesday for appointments.

Continue Reading …

 — in California

The National Catholic Register recently featured the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California on its cover. Read the whole article…

Medical clinics that serve the poor and uninsured typically only survive for a couple of years. The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California is moving towards 10 years in operation and recently served its 25,000th patient. John Christian, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Clinic, shared how the Clinic was founded and why it is so successful on The Kristine Franklin Show on Immaculate Heart Radio.

John Christian Looks Ahead

Two months ago we launched the newsletter for our beloved Clinic. The inaugural edition was well-received, and has proven to be a valuable communication tool to spread the good news about “the miracle on 21st Street.” In this season of giving thanks for all our blessings, let’s review some of the progress we have made in 2016, and our dreams for an even better 2017.

First, we remain true to our core mission of providing free medical care to the uninsured. We do this four days a week in a modern facility conveniently located on the campus of the Oakland Cathedral, across from Lake Merritt. The setting is “pastoral” in every sense, and in the coming weeks we will welcome our 25,000th patient – it could be your neighbor, a friend’s gardener, your shoe repairman. The working, uninsured poor are all around us, and whether the political winds coming from Washington blow the doors off of the Affordable Care Act, or merely trim back a few thorny branches (yes, I’m mixing metaphors), the demand for the Clinic’s services will remain strong.

More hours – we are fulfilling our pledge of adding hours and breadth of services. The lights are on four days a week, and every square foot is being used for the betterment of our patients.

More medical providers – every month we attract more volunteer medical providers, with additional specializations. Doctors like Tom Wallace, M.D., a retired neurosurgeon (and provisional member of the Order of Malta) who unfailingly gives of his time three days a week. Dr.Wallace serves as a mentor and inspiration to the rest of the medical staff. Doctors like Vona Lorenzana, our medical director, who puts in countless hours as she strives to leverage partnerships in the medical community so that we can offer a greater array of life-saving services while keeping expenses in check. Elsewhere in this newsletter you’ll learn a little about Dr. James Breeden. I could go on, but you get the point. All of us are grateful for these individual heroes among us, and we will profile more of these heroes in future newsletters. On a sad note, we will be saying “goodbye” in the coming months to two stalwarts on our nursing staff, Kathleen Moore and Bert Sebilia, who are retiring (again). Kathleen and Bert have been steady supporters of our organization from the day we first opened our doors. We wish them “happy trails” and all the best.

Greater Community Awareness – We are working hard to develop positive publicity about our faith-based clinic. Three months ago Mayor Libby Schaaf didn’t know we existed. Now she’s slated to visit the Clinic in January. Sara Cumbelich (provisional member) has transformed the Silver Chalice Awards Dinner into a tour de force, a must-go-to event which raises critically needed funds while honoring champions of the clinic, such as Dr. Robert J. Stein, KM, this year’s honoree. Sara and Nancy Cecconi (Dame of Malta and a regular volunteer nurse) have also launched a Malta Clinic Auxiliary to attract greater community awareness and resources to support the Clinic.

Looking Forward: We are confident 2017 will bring greater efficiencies in working with outside vendors. We are recruiting new board members brimming with passion, and hope to advance the plans to expand our physical footprint. We will also provide greater pastoral/spiritual outreach. Did you hear the one about a Dominican, a Jesuit and a social worker hanging around a medical clinic one day? It’s not the beginning of a joke. Stay tuned…exciting days are just around the corner!

Enjoy time with your families in the coming weeks. This time of year is so special. On behalf of our lords, the poor and the sick, thank you for your support.

John P. Christian, KM

On October 11th, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California honored Dr. Robert James Stein, KM at its 8th Annual Silver Chalice Awards Dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco. The prestigious Silver Chalice Award was presented by Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone and Bishop of Oakland Michael Barber SJ. It is given annually to the individual who has contributed most to the ongoing success of the Order of Malta Clinic, a free clinic that provides medical services to the uninsured and poor in the Bay Area.

