Venice Family Clinic’s 40th Anniversary: It’s More about the Future than the Past
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Venice Family Clinic’s 40th Anniversary: It’s More about the Future than the Past At a spring hearing before the Subcommittee on Health in the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, a series of witnesses testified to five major problems in America’s health care system: 1) shortage and improper distribution of health workers; 2) inequality in care and access to care; 3) rising costs; 4) lack of emphasis on prevention; and 5) poor coordination, resulting in waste and duplication. You might be thinking, No surprises here. Until you learn that this hearing was held in 1971. The Lessons of the Last 40 Years “It’s a good thing Venice Family Clinic got started when it did, in 1970,” says Liz Forer, the Clinic’s CEO and Executive Director. “It took 13 years just to acquire a permanent home, and another ten years to open a second site. An organization like this doesn’t appear overnight.”
Venice Family Clinic is a cornerstone of the local health care system. Indeed, it is arguably the single most important agency to the low-income uninsured on the Westside of Los Angeles County. “No one has given up hope that someday the health care crisis will end and everyone will have affordable coverage and access to quality care,” Forer says. “But if you’re one of the two million people in L.A. County who is uninsured, you’re not excited by ‘someday.’ You need a doctor, a diagnosis, and a prescription you can afford now.” The Time Has Come (Again) This ongoing urgency—some might say emergency— has compelled Venice Family Clinic to take a series of bold steps at critical times, beginning with purchasing its flagship facility in 1983, then expanding east on Rose Avenue in 1992, taking over two clinics the County was about to close in 1995, and adding five community-based sites in the last twelve years.
In its early days, Venice Family Clinic was an entirely volunteer-run organization, operated in the evenings out of a donated dental clinic. Everyone involved, including its Founder, Phillip Rossman, MD, and its Co-Founder, Mayer B. Davidson, MD, considered it to be simply a stop-gap measure.
With more sites, more services, and more patients than ever, Venice Family Clinic has transcended its role as a health clinic and is now, in many ways, a health system. More than 24,000 patients visit the Clinic annually. They make an average of four to five visits per year, for everything from prenatal care to immunizations to health education to chronic pain management. And local hospitals rely on the Clinic to prevent unnecessary emergency room visits and readmissions. It is a stable place in an unstable environment.
But permanence was thrust upon the Clinic over time by the combination of need in the community and failings in national health policy. And now, with more than 2,000 volunteers, 230 staff members, and nine sites,
“The reality is that, for most low-income uninsured residents of the Westside, Venice Family Clinic is their only means of getting the care they need, when they need it, on an ongoing and affordable basis,” Forer explains.
This point is particularly relevant in 2010. As Venice Family Clinic celebrates its 40th anniversary, the lesson to take is not that the Clinic is 40 years old but that it took 40 years to build.
L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl speaks at the dedication of Venice Family Clinic’s new primary care clinic in Mar Vista, the Irma Colen Health Center, on July 6, 2010. When the site opened, on March 1, it tripled Venice Family Clinic’s capacity in the neighborhood. Photo: Margaret Molloy
But Venice Family Clinic cannot reach them all. There remain thousands of people on the Westside alone who do not have a doctor, a dentist, or someone to talk to when they are stressed or depressed. Some have chronic diseases. Others live every day in pain. Some are children. So Venice Family Clinic is enacting a series of strategic initiatives to address not just the need for more space and additional services, but also the mechanisms for providing better care than ever, to more people than ever.
Forty Years of Building on a Good Thing
Venice Family Clinic is established by Founder Phillip Rossman, MD, and Co-Founder Mayer B. Davidson, MD. It operates out of a donated UCLA dental clinic on Lincoln Boulevard.
The Clinic loses a key research grant and is on the verge of closing until Irma Colen joins as a volunteer and creates the fund-raising program.
The Clinic purchases its flagship facility at 604 Rose Avenue, Venice.
Frederick R. Weisman donates the property at 622 Rose Avenue, Venice, to house the Clinic’s new mental health program.
The L.A. County Department of Health Services is on the verge of bankruptcy and plans to close two Westside clinics, in Venice and Santa Monica. Venice Family Clinic takes them over.
