The story of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center stretches back decades, and one Berkeley native has been part of it for his entire life. Local attorney Darrell Sooy was born at Alta Bates Hospital in 1944, and his mother belonged to a Catholic auxiliary group working on behalf of Providence Hospital, a predecessor to Summit Medical Center.
“I remember my mother volunteering and going to meetings there, always enjoying it,” Darrell says. “So when I got a call from the chair more than 30 years ago asking me to join the Providence board, I thought it would be a fitting way to honor my mother and serve the community.”
The hospital was run by the Sisters of Providence out of Seattle, so the board at that time was philanthropic. Darrell led fundraising efforts through several reorganizations and mergers, including a merger with Samuel Merritt Hospital in the early 1990s, which ultimately evolved into Summit Medical Center.
“I was serving on the governing board at Summit when it was becoming more and more difficult to compete with the many hospitals in the area,” Darrell says. “We received acquisition offers from for-profit chains, but we felt that if we sold to a for-profit hospital, Alta Bates would likely be driven out of business. Our vote was unanimous to join with Alta Bates as part of the not-for-profit Sutter Health network.”
With the inception of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, a new philanthropy board was formed with three members from each entity. Darrell became chair of that board too, leaving his post only briefly after serving the maximum number of continuous years.
“I stepped away for about a year but decided to come back to the philanthropy board to serve this organization that does so much for the community,” Darrell explains. “We are so fortunate to have first-class medical facilities with great doctors, nurses and support personnel to care for patients. But Alta Bates Summit is also incredibly valuable for all it does for the greater community.”
Committed to Community Well-Being
After his first son was born at ABSMC in Berkeley, Darrell moved to Walnut Creek and had another son and a daughter. Today, he is an emeritus partner at Weintraub Tobin, California’s oldest law firm. Darrell says he landed in his specialty of real estate lending “by accident,” having taken a case just out of Hastings Law School that became the first published decision upholding loan prepayment clauses. His expertise in this area has been sought ever since.
Darrell has long been passionate about water sports, having swam and played water polo at the University of California, Berkeley. He has attended seven Summer Olympic Games, starting with Los Angeles in 1984, and even took his kids to the events in Barcelona and Atlanta. Darrell feels fortunate to have remained healthy all these years, but not everyone in his family has been so lucky. “When my youngest grandson was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia,” he shares. “That kind of news is just devastating; it is hard to know how to react.”
Grandson Preston is now in remission and enjoying an active 12-year-old boy’s life. But his cancer experience re-enforces for Darrell how important it is to have strong community healthcare in the East Bay. That’s why he recently made a significant gift toward the $10 million philanthropic campaign at ABSMC, designating it for the new cancer center in Oakland, part of a joint venture between Sutter Health and Stanford Medicine announced earlier this year.
The philanthropic campaign for ABSMC aims to accelerate care in the East Bay by modernizing technology and acquiring leading-edge equipment, enhancing vital community programs and support services, and expanding access to enhance the patient experience.
Darrell hopes others will see the value of contributing to the ABSMC campaign and join him in creating new opportunities for care in the East Bay. “I’ve seen hospital operations up close for many years and know that there are tremendous costs and that it’s a struggle to succeed,” he says. “I want to do my part while I can.”
Jody Policar, director of philanthropy at ABSMC, is grateful for Darrell’s gift and his many years of services on the board. “Darrell’s commitment to healthcare for this community is so impressive,” Policar says. “We are lucky that he decided to rejoin our board to provide a continuity of vision and enthusiastic support for our mission to expand services to the community as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Serving on a patient safety committee at ABSMC, Darrell has seen firsthand the difficulties of delivering care and keeping patients safe throughout the pandemic. “What impresses me most is the dedication of this team; the nurses, physicians and staff; to prevent errors and establish processes to learn from their mistakes, especially under the added strain of responding to COVID-19,” he says. “I want the public to realize what a valuable asset it is to have them all working in our community.”