Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Great Turning Wheels Bike Build!

Saturday saw the 6th Annual "Wow, I can't believe how BIG this is" event at the San Jose Convention Center...the Turning Wheels Bike Build!

You, dear avid reader of this blog, know how amazing Turning Wheels is...from the money they raise through the Death Ride, to the dedicated volunteers who make it all happen - and it all comes together in mid-December where thousands of bikes are built for underprivileged kids who might not otherwise get anything for the holidays...let alone a new bike.

Watch the Turning Wheels website for the soon-to-come complete run-down on this year's build (2400 bikes, the first-ever Great Trike Race, tons of money raised on the spot, etc. etc. etc.) But I wanted to tell you of this year's best innovation while honoring Sue Runsvold.

Yes - Sue is the Founder and Fearless Leader of Turning Wheels, who first came to me five years ago in a conversation that led to their organization joining the VMC Foundation. Since then, she's led a growing army of inspiring idealists who all have the same question on Bike Build Day: "Where's Sue? Anybody seen Sue?"

She's in constant demand, what with Channel 2 needing her for a live interview, or City Team needing a signature on something, or a donor presenting a Giant Cardboard Check...and if you've never been in the SJ Convention Center's South Hall, just imagine a cigar shaped circus tent the size of a city block.

So at any given time on Bike Build Day, there are a dozen people running around trying to find Sue Runsvold. And walkie-talkies don't work, because it's too loud and chaotic. Also, there are balloons and people and boxes and bikes everywhere. But this year, someone (I think it was Dave) got really smart. The ONLY yellow balloon in the whole place was tied to Sue's belt, on a 20-foot string!

To find Sue, just look up, and as far away as she could be, you could still see the bouncing yellow balloon. Parents, is this a great idea to keep tabs on your toddlers during the holiday shopping crunch or WHAT?

Thanks to EVERYONE, especially the Board of Turning Wheels, who never fail to achieve the impossible. Thanks to the Celeb's who competed in the Great Trike Race, except for those who beat me. Okay, everybody beat me...but that big shark in the photo up above? He totally cheated - riding a TWO-wheeler. I'm calling the league.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bionic legs help patients walk again!

At the VMC Foundation, 2011 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years ever. One reason is eLegs: A new technology that literally could replace the wheelchair for millions living with paraplegia.

Yes - think of it.

As profiled in TIME Magazine a week ago, this new invention by Berkeley Bionics promises a new reality for people with spinal cord injuries, stroke, MS, or any condition that has them unable to use their legs. This amazing "exoskeleton" fits over the user's legs, they stand up, and they walk.

But here's what TIME didn't specify: There is only ONE rehabilitation center in the country that will be the first to test eLegs. You guessed it: Valley Medical Center.

This fact recently captured the attention of TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, one of the nation's most respected tech gurus. He then blogged about it, we set up a Facebook Cause, and with his encouragement, the donations are coming in to support this vital program.

Please join us, and if you're looking to be a part of history, please consider donating today...years from now, we all may look back and say "I helped change the future."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From coma to community...

The avid reader of this blog knows that Valley Medical Center contains the most awesomest* brain injury rehabilitation center on this planet and many others. You now have a chance to learn why...and learn so much more.

The VMC Foundation is proud to help present the 2011 Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference on Feb. 24-26. Led by VMC's fabulous Rehab Research Center Team...and you might think this is just for clinical people with long titles after their names. Well, yes and no.

Lots of cutting edge medicine will be discussed, but we'll also hear from Tricia Meili, known nationally as "The Central Park Jogger" who was beaten and left for dead in 1989. Her story of survival is about more than recovery, and will inspire any and all conference attendees.

Plus, we're holding this event at the Dolce Hayes Mansion, a beautiful conference center - read more about this amazing three-day event that will educate and amaze. Please share this information with anyone you think would be interested - and that's likely a long list.

*I read this word last night in TIME Magazine. If they can use it, so can I.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome to the new Valley Health Center Milpitas!

Halloween came a day early this year for the City of Milpitas, with the Grand Opening celebration of our new Valley Health Center...and what a day it was!

Hundreds of families packed the new three-story, 60,000 square foot facility to enjoy arts and crafts, health screenings, hula hoop contests, safety classes and healthy food...none of which would have been possible without the sponsorship of Kaiser, Valley Health Plan, the Public Health Department and Allied Waste (and your very own VMC Foundation, of course).