The Clinic begins providing on-site care to students at Santa Monica High School.
New Sites, New Technology, New Resources Over the course of 2010 and 2011, Venice Family Clinic will have completed five landmark initiatives:
But no matter what transpires at the national level— on the topic of the current health reform law or future legislation—it will always be up to communities to put forth answers to their own problems.
• The construction of a new primary care clinic, the Irma Colen Health Center, in Mar Vista, to provide a medical home to residents of the most underserved neighborhood on the Westside
“If there is one thing we’ve learned over the last 40 years, it’s that we can’t wait for someone else to come in and fix what’s broken in our local health care system. We have to do it ourselves,” Forer says. “There certainly will come another day when we need to make more bold moves. That day might come sooner than anyone suspects.”
• The opening of an Early Head Start office in Inglewood, the Clinic’s first site outside of the Westside of Los Angeles County, for home visitors providing comprehensive early childhood development services to at-risk families • The construction of a new dental clinic in Santa Monica, within the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center, to address the greatest unmet health need among the low-income uninsured
Venice Family Clinic is in the process of implementing a state-of-the-art, $2.4 million electronic health record system to improve quality of care and facilitate continued innovation and expansion. The system will go live May 2011. Photo: Margaret Molloy
• The implementation of an electronic health record system, across all sites, to improve quality of care and facilitate ongoing innovation and expansion
Viewed together, these initiatives mark one of the boldest periods in Venice Family Clinic’s history.
• The reorganization of the Board of Directors and other organizational changes to enable the Clinic to qualify for community health center grants, an increasingly important source of federal funds
Venice Family Clinic’s new 1,800-square foot dental clinic, within the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center, in Santa Monica, is now under construction. When it is completed, in February 2011, it will have six operatories, an x-ray room, and a laboratory, enabling Venice Family Clinic to see three times as many dental patients. Photo: Margaret Molloy
Learn more about this exciting time in Venice Family Clinic’s history. Visit www.venicefamilyclinic.org for news and photos of the changes underway and to sign up for the Clinic’s e-newsletter, Short Story.
And they help lay the groundwork for implementation of the health reform law. The most sweeping changes contained in the law will take effect in just over three years, on January 1, 2014. If they were to take effect today, the health care system would not have adequate capacity to meet demand from the newly insured, especially in low-income neighborhoods. So whereas there once was a time when the Clinic’s leadership spoke longingly of the day when health care reform would put the Clinic out of business, it is now eminently clear that reform depends on providers like Venice Family Clinic—in particular, to care for people who qualify for the expansion of Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California). At the same time, it is important to remember that the health reform law will not cover everyone. Once the law is fully implemented, an estimated 16 million people will remain uninsured. Plus, even if so-called “universal health coverage” is ever enacted, some people—such as the mentally ill and the homeless— will always fall through the cracks and need specialized assistance. Venice Family Clinic will continue to care for the most vulnerable populations, regardless of their insurance status.
Nine-month-old Adriana Martinez and her mother, Yolanda Martinez, explore the play area at Venice Family Clinic’s new Early Head Start office in Inglewood. The site is the Clinic’s first outside of the Westside of Los Angeles County. Photo: Margaret Molloy
The Clinic begins providing on-site care to residents of the Mar Vista Gardens public housing development.
The former L.A. County clinic in Santa Monica is renovated and reopened as the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center, the nation’s first health, wellness, and integrative medicine center at a free clinic.
The Clinic begins providing care to homeless people out of two exam rooms at the OPCC Annenberg Access Center, in Santa Monica.
The Clinic opens an Early Head Start office in Inglewood, its first site outside of the Westside.
The Clinic takes over medical operations at the Culver City Youth Health Center for students of Culver City High School and Middle School.
The Clinic opens the Irma Colen Health Center, tripling its capacity in Mar Vista. The Clinic begins implementation of an electronic health record system. The Clinic begins construction of a new dental clinic in Santa Monica, within the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center. The Clinic reorganizes its Board of Directors to qualify for increased federal funding. 3
It’s the Thought that Counts (Really, It Is) More than anything else, the holidays are about thinking of others, a sentiment that Venice Family Clinic’s Artist Cards express perfectly. Each is a limited-edition reproduction of a work donated by a Venice artist or a local collector to help Venice Family Clinic raise funds to provide free, quality health care to people in need. And you can use them as greeting cards or as Tribute Gifts, so even if you can’t resist giving fruit cakes or gift certificates, at least you can adorn them with something smart and meaningful.