The awards dinner helped raise funds to expand the clinic’s operations from three days to four days weekly. Over the last eight years, the Order of Malta Clinic has provided over 23,000 basic medical care treatments to new and returning patients with only the support of private donations. The clinic accepts no fees or public funding for its services.

In 2006, Dr. Stein was asked to help determine the feasibility of opening the free Order of Malta Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Stein became part of an ongoing committee that designed the service parameters for the clinic, most of which still exists today and has allowed the clinic to exceed the two-and-a-half year average life span of faith-based clinics.

“Bob is fused into the fabric of the Order of Malta and is one of the most generous volunteers I know. From serving on the medical committee for the Order of Malta Clinic board of directors to contributing the flu shot clinic at Summit Hospital, serving the elderly at St. Anne’s Home and Mercy Retirement Center, to Lourdes medical director and vice chair of the Growing the Faith committee, Bob’s contributions are incomparable,” said John Christian, president of the clinic’s Board of Directors. “When the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California counts their blessings—Bob is one of its greatest.”

Dr. Stein was the department chairman of Anesthesiology at Mt. Diablo Hospital Medical Center in Concord, California. There he developed significant expertise in cardiac, neurologic, obstetric, pediatric and trauma anesthesiology. After earning his doctorate in medicine from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he did a residency in medicine and anesthesiology at St. Louis City Hospital and University of California San Francisco, respectively. Stein and his spouse, Helen Mary, are long-time residents of Walnut Creek.

Each newsletter we will highlight a member of our dedicated staff or volunteer team. In this issue, we feature Dr. James H. Breeden, M.D. who has been a regular volunteer at the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California since it first opened eight years ago.

Dr. Breeden is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine with residency at Harvard Affiliated Hospitals. He retired in 2009 after practicing for over 43 years. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, specializing in Hematology and Adult T-cell Leukemia-Lymphoma.

For the past 25 years of his career, Dr. Breeden worked at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland and Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Richmond. The Piedmont (CA) resident also spent three years providing patient care at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, and part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“He is such a well-qualified individual,” said Dr. Vona Lorenzana, interim medical director at the Order of Malta Clinic. “You’re not going to get physicians with the caliber and credentials that Dr. Breeden brings to the table everywhere, so we’re privileged and blessed to have his services here at the clinic.”

“I initially began supervising the resident doctors from Oakland Kaiser who volunteered their time at the Order of Malta Clinic and quickly recognized the need to provide quality care for patients who suffered from chronic medical issues and were not able to pay for the care they required,” Breeden said. “I truly enjoy spending time at the clinic, and the physicians and volunteers there are such a terrific group to work with. We really get a chance to know our patients and I find they’re extremely appreciative of the care we give them.”

Dr. Breeden is one of the many volunteer physicians, translators, administrators, and nurses who offer their time and expertise to over 2,500 uninsured patients a year in the Bay Area — making the Order of Malta Clinic one of California’s leading providers of healthcare to the area’s working poor.


On September 21st, the Oakland Raiders Wives Club teamed up with the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California to take part in their monthly podiatry clinic for the homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul Community Center in Oakland. Along with a free foot exam and treatment by our doctors of podiatry, each patient is given a new pair of socks and a pair of gently worn shoes from the closets of an Oakland Raiders coach, player or wife.

Diana Holmes, wife of Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, along with her son Micah, helped out at the podiatry clinic event. Mrs. Holmes was just one of the many wives of Raiders’ players and coaches who collected and donated over 100 pair of slightly worn shoes to the cause and hundreds of new pairs of socks.

The St. Vincent de Paul / Order of Malta Podiatry Clinic collaboration is held on the third Wednesday of each month from 9:00am to 12 Noon. An average of 32 clients is seen at each clinic session. This special session with the Raiders Wives had over 40 patients in attendance.

The most common problems of the Podiatry Clinic clients are fungal infections, calluses and overgrown toe nails. All medical treatments by the podiatrist, and prescribed topical medicine and orthotics, are provided to patients free of charge.

