Francis Salmeri Retiring

Our long-time colleague, Francis Salmeri, LMFT, will retire from AHP on February 28, 2014. He recently sent this letter to his co-workers and it’s so wonderful we’re sharing it with you all.

 

Francis Salmeri

Francis Salmeri

Dear Most Amazing Colleagues,

I began my journey at AHP in 1985, when Dr. Dilley started our HIV testing program. After about eight or nine months I was laid off and then returned to work in the testing program in 1987, where I’ve been since.

The HIV Counseling and Testing (HCAT) Volunteer Program is my proudest achievement at AHP. With the backing of my supervisor, Barb Adler (yes, she’s led HCAT all these years!), I started the program in 1991—it truly has been a labor of love—and such a success that for many years now most of our HIV counseling and testing staff have been volunteers. They make a weekly commitment for a year and many continue beyond that.

Each HCAT volunteer is an extraordinary person—compassionate and talented—who comes to the work because they want to give something back to a community they cherish or have ambition to use this experience to pursue a career in the helping or healing professions. All of them are actively doing something to make this world a better place and I have the highest regard for each of them. Our unit has become a supportive and caring extended family especially for those of us who have worked closely together over the years and decades. In our unit there is a lot of personal warmth, caring for each other, humor and lots and lots of skill and talent. In March, Devin Posey who, decades ago, started as an HCAT volunteer, will begin leading the volunteer program. I am happy to be leaving the program in such capable hands.

I grew up at AHP, an amazing place to do so, surrounded by compassionate, caring people, many of whom are LGBTQ, along-side some very extraordinary straight people. All have dedicated their lives to fighting HIV/ AIDS and to making the world a little better for those with the disease. I am proud to have worked with these folks; especially our “old timers.” We answered the imperative of our times, often without fully comprehending the gravity of what became an epidemic.

HCAT Team showing Francis the love.

HCAT Team showing Francis the love.

Last year I had the privilege to facilitate AHP focus groups that gave us, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, feedback on how our clients regard the services they receive here. Their comments really underscore what I think we do here. The people who attended the focus groups regard AHP very highly. One of the points made was about the stigma many of our clients encounter for having mental health issues. Here, they said they felt welcomed. They said this was a safe place where they were treated respectfully and with dignity. After listening to several accounts, I felt so deeply moved I was unable to speak for fear of making a spectacle of myself by crying.

This underscores for me why AHP is such a special place and why I feel so fortunate to have found my way here. My colleagues, all come from a deep place within–in their work and interactions–bringing care and kind regard to other human beings. Truly, you are remarkable and continue to make AHP an awesome place. I feel it and so do our clients and I am proud of the work we have accomplished together.

I am honored to have worked along side these folks and also feel totally excited about being able to retire with my husband who is also retiring!