Beautiful, four-color, offset printing Includes a description of the piece, the artist’s bio, and a short description of Venice Family Clinic’s work and your support of it! Customized imprinting available—even your company’s logo! RF, 2000, by Billy Al Bengston
• Blank cards (with envelopes) are just $3.00 each. • Imprinting, stuffing, sealing, and stamping are available for minimum orders of 60 cards or $250.00. • For an additional donation of $10.00 per card, the Clinic will include a vellum insert stating, “In celebration of the holidays, a donation has been made in your name to Venice Family Clinic.” No minimum order required. • Select images are also available as E-Cards.
More than 40 fine-art images to choose from, including…
Experience the Joy of Giving. Twice The Children’s Holiday Movie is unique among Venice Family Clinic’s fundraising events in that those who donate to it don’t attend it. Instead, they make a donation so that a low-income child from the local community can attend. But like the Clinic’s other events, it still raises funds to help the Clinic provide free, quality health care to people in need. Here’s how it works: • For a $50 donation, you’ll sponsor a child to attend the Children’s Holiday Movie on Saturday, December 11, at United Artists Marina Del Rey 6. • At the event, each child will enjoy a free screening of Yogi Bear, carols sung by a local school choir, and holiday gifts distributed by Santa Claus and several dozen of his volunteer elves. • Because almost everything at the event—from the theaters to the movie to the toys and snacks—is donated, nearly all of your contribution will be used for Venice Family Clinic’s pediatric programs over the next year. So please take a moment to sponsor a child by visiting store.venicefamilyclinic.org, using the enclosed donation envelope, or calling 310.392.9255. As the saying goes, “Make them happy in December. Keep them healthy all year long.”
Or use your own image! Create your very own custom holiday card featuring a family photo or personal artwork. Untitled, 1941-42, by Arshile Gorky
Gratitude and Admiration, 2009, by Jay Kelly
Have Your Cards in Days Browse available images, view package pricing, and order online at store.venicefamilyclinic.org. To request a brochure and sample card or to order by phone, please call 310.392.9255.
Venice Family Clinic’s Artist Cards Program is underwritten by a generous grant from the Frederick R. Weisman Philanthropic Foundation.
Committee Rick Bradley, Chair Kaitlyn Cafferky Amy Sommer Childress Amy Swift Crosby Jill Thomas Leslie Thurman Leisa Wu Special Thanks United Artists Marina Del Rey 6, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Dole Food Company, The Ella Fitzgerald Foundation, Jakks Pacific, Mattel, Inc.
Major Gifts April 23 to November 22, 2010 $100,000 + The Ahmanson Foundation Gerrie Smith & Dr. Neal Baer Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Louis Colen
$10,000 to $24,999 Albert & Elaine Borchard Foundation The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation Community Partners
Kaiser Permanente of Southern California
Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation
L.A. Care Health Plan
The Richard F. & Eleanor W. Dwyer Fund
Lincy Foundation Wilbur May Foundation Anita May Rosenstein & Arnold Rosenstein Brian Rosenstein Amanda May Stefan
Friends of the Culver City Youth Health Center Diane & Dr. Jimmy Hara Louise & Herb Horvitz Foundation Dr. Louise Horvitz
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles
The Resnick Family Foundation Lynda & Stewart Resnick
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
Dr. William Resnick RGK Foundation Saint John’s Health Center Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System Mission Fund
Christine & Jordan Kaplan Susan G. Komen for the Cure Melinda Lerner & John Powell Pamela & Dr. Alvin Markovitz The Barry and Wendy Meyer Foundation
Sawchuk Family Foundation
$50,000 to $99,999 Baxter International Foundation The Bravewell Collaborative California Community Foundation California Primary Care Association State of California Attorney General
R. K. Squire Company Harriet & Richard Squire Sunair Children’s Foundation University of California San Francisco UCSF Center for the Health Professions UniHealth Foundation
The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation
Frederick R.Weisman Philanthropic & Art Foundation Billie Milam Weisman
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