In Oakland alone, the US Census Bureau estimates that 1 in 5 residents lives below the poverty level. A common thread they suffer is their inability to afford quality health care—so the podiatry clinic fills a critical need.

We urge you to drop off gently worn shoes and new socks at our next podiatry clinic being held on March 15th. Large shoes are welcomed. You can also drop off shoes beforehand at the Order of Malta Clinic located at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.

BobSteinWe are thrilled to announce this year’s Champion and recipient of the Silver Chalice Award, Dr. Robert J. Stein, KM. Dr. Stein is a founding organizer of the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California and long-time member of the Clinic Board’s medical committee.

Dr. Stein will be honored on Tuesday, October 11, at the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California’s ‘A Knight For Champions’ – 8th Annual Silver Chalice Awards Dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. Proceeds from the event will go towards expanding the Clinic’s operations from 3 days to five days weekly.

About Dr. Stein KM, MD

What do Louis L’Amour, Peggy Lee and Robert James Stein have in common?  That’s a question that can be answered only by a few.  However, the gregarious, accomplished and magnanimous Bob Stein is, and has been, the answer to many a quest and quandary of the Order of Malta Western Association.

Dr. Stein’s contributions to medicine and mankind begin in the late 1950s, with a doctorate degree of medicine from St. Louis University School of Medicine, followed by residencies in medicine and anesthesiology at St. Louis City Hospital and University of California San Francisco, respectively.

Promotion coming quick to Dr. Stein, he was made Chief of Anesthesiology by the U.S. Army at the 20th Station Hospital in Nurnberg, Germany.  And then on to becoming the Department Chairman of Anesthesiology at Mt. Diablo Hospital Medical Center in Concord, CA, where he developed significant expertise in cardiac, neuro, obstetric, pediatric and trauma anesthesiology.

Dovetailing his rise in medicine, Bob marries the love of his life Helen Mary D’Arcy, and they were blessed with three beautiful sons: Robert, John and Thomas, who all in their own rights followed in their parent’s footsteps exuding the strong character traits of kindness, honesty, loyalty, dependability, honor and being men of God.
Always a man of God, Dr. Stein discovered the Order of Malta and how he could offer his medical services while serving God.  Joining the Order in 1985, Bob, with Helen Mary at his side, dove into the Lourdes Pilgrimage as a participant, director and medical director.  Notably, Dr. Stein proposed the first all USA and English-speaking medical doctors meeting in Lourdes, a practice that continues to this day.
When Archbishop Vigneron and Dick Madden were proposing the Order of Malta Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light they immediately turned to Dr. Stein for guidance.  A study group, that included doctors Gene Cattolica and Bob Masi, was formed to determine the feasibility of running a free clinic at the Cathedral, and with Bob at the helm, it was determined a viable idea. The study group then became part of an ongoing committee that ultimately designed the service parameters for the Clinic, most of which still exists today.
Bob and Helen Mary are fused into the fabric of the Order of Malta Western Association, and Bob has been a selfless volunteer.  From serving on the medical committee for the Order of Malta Clinic board of directors to contributing the flu shot clinic at Summit Hospital, serving the elderly at St. Anne’s Home and Mercy Retirement Center, to Lourdes medical director and vice chair of the Growing the Faith committee, Bob’s contributions are incomparable.  And when the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California counts their blessings—Bob is one of its greatest.
PS…Louis L’Amour, Peggy Lee and Bob Stein were all born in Jamestown, North Dakota.

A Conversation with Dr. Vona Lorenzana, Interim Medical Director of the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California

Since opening in 2008, the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, located in Oakland, has provided over 22,000 free medical appointments.

“This is a remarkable place and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Dr. Vona Lorenzana, interim medical director, who joined the clinic in January 2015. “There is a tremendous need to provide quality healthcare in this country, especially for those who don’t have the luxury of affording it. We try to provide free medical help to patients by scheduled appointments and to make sure they’re treated with respect. We have been told this is a distinguishing characteristic from other free medical clinics in the Bay area.”