VHC Milpitas is truly something to be proud of. The clinic offers care in pediatrics, OBGYN, family medicine, allergy clinic, the VMC Foundation-supported Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center, and so much more.

Perhaps the biggest hero of the day was County Supervisor Dave Cortese, whose idea it was to have a huge community party rather than a plain ol' "ribbon cutting". I got to emcee the program which included remarks by Supervisor Cortese, County CEO Dr. Jeff Smith, Milpitas Mayor Bob Livengood and Doctors Marcie Levine and Dan Delgado. Ashley Roybal from Congressman Honda's office was there to present a commendation.

Halloween should be full of surprises. At around 1pm, we were, uh, treated to one.

FIRE ALARM! Everyone exit the building!

Thing is, you pack that many kids into a new health center, and one of them is bound to double-dog-dare another to pull the red lever. Either that, or it could have been a San Jose State University Recreation/Leisure Studies major. I was one of those once, and was taught that the best time to suspend a recreational activity is at the peak of its participants' enjoyment.

Special thanks to Michael Elliott and Andy Groggel of the VMC Foundation for deftly dealing with this unexpected "challenge"...and of course to the Health Center staff. The good news is they will NEVER have to evacuate that many people from the clinic again. Ever.

I guess the moral of the story is that, when the question is "trick or treat?", sometimes the answer is "both!" Anyway, congratulations VHC Milpitas and to the community it serves!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October is EVENT month!

We're flapping our arms just as fast as we can here in VMC Foundationland, with more going on than at any other time of the year. Just two Saturdays ago was our annual Gala, a black tie affair that set the bar for all other parties to come. Thanks to Cindy and David Lazarus for opening their incredible home to us, and for all who made it such a success.

Oh, but there's so much more:

Tomorrow, 10/15, is the opening of a new medical thriller at the San Jose Repertory Theater, and each performance of "Secret Order" will also benefit the VMC Foundation. I'm always saying "I love the theater but never seem to go as often as I should". Here's our chance; get your tickets here!

This Saturday 10/17 is "Day on the Bay" in Alviso, a multicultural celebration presented by the VMC Foundation and Supervisor Dave Cortese...come on down for a day of family fun.

(Psst...you've probably gotten your voter guides by now too...remember: YES on A)

Since we all eat lunch and dinner, why not make it count? Assemblyman Jim Beall has arranged for California Pizza Kitchen and BJ's Restaurant to donate 20% of your check to the VMC Foundation - but here's the catch: You have to go on Wednesday, 10/27, and you have to bring the corresponding flyer with you, which you can get here. Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month by supporting our Mammography Access Program!

The annual "Buddy Walk" takes place on Saturday, 10/23 at Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose. This is a great event produced by the Silicon Valley Down Syndrome Network and the VMC Foundation, raising awareness and community involvement for families with members who have Down Syndrome. This is a very inspiring day.

We are thrilled to announce the Grand Opening of Valley Health Center Milpitas on Saturday, 10/30, 10am-2pm. Come on down to 143 N. Main Street in Milpitas for a festival for the whole family, tours of the new clinic, health screenings, and fun. Call 408-299-5030 for more info. Thanks again to Supervisor Cortese for co-presenting this event.

And for you golfers, there MIGHT be a spot or two left in the Turning Wheels Golf Tournament, sponsored and led by Strikeforce! At the exclusive San Jose Country Club, this event happens 10/25...but I'd call soon to get in: 408-391-6720.

Whew. There's probably more...and as always, you can contact us at vmcfoundation@hhs.sccgov.org for more info on ANY of these great events. See you soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

YES on A this November...for the health of our kids!

I've been spending a great deal of my spare time (!!!) supporting the YES on A campaign, and hope you'll join me making sure we protect children's health in Santa Clara County.

But don't take my word for it - here's the most recent in a long string of VIP and media endorsements...from the local paper in "my town", The Los Gatos Weekly:

Editorial: Measure A gets universal support for Healthy Kids

It's safe to say that none among looks forward to any additional tax burden, no matter how small it might be. But it's also pretty safe to say that few among us want to see children in our community going without health care.

That's why Measure A on the Nov. 2 ballot is getting such universal support. The proposed $29 per year parcel tax will generate $13-14 million per year for 10 years to fund the "Healthy Kids" program in Santa Clara County.

According to supporters, "Measure A will fully fund the Healthy Kids program and ensure that all eligible county children have access to health insurance, including preventative health care services and early detection and treatment for such terrible illnesses as asthma or diabetes."