The Dharma Grace Foundation Chuck Lorre Joseph Drown Foundation The Fineshriber Family Foundation International Creative Management (ICM)
Permanent Endowments Judy & Bernard Briskin Women’s Health Endowment Irma and Lou Colen Physician Endowment
Jeffrey E. Sinaiko
Mose and Sylvia Firestone Social Work Endowment
State of California Attorney General
Karsten Family Domestic Violence Endowment
UCLA Medical Center
Sadie and Norman Lee Teen Clinic Physician Endowment
Constance Lawton & James Yoder $25,000 to $49,999 Blue Shield of California Foundation Amy & James Childress John Tracy Clinic The Karl Kirchgessner Foundation Janet & Barry Lang Alan Sieroty & Michele Rakoff
Milken Family Physician Endowment
Wells Fargo Foundation Anonymous
Judd Apatow, Jeffrey E. Sinaiko, and Dr. Mayer B. Davidson to Be Honored Venice Family Clinic’s biggest annual fundraising event, the Silver Circle Thank You Gala, returns on the evening of Monday, February 28, 2011, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in Beverly Hills. Silver Circle is Venice Family Clinic’s premier giving group, whose members collectively donate more than $1 million annually to help the Clinic provide free, quality health care to people in need. In addition to expressing its gratitude to its Silver Circle donors, Venice Family Clinic will take the occasion of the Thank You Gala to pay tribute to three individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to furthering the Clinic’s mission: writer/director/producer Judd Apatow, who will be honored with the Humanitarian Award; health care consultant Jeffrey E. Sinaiko, who will receive the Irma Colen Leadership Award; and Mayer B. Davidson, MD, who will be given the inaugural Visionary Award. Considered one of the most sought-after comedy minds in the business, Judd Apatow has produced many of the most successful films in recent years, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, which he also wrote and directed, as well as Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, and Get Him to the Greek. He has been a major donor to Venice Family Clinic for the last ten years. Jeffrey E. Sinaiko is President of Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, one of the most highly regarded health care management consulting firms in the country. He also is a regular guest lecturer at the UCLA School of Public Health and speaks extensively on industry topics, including health care reform. Sinaiko has served on Venice Family Clinic’s Board of Directors for the last 15 years and chaired the Clinic’s Finance Committee for the past 12. Mayer B. Davidson, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Director of the Clinical Center for Research Excellence at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and a world-renowned specialist in the field of diabetes, but most people in the Clinic community know him as Venice Family Clinic’s Co-Founder. He is also a 40-year volunteer, running an endocrinology clinic on the first Wednesday of every month at Venice Family Clinic’s flagship facility on Rose Avenue.
Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow will be honored with Venice Family Clinic’s Humanitarian Award at the Silver Circle Gala on Monday, February 28, 2011.
Health care consultant Jeffrey E. Sinaiko will receive the Irma Colen Leadership Award.
Silver Circle was founded in 1983 by the late Irma Colen. Since 2007, it has been co-chaired by the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Harley and Julie Liker, who have presided over four of the five most successful years in the event’s history. All donors of $2,000 or more annually are invited to the Silver Circle Thank You Gala. In addition, all are listed on Venice Family Clinic’s Silver Circle Wall of Honor and receive complimentary tickets to the Venice Art Walk & Auctions, in May. For more information, please contact Liza Alon, Campaign Manager, at 310.664.7912 or email@example.com.
Mayer B. Davidson, MD, Venice Family Clinic’s Co-Founder and a 40-year volunteer, will be given the inaugural Visionary Award. Photo: Margaret Molloy
Resnick Family Mental Health Program Endowment Jack H. Skirball Medical Director Endowment Gail and Irv Weintraub Endowment Frederick R. Weisman Psychosocial Services Endowment
The Specialty Family Foundation United Way of Greater Los Angeles
Silver Circle Sets a Date: February 28, 2011
Every donor is important to Venice Family Clinic. If your name is not listed within the appropriate category or is listed improperly, please call 310.664.7932 so the correction can be made.