This is illustrated by the experience of a patient recently seen. The woman had been

Volunteering The Order of Malta Clinic one of Californi

“We have an incredible staff, as well as many wonderful doctors and nurses who volunteer their time – it’s a great example of teamwork. Nothing would be accomplished or be effective here without their generosity and their commitment to helping those who need it most.”

Like many of her colleagues, Dr. Lorenzana feels she gets more from her experience working at the clinic than she gives. And a big part of her motivation to help people here comes in part from scripture:

Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick.”
Matthew 25:36 “I was sick and you looked after me.”
Luke 9:2 “We’re asked to heal the sick.”
Luke 10:9 “The call is to heal the sick.”

The mission of the clinic is to provide free medical care to the uninsured, without regard to race, creed, or religion. Most patients appreciate the care delivered.

“We also have to look at the issue from a public health viewpoint. Often, patients are in the U.S. visiting from another country. One patient recently had a question of active pulmonary tuberculosis. She may not have sought medical care if she had to pay $300 a visit. But if we can diagnose such a problem and treat that person, then we’ve saving a lot of people from acquiring such a serious disease.”

It is also important for people to know the clinic offers much more than primary care. Specialists in the fields of Cardiology, Dermatology, ENT (Ear/nose/and throat), Gastroenterology, Gynecology, Hematology Oncology and Rheumatology are here regularly. These specialist are often under-utilized because patients don’t realize they are available. One of the current goals is to organize an eye care team with a doctor spending at least four hours a month at the clinic providing diabetic eye exams.

It is important to understand this is a team effort. None of the specialists available would be able to work effectively without many volunteers including a

It is especially important for donors and potential donors to know how important they are. They are the foundation for this endeavor.

“Without thegenerous support of our donors. This endeavor could not exist without them. It’s a joint effort.”

Richard Madden

Longtime Knights and Dames will remember Richard “Dick” Madden’s dedication to the Order of Malta, our former Western Association president and co-founder of Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, who died on June 25th at the age of 87 surrounded by Joan, his wife of 58 years, and the rest of his large and loving family.

Dick was interested in so many things. He was an alumnus of Princeton University, the University of Michigan Law School and New York University, building his expertise in both business and law. He also served in the U.S. Navy, proving he was as tough as he was smart. His long career, took him through the ranks of Mobil, teaching at NYU, and ultimately to the Potlach Corporation where he was the chairman and CEO for 23 years. He shared his expertise by serving on many Boards, leaving his mark on each one.

Dick was a Knight of Malta and, following his retirement from Potlatch in 1994, he became active in the Order of Malta which has as its’ purpose serving the sick and the poor. He served as President of the Western Association for six years, among other work with the Order. It was under his leadership of the Order of Malta that decided the clinic’s placement, as he was the one who adamantly insisted on the placement of the clinic at its current location at the Cathedral complex in Oakland.

To know him was to see what a life spend dedicated to helping others really meant. For 14 years, he and Joan traveled to Lourdes in France with sick people and other Order of Malta members on the Order’s annual pilgrimage. Dick served as Hospitaller for 6 years, founded the Parish Nurse Program and the Good Samaritan Program, as well as co-founded the Northern California Clinic.

In addition to his role as president, Dick became Vice-Regent of the Order’s Sub-Priory of Our Lady of Philermo and was awarded the Grand Cross in Obedience and the Grand Cross of Merit. He also met with and groomed various Knights from Northern California who would eventually be the founders and officers of the Cathedral Clinic Corporation.

He was a man who believed in service and giving back—and he certainly did that with the Order of Malta. He often said that the most rewarding aspect of membership in the Order of Malta was helping others in need.
With all of this Dick also found time to live an active life, full of travel, sports, and as a father and loving husband. We all hold his friendship and guidance to the Order of Malta in high regard. He is sorely missed.

Donations in Dick’s memory can be made to: Order of Malta – Western Association, USA, 465 California St., Suite 818 San Francisco, CA 94104-1820