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A lifelong advocate with Visionary Leadership: The Life and Legacy of Steve W. Schilling

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A lifelong advocate with Visionary Leadership: The Life and Legacy of Steve W. Schilling


November 28, 1946 – February 10, 2024

A very happy and meaningful life, well lived, came to an end on February 10, 2024, in Eugene, Oregon. Steve died peacefully after his third battle with cancer, surrounded by his loving family. Steve was a fifth-generation Californian born in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day to Bill and Ruth Schilling. He grew up in Mill Valley, Marin County, and loved outdoor activities like fishing, camping, and beach visits. Steve graduated from Marin Catholic High School in 1964 and often attended class reunions to keep in touch with friends from that time.

Steve graduated from Chico State College in 1969 with a BS in Business. He pursued graduate studies in Public Administration at the same college where he maintained a 4.0 GPA. Steve was an active member of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity and participated in community activities. After completing his studies, he joined the United States Peace Corps in 1971 and was assigned to work for an executive agency of the Venezuelan government in Puerto La Cruz, where he also worked as the YMCA director and a radio show host. Despite enjoying his time there, he eventually returned home.

Image of newspaper clipping - Clinica Sierra Vista, New director takes overSteve joined Clinica de los Campesinos (later renamed Clinica Sierra Vista) in 1973 as a CFO and later became the CEO. The program was close to bankruptcy, but through hard work and community-wide support, it grew to become one of the largest and most diverse non-profits in the nation. Clinica Sierra Vista provided medical, dental, and mental health services, a Family Medicine Residency program, as well as health education, substance abuse, nutrition, and community development services. Steve worked for the non-profit for almost 45 years.

Steve built a robust and responsive delivery system to serve the least and the left behind. His personal commitment inspired many to join him in the journey. He was willing to fight for the principles of inclusion and took reasonable risks to provide transformative care. From twelve employees to 1200, from a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to over $120,000,000 per year, from one store front to over 70 service locations across three counties in central California.

Steve helped rescue struggling non-profits and blended their talents into the larger CSV family. Examples of that include Community Health Centers of Kern County, Ebony Counseling, and the Sequoia Health Foundation in Fresno. The demands of running a large non-profit organization allowed Steve to perform at a high level and develop a variety of management and collaborative skills.

Steve built competencies in politics and community affairs, which are essential to the business world of health and human service. He was actively involved in political affairs, campaigns, and policy improvement, serving as the Chairman of the central committee for three terms. He was also a delegate to the National convention and won a primary election for a spot on the ballot for the state legislature. Steve was a passionate supporter of political campaigns and actively participated in many regional, state-wide, and national party organizations.

Steve was acknowledged by many groups and organizations. Some of those recognitions included a Key to the City of Bakersfield presented by the Council and Mayor, an Honorary Doctorate from the Trustees of the California State Universities for lifetime extraordinary achievement and excellence, and the Lifetime Achievement in Migrant Health Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Steve finished his work at CSV in 2018 and moved to Eugene, Oregon, with his family. He loved gardening and spending time with his kids, engaging in activities like fishing, hunting, and traveling.

For the full Obituary, please click here.

Upon completing his service with the United States Peace Corps in 1973 and returning from aboard, Steve joined Clinica de los Campesinos as the CFO and was subsequently promoted to CEO after a few years.  Clinica De Los Campesinos was later renamed Clinica Sierra Vista in 1975.

Thanks to diligent efforts and a committed team, the program expanded. By fostering robust community-wide support, Clinica Sierra Vista not only thrived but also evolved into one of the largest, most diverse, and clinically proficient health and human service non-profits in the nation.  Altogether Mr. Schilling spent nearly 45 demanding and incredible years working for the non-profit.

Under his direction, Clinica de Los Campesinos became Clinica Sierra Vista and grew to become one of the largest community health networks in the country. When communities would cry out for access, Clinica would answer the call.  He led the charge to open clinics in Lamont, Frazier Park, the Kern River Valley, East Bakersfield, Death Valley, and other areas where people had no access to care.

Despite delays, Wofford Heights clinic will be built  Plans for the Wofford Heights location of Kern River Health Center were well received by the few residents who attended a public meeting held last week.  Steve Schilling, Director of Clinica Sierra Vista, parent of Kern River Health Center, explained that the progress on the clinic has been delayed by numerous obstacles.  The proposed clinic will be built on a one-acre parcel of property located at the corner of Wofford Heights and Evans Road. Clinica Sierra Vista purchased the property two years ago for $26,000.  Our preference was to remain in Kernville, Schilling said. "But at the time we were looking for property, Kernville was under a building moratorium, and it was unclear how long it would last."  The Kern River Health Center outgrew its Kernville facility two years ago with the increasing patient number and the addition of a third physician, necessitating the search for a site to build a larger clinic.  There are three physicians working out of Kernville which is operating out of two trailers totaling only 2,160 square feet.  The Wofford Heights facility will be three times as large with 6,800 square feet. A fourth physician will be added to the clinic staff.  Clinica Sierra Vista has applied to Farmers Home Administration for funding for the facility. Schilling announced that he is seeking $803,000.  SEE CLINIC ON PAGE 3.

[Photo caption]: Steve Schilling ...Clinica Sierra Vista chief  MCFARLAND - The director of the McFarland Community Health Clinic is furious that the state wants to get into the clinic business here so late in the game.  But the fact that the state wants to dictate the conditions of its entry onto the McFarland clinic scene especially angers Steve Schilling.  Schilling is director of Clinica Sierra Vista, which manages the McFarland clinic. He said the state once again is taking a political rather than logical approach to McFarland.  "I'm not going to let a funding agency which comes into this at the 11th hour buy its way into the good graces of the people of McFarland," said Schilling, who also has been chairman of the Kern County Democratic Central Committee.  He complains the state is offering the clinic a one-time chunk of money it has to spend almost immediately, with no long-term promise of financing.  Those funds are being promised to the clinic by various state officials. In January, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services said the administration was seeking $180,000 for the clinic.  Please turn to FUNDING / B2

“I’m reliving almost what we did four years ago. We’re almost doing identical work to what we had already done in the Frazier Park area.”  -Steve Schilling, on the idea of bringing a new clinic to the Kern River Valley, an area where there was no medical facilities, hospitals, or doctors.

Steve receiving his “Steve W. Schilling Day” Proclamation from the County of Fresno  January 23, 2018.

Rio Bravo Family Medicine Program’s first class of graduates. Rio Bravo Family Medicine Program’s first class of graduates. From left: Adan Romero, MD; Hector J. Arreaza, MD; Cindy Her; Steve Schilling, PhD; Carol Stewart, MD; Rafael Chiquillo Sosa, MD; Fong Balart, MD; Fernando Josue, MD.

Steve Schilling, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista, led an initiative to provide medical and dental aid to Hurricane Harvey victims in 2017. He inspired a group of employees to travel 1,600 miles from Bakersfield to Texas to provide healthcare services to evacuees in Houston. Despite facing logistical hurdles and a gas shortage, Steve's leadership and the team's determination helped them overcome the challenges. Their efforts underscored the organization's commitment to humanitarian aid and community service, offering a beacon of hope during a time of crisis.