Whether we like it or not, county taxpayers are going to pay to provide health care for the more than 15,000 uninsured children in Santa Clara County, whether through emergency room services or through this plan for preventative care.

Families should not have to wait until their children are sick, thereby requiring emergency room services to deal with their illnesses. The "Healthy Kids" program would provide for immunizations and regular check-ups to keep children healthy and in school, and to help to prevent childhood obesity.

It's more cost effective to keep children healthy than to deal with their health issues after the fact, and certainly better for the children and their families. It's for that reason that Measure A has garnered the support of the League of Women Voters, The Health Trust, the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the San Jose Mercury News and many more organizations.

Area hospitals are certainly in favor of the measure. El Camino Hospital, Kaiser and Valley Medical Center, along with the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation, are all supporting Measure A.

Two important points brought out by supporters of the measure are that "children enrolled in Healthy Kids reported a 50 percent decline in missed school days due to illness" and, "Once enrolled in Healthy Kids, children with a usual source of care almost doubled and children with unmet medical need dropped by more than half." Simply put, children in the program were healthier.

The County Board of Supervisors has placed Measure A on the November ballot, and it's a coalition of health, business, community and labor leaders who are joining together in universal support of the plan. The program, first launched in 2001 as the Children's Health Care Initiative, needs this funding to continue.

Voters need to consider what supporters of the county parcel tax emphasize: "Without Measure A, thousands of children in Santa Clara County will lose health coverage."

It seems like $29 per year is a small price to pay to make sure that doesn't happen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kids' health is key to their education...

...but don't take MY word for it!

Hey, let's be honest...you very likely already know that without access to a doctor and basic health care, children will suffer in the classroom. We've got data to prove it.

We also have yesterday's letter to the editor of the San Jose Mercury News, penned by my pal and brilliant CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Here's what he wrote:

Measure A would help kids' learning
source: Mercury News

As president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, I am proud to support Santa Clara County's Measure A -- Children's Health Protection Act -- on Nov. 2. After several years working on education initiatives that promote student achievement, college and career goals and in general providing children and families a better life, I feel it is important to continue supporting quality of life needs for these families.

Families who have benefitted from the current program that provides medical, dental and vision care call it a lifesaver. It has kept children healthy and in school, with the goal of academic success and some day college and a bright future.

Children enrolled in Healthy Kids report a 50 percent decline in school absence because of illness, which is great news for all students. Children's Health Initiative school outreach has helped raise $6 million to $7 million for local school districts annually. Thus Measure A is not only a necessary act to improve the quality of health for our future Silicon Valley professionals, but it is also a program that will help further other organizations' missions, including the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

Muhammed Chaudhry

President and CEO Silicon Valley Education Foundation

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Little Sunshine in VMC Rehab

The Rehabilitation Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Recognized nationally as a center for excellence, the VMC Rehab Center treats patients with severe head, spinal cord and stroke related injuries, regardless of ability to pay. Since its founding, over 15,000 patients have been served.

Each one of those patients represents an amazing story of struggle and hope. Here is one, as told by Connie Pugh, Nurse Manager, SCVMC Rehab (2Center)

“A Little Sunshine in VMC Rehab”

For the last six months, a group of nurses from 2Rehab (a Rehab unit within VMC) have been brainstorming ways to improve the patient experience. In May, 2010 one of the new programs launched was the Sunshine Club.

The Sunshine Club was developed to provide a bright and energizing breakfast experience for the 2Rehab patients to help them start their day in a positive way. The Club involves setting up the Rehab Day Room with small tables covered with brightly colored tablecloths, fresh flowers, uplifting music and serving the patients coffee, tea and juice before breakfast. Breakfast then arrives and the staff is there to assist the group of patients with their meal. Conversation is encouraged between patients, families and staff.

On the first day of the Sunshine Club, the staff had the Day Room bright, shiny and ready to go. The problem was the patients didn’t want to get up. They had previously been eating their morning meal in their rooms alone. With a little encouragement, the patients got up and joined the group in the Day Room.

One patient, “Mr V,” just did not want to attend on that first day. I went in to speak to Mr. V and said to him “Mr. V, people just are not made to eat alone in a dark room - we would really like to have you join us in the Day Room.

