Mary Lou Licwinko, JD, MHSA

Mary Lou Licwinko, JD, MHSA

Mary Lou Licwinko, JD, MHSA
Executive Director
San Francisco Medical Society

Mary Lou grew up in Washington DC and moved to California at age 12 when her father was transferred by the Defense Department.  She has a BA degree in English from Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California and a Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration, MHSA, at the University of Michigan. After working in public health, Mary Lou decided to go to Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, Washington, DC where she graduated with a degree in JD (doctor of jurisprudence). “I was interested in criminal law and wanted to work as a public defender.  However, when I graduated from law school, there were few jobs for public defenders.  When the only public defender’s job I was offered paid very little and offered no benefits, I decided to look elsewhere for work.”


Because of her healthcare background, she was hired by Patton Boggs, LLP, a leading public policy law firm as a lobbyist during the Clinton administration’s first health care reform bill.  After several years of lobbying, she decided she wanted to practice healthcare law. This led her back to California. After practicing law in San Francisco for a while, Mary Lou was hired as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Medical Society, a nonprofit membership organization that serves the needs of all San Francisco physicians and advances the interests of physicians and their patients through education and the improvement of public health.

Mary Lou describes her job as like “running a small business”.  She directs a 7 person office overseeing finances, administration, training programs, legislative advocacy and journal publication.  She also serves as a liaison to other healthcare entities throughout San Francisco and California.

Mary Lou says hands on experience with lobbying and health care law has been a real plus in preparing her for her current job. Also, she says her law degree is helpful for everything.

The newest development in this field and a huge challenge facing the San Francisco Medical Society is switching the whole healthcare system over to information technology. Since there is money coming from the government, the focus is on how to secure funding for physicians to switch to electronic health records, as well to support the training and application of information technology. In addition keeping the membership up in a down economy is very demanding.

Mary Lou says the key to success is remembering that she works for the physician members.

The most enjoyable aspect of being the Executive Director of the San Francisco Medical Society is having the opportunity to work with smart and supportive physicians.

In her spare time she is a serious collector of contemporary art, Indian baskets, pottery and textiles. She also loves to read and play golf.

Mary Lou’s Current Favorite Author: Cormac McCarthy