In Memory of Venice Family Clinic’s Recently Departed Supporters Lillian Adashek, Joyce Adler, The Honorable Ralph A. Amado, Robert Earl Billings, Helon M. Brown, Vera Brown, Victor Carter, Adrea Carter, Michael Chevalier, Bernard Donnenfeld, David Dortort, Dorothy Levinson Factor, Dr. Leo J. Falk, Ann Finn, Marshall Flaum, Ernest Goldenfeld, Eugene S. Goodwin, Dennis Hopper, Edward “Ed” Kamenir, DDS, JD, Betty Keatinge, Ira Kirshbaum, William K. Kolodin, Kathryn S. Lancaster, Yvonne Ramus Lenart, Michael A. Levin, Seth Marsh, The Honorable Jenny Oropeza, Sid Ostrow, Max Palevsky, Jonathan (Jon) K. Persoff, Robert B. Radnitz, Harold E. Ravins, DDS, Dr. Arthur L. Rosenbaum, Harold Rubin, The Honorable Maxwell Hilary Salter, Dustin Shuler, Harold H. Starr, John Stern, The Honorable Albert Vera, Bernie West, Esther Wollock-Wolf, Miriam Wosk, 5 Betty Lou Young
One Thing to Remember From the Board Chair Dear friends, You will notice a lot in this issue of Encounters about the health reform law, including its promise on a personal level, as told in Ms. Maureas’ story at right; its impact at the community level, as described in the anniversary story on page 2; and its implementation at the national level, which is referenced in the learning resources listed on page 7. Of course, one would expect Venice Family Clinic to give significant attention this topic, since the Clinic has spent 40 years advocating for the low-income uninsured. But there is another reason it appears here in such volume: because there is no better place to see health care reform in progress than at Venice Family Clinic. This might come as a bit of a surprise to some supporters. After all, it was not long ago that many of us talked with great hope about the day when health care reform would render the Clinic obsolete. But there is nothing in the health reform law to replace safety net providers. To the contrary, they are treated as indispensible, long-term partners in expanding access to millions of people. So if you have never taken a tour of Venice Family Clinic, now is a great time. Simply contact Liza Alon, Campaign Manager, at 310.664.7912 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you cannot make it before the end of the year, next year will be a great time, too. And the next year. And the next. Thank you for your support,
A Patient’s Perspective on the Health Reform Law Elleni Maureas, 36, has a lot at stake in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Her health, her career, her family—all have hinged at one time or another on whether she had health insurance. “The whole issue of health care comes down to this for me,” she explains. “In 2000, right after I graduated from UCLA, I discovered I had Graves’ Disease. I was uninsured and the sickest I’d ever been. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through it if I hadn’t found Venice Family Clinic.” But as happy as she was with Venice Family Clinic, the experience had opened her eyes to the threat that “uninsurance” can pose. Ever since then, she has made getting and keeping health coverage a top priority, but she hasn’t always succeeded. The daughter of professional musicians, Maureas, a flutist, is now a substitute music teacher in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, eagerly seeking a permanent position. Her husband, too, teaches for the school district. But both are part-time, so neither qualifies for health benefits. “Given my pre-existing condition, the only way I can get insurance that I can afford is through a job. This is why I decided to become a teacher,” Maureas says emphatically. “So it’s frustrating now with the cuts in education. I haven’t been able to get full-time work to qualify for benefits. And where does that leave me?” The answer, again, is Venice Family Clinic, where she makes regular visits to have her condition monitored and has her Synthroid prescription filled as needed. But with each passing day, she becomes concerned with more than just how to deal with Graves’ Disease. She is worried that her window for having a child is closing, and her insurance status—not necessarily her condition—could be the deciding factor. “I got pregnant last year, but I miscarried,” she explains. “Then we thought we should wait until I have insurance, but we can’t wait too long because eventually my age becomes another risk factor. So I’m now in this perplexing grey area.” The question at the heart of Maureas’s situation, and others like it, is really whether it is appropriate for health insurance to have such a dominant influence in American life. After all, insurance is meant to guarantee against loss or harm. But in its current form, health coverage is compelling Americans to make decisions—life decisions, no less—that they would not otherwise make. The health reform law seems to provide an unequivocal answer to this question, manifest in its numerous new rules. “One thing that’s really exciting is that insurers won’t be allowed to refuse coverage to someone because of a pre-existing condition or to cancel someone’s policy if they get sick,” Maureas says, noting that her brother also has Graves’ Disease and her late father had it, too.
Brian Kan, MD Chair, Board of Directors
Brian Kan, MD, is a staff physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as an Associate Clinical Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. At Cedars-Sinai, he serves as the Research Subject Advocate, General Clinical Research Center, and Medical Director, Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease Program, Department of Community Health. He joined Venice Family Clinic’s Board of Directors in 1998 and has since served on numerous committees, including Informatics, Medical Practice, Research, Strategic Planning, and Volunteer Services. He has been a volunteer physician at the Clinic since 1995.
Highlights of Health Reform Law Implementation
• $250 rebate for seniors who hit the Medicare drug “donut hole”
• Free preventive care for seniors
• States required to pay primary care physicians no less than 100 percent of Medicare payment rates in 2013 and 2014
• Tax credits for small businesses to provide insurance benefits • New state high-risk pools for patients with pre-existing conditions • Insurers required to cover sick children • Young adults up to 26 eligible for their parents’ plans
• Lifetime coverage limits eliminated; annual limits restricted
• Insurers required to spend minimum percentages of premiums on care and quality improvement
Where to Look for Information about the Health Reform Law
Elleni Maureas found out she had Graves’ Disease in 2000. She has struggled ever since to get and keep health insurance. Photo: Tim Smith
“I’m also excited that adult children will be allowed to stay on their parents’ policies a bit longer. Looking back on my personal history, if that had been in place ten years ago, I probably still would have been covered by my mom’s insurance when I got sick.” As a matter of fact, she estimates at least ten members of her family will benefit from various elements of the health reform law. “This is a humanitarian issue,” she says. “These things are necessities.” Of course, it will take years for the law to take full effect, with the most sweeping changes arriving in 2014. In the meantime, Venice Family Clinic will continue to be a safety net for the lowincome uninsured. And in the long term, given that there is a shortage of primary care providers, that the Clinic has expertise working with low-income populations, and that not everyone will be covered by the health reform law, Venice Family Clinic could become more important than ever to the local health care system. “Unfortunately, getting sick is something that can change the course of someone’s life and limit their potential,” Maureas says. “I was lucky enough to have found the Clinic when I needed it. But what if I hadn’t? I can’t even imagine how differently my life would have turned out.”
January 2014 • Medicaid expanded to cover all Americans earning less than 133 percent of the poverty level • Tax credits for middle-class Americans to purchase coverage • Insurance exchanges offer choices of health plans that meet benefits and cost standards • Most individuals required to obtain basic health coverage • Insurers barred from refusing coverage due to pre-existing conditions
healthcare.ca.gov The California Health and Human Services Agency set up this site to help residents track the implementation of the health reform law at the state level and understand the various programs available to them. healthcare.gov The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created this site to help consumers navigate the health care system. It features a step-by-step interactive process for determining your options for obtaining health coverage, as well as resources for learning more about preventive care, comparing the quality of care offered by various types of providers, and understanding the changes set forth in the health reform law. healthreform.kff.org The Kaiser Family Foundation serves as a non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public. Its web site includes intensive research and policy analysis, as well as basic information about the health reform law, surveys of public attitudes related to the law, and implementation news specific to all 50 states. whitehouse.gov/healthreform President Barack Obama’s official web site provides easy-tounderstand information about how the law works, examples of how it will benefit patients, stories from individuals and families who need reform most, and facts addressing various myths about the law.
Providing free, quality health care to people in need VENICE FAMILY CLINIC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Brian D. Kan, MD, Chair Ashley Johnson, Secretary Jeffrey E. Sinaiko, Treasurer Susan Adelman John Bautista Mayer B. Davidson, MD Paula Davis Richard DeArmond, MSW Aime Espinosa William Flumenbaum Luis Galvez Rev. Lynda D. Gray Neil H. Parker, MD William Resnick, MD Paul M. Saben, MBA Stewart Seradsky Lourdes Servin Marsha Temple, Esq. Carmen Thomas-Paris
VENICE FAMILY CLINIC FOUNDATION BOARD OF TRUSTEES Susan Adelman Carol L. Archie, MD Neal Axelrod Neal Baer, MD Rick Bradley Lowell C. Brown, Esq. Mayer B. Davidson, MD Mose J. Firestone, PhD, LCSW Susan Fleischman, MD William Flumenbaum Chester F. Griffiths, MD, FACS Jimmy H. Hara, MD Ashley Johnson Joanne Jubelier, PhD Brian D. Kan, MD Deborah Laub Constance Lawton Lou Lazatin Harley Liker, MD, MBA Tracey Loeb Gail Margolis, Esq. Frank Matricardi, Dr PH Viren Mehta Wendy Smith Meyer, PhD, LCSW William D. Parente Hutch Parker Neil H. Parker, MD Bill Resnick, MD, MBA David Rubenson Paul Saben Fern Seizer Alan Sieroty Jeffrey E. Sinaiko Marsha Temple, Esq. Russel Tyner, AIA Michael S. Wilkes, MD, PhD Leisa Wu
VENICE FAMILY CLINIC BOARD EMERITUS Ruth Bloom Daniel Hillman, MD Karl A. Keener, Esq. Ruth Moss
VENICE FAMILY CLINIC PHILANTHROPY BOARD Kathleen Aikenhead Lou Colen Marjorie Fasman
Ruth Flinkman Hilary & Robert Nelson Jacobs Glorya Kaufman Susanne & Paul Kester Shawn & Larry King Deborah Laub Susan Adelman & Claudio Llanos Chuck Lorre Laurie MacDonald Denise Richards Anita May Rosenstein Charlie Sheen Victoria & Ronald Simms Harriet & Richard Squire Eva Vollmer Billie Milam Weisman Sylvia Weisz Ruth Ziegler Marilyn Ziering Diane & Michael Ziering Janet & Jerry Zucker
VENICE FAMILY CLINIC ADVISORY BOARD Martin Anderson, MD, MPH Gregory G. Baker Bernard Briskin Saul L. Brown, MD David Buell Henry G. Cisneros Lou Colen Hon. Kathleen Connell Dave Daniels Lucia Diaz Laddie John Dill Raymond Eden Leah Ellenberg, PhD Suzanne Futterman Lila Garrett Naomi Goldman Allan Gordon Karen Gunn, PhD Daniel Helberg Roseann Herman, Esq. Marilyn Hersh Elaine Hoffman Douglas I. Jeffe Dan Keatinge, MD Diedre Kelly-Gordon Barbara A. Levey, MD, FACP Remy Levy Julie Liker Connie Linn Al Markovitz, MD, FACP Michael McClain Kelly Chapman Meyer Robert Moverley Charlotte Neumann, MD, MPH Regina Pally, MD Kenneth Ramberg Helen Reid, LCSW Joyce Rey Andrea Rich, PhD Brian K. Rosenstein Monica Salinas, PhD Miguel Sandoval Jeffrey A. Seymour Arthur Stickgold Kate Summers Rebecca Tafoya, CSAC Jill E. Thomas Matthew A. Toledo Carl Weissburg, Esq. Joseph K. Wright, Esq.
Open Saturdays, Thanks to the Sathya Sai Baba Organization There is a familiar elegance to what takes place inside a medical office in Mar Vista every Saturday morning. Beginning at 9:00 am, when the site would normally be closed, the front doors reopen, volunteers take up their positions at the front desk, at the coordinators’ stations, and in the doctors’ charting area, and lowincome and uninsured patients begin filing in. The scene is reminiscent of Venice Family Clinic in its earliest days, when it was run entirely by volunteers out of a donated dental office. Except this time around Venice Family Clinic is the host—at its newest site, the Irma Colen Health Center—and the volunteers come from the Sathya Sai Baba Organization, a worldwide social service network created by spiritual teacher Sathya Sai Baba. And instead of bringing their own patients, they treat the Clinic’s patients.
unusual for large groups of fellows or residents to staff a specialty clinic during the week alongside the Clinic’s usual programming. The Sai Baba group takes it a step further by organizing nearly 80 volunteers across a variety of disciplines, including 15 primary care doctors, three dentists, and a growing list of specialists. They even have their own coordinators and clinic manager. The group’s physicians, nurses, and medical assistants are all clinicians in their full-time work, but other volunteers are engineers, college students, and other non-health workers just looking to help. Many come from more than two hours away. Shyam Bhaskar, MD, a pediatrician and internist, drives nearly 200 miles—three hours in light traffic—from Visalia, just for the Saturday clinic, once a month. “My day starts at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning because I see all my patients in the hospital before coming here,” Dr. Bhaskar says. “But I don’t feel like I’m working at all. It’s as though some hand is guiding me to these patients.” He usually sees between ten and fifteen patients, then turns around, drives home, and talks up the experience to his friends. “When I tell my people back in Visalia, they are all interested,” he says. “A cardiologist wants to come, a retiring neurologist wants to come, and several nurses, too. They are all very eager.”
Rohan Balasuriya, Clinic Administrator; Michael W. Congleton, MD, PhD, President, Pacific South Region; and Aruna Reddy, Clinic Manager, of the Sathya Sai Baba Organization. Earlier this year, the group began running a clinic every Saturday at Venice Family Clinic’s Irma Colen Health Center, in Mar Vista. Photo: Tim Smith
“We’ve been doing health screening clinics twice a year for the last eight years,” explains Dr. Chandradas Cangaeretnam, the group’s local Medical Director. “But we were only able to refer patients to local clinics and health centers. We couldn’t provide any of the care ourselves. Our dream was to have our own clinic.” That dream came true on May 1, just a couple months after the Irma Colen Health Center opened. Now, every Saturday, four or five doctors, along with a dentist and about a dozen other volunteers, see thirty to forty patients. They are assisted by just a handful of Venice Family Clinic staff members. Of course, Venice Family Clinic has always been volunteer-driven—today, there are roughly ten volunteers for every staff member, and physicians alone total more than 500 per year—and it is not 8
“Our organization consists of members of all religions,” Michael Congleton, MD, PhD, President of the group’s Pacific South Region 8, explains. “We believe in God and we believe we need to serve others. Our spiritual teacher says, ‘Don’t change your religion—practice it.’”
The Sathya Sai Baba Organization has programs in approximately 145 countries and runs four free hospitals in India—two specialty hospitals and two general hospitals. And while all of the group’s volunteers espouse Sai Baba’s philosophy of service, the group does not seek to establish a new religion or to direct people to a particular creed or religion.
Shyam Bhaskar, MD, a pediatrician and internist, seen here with patient Claudia Velasquez, is one of nearly 80 volunteers, including 15 primary care doctors, three dentists, and a growing list of specialists, who give their time to Venice Family Clinic through the local chapter of the Sathya Sai Baba Organization. Dr. Bhaskar drives nearly 200 miles, from Visalia, just for the Saturday clinic. Photo: Tim Smith
Congleton, who drives from Carlsbad, says the experience also provides valuable education to the group’s volunteers. “What we learn here we’re hoping to leverage to help others in Southern California,” he explains, noting that a city in Riverside County is interested in working with the group to set up a free clinic. Their motivation is simple, he says. “Our biggest joy is serving others. Spirituality comes from service.”
No, It’s Not the Venice Art Walk & Auctions It’s the inside of Venice Family Clinic’s new Irma Colen Health Center, in Mar Vista. The many lovely pieces of art lining the walls were provided by ARTconnectsLA, a non-profit agency serving the artist community and Los Angeles by placing original artwork in social service agencies, community centers, and non-profit organizations. Learn more about ARTconnectsLA at www.artconnectsla.org. (By the way, the Venice Art Walk & Auctions returns on May 21 & 22, 2011. Get updates by “liking” Venice Family Clinic on Facebook: www.facebook.com/venicefamilyclinic.) Printed on 55% recycled, FSC-Certified paper