Mr. V replied back “but I like my dark room and I want to eat alone.” I said to Mr. V, “We want to add some hope and brightness to your morning here in rehab,” and Mr. V replied “but I don’t want hope and brightness, I want to be in the dark.”

At that point I explained to Mr. V that the Sunshine Club was new and we would really like to have him come the first day and then if he did not like it we would not ask him again. He reluctantly agreed to come, although he muttered complaints on the way in to the day room and throughout breakfast.

Later in the day, Mr. V wheeled himself to my office and said he wanted to “fess up about something.” He said the Sunshine Club was a real nice thing we did for patients, including serving coffee, the music and the flowers. Why he really objected to go, he said, was because he had been a youth counselor at one time and seeing young head injury patients in rehab made him very sad.

I then asked Mr. V, “You were a youth counselor?” He replied yes. I said, “Then Mr. V, I really need you to help me with the Sunshine Club. I need you to bring brightness and hope to our young patients – in fact, you can be Mr. Sunshine and come help me each day.”

Mr. V replied to me, “Well if you really need me to help I guess I could do that.”
Bright and early the next morning, and every morning after until discharge, Mr. V helped with the Sunshine Club. He had a special way of getting patients to talk and laugh and have a good time, particularly the young patients.

On Mr. V’s day of discharge, I didn’t see him come into the Sunshine Club at the usual time. A little later he wheeled himself in and said “Everyone, I have an announcement to make: I’m going home today.” The group of patients all clapped for him. He then said, “You all know me as Mr. Sunshine, well today I’m leaving and want to pass the torch to someone else. I’ve chosen ‘Mr. E’ to be the next Mr. Sunshine.”

Mr. E looked up and said “I don’t know, man, what do I have to do?” Mr. V said “Well you have to show up early to help Carlo and Connie get the Day Room Ready and help serve coffee and you have to bring sunshine to all the patients.” Mr. E said he would think about it.

The next morning when I arrived at 0630, Mr. E was already up and in the Day Room. He said with a smile “What do I need to do to help?”

Our new Mr. Sunshine had arrived.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Measure A: A MOST important vote...

Ten years ago, Santa Clara County became the first county in the nation to provide health coverage for all children.

Today, that coverage is about to end...but we can save it by voting YES on Measure A this November.

From today's Mercury News comes a very logical editorial, which in part says this:

There's a reason Measure A has no major campaign opposition and is supported by Silicon Valley industry. Business leaders and health experts alike understand that the current method of providing medical care for indigent and uninsured children costs them, as taxpayers, dearly. A hidden tax comes due when poor families have no choice but to take sick kids to hospital emergency rooms. That's by far the most expensive care, and taxpayers end up paying the bill.

To learn more about this all-important issue, which truly does affect us all, visit http://www.avoteforkids.infoand please, PLEASE share this with others...we have to get the word out now about Measure A!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How is the "New VMC" coming along?

I just learned about a job that might be as fun and exciting as mine: Aerial photography! Enjoy the series of photos taken by the 111th Aerial Photography Squadron of the construction zone at VMC - your 2008 Measure A dollars hard at work!

To view the series, click here...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finally, proof that palliative care works...

Dr. Gary Lee (that’s him at the keyboard) came up to me a couple days ago and asked me this:

“Chris, if you had a terminal disease, and you knew there was a drug that would not only make you feel a lot better but also give you three more months with your family and friends, how much would you pay for it?”

The obvious answer is “Everything I’ve got!” Gary’s next sentence was less obvious:
“There already is a treatment like that. We give it away to our patients, and now we can prove it works.”

Gary then shared with me the study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrates the value of palliative care. That’s what Dr. Lee does at VMC, along with Dr. Shoshana Helman and their team. Palliative care, as just reported in the NY Times, “… typically begins with a long conversation about what the patient with a terminal diagnosis wants out of his remaining life. It includes the options any oncologist addresses: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and their side effects. But it also includes how much suffering a patient wishes to bear, effects on the family, and legal, insurance and religious issues. Teams focus on controlling pain, nausea, swelling, shortness of breath and other side effects; they also address patients’ worries and make sure they have help with making meals, dressing and bathing when not hospitalized.”

So, palliative care isn’t actually a drug or procedure, but rather a better way of thinking about how a patient’s end of life will be for them and those they love. Yes—better, as proven by the study; Patients with lung cancer who received palliative care lived more happily, and actually lived longer.

Doctors Helman and Lee were obviously thrilled at the study’s results, but they weren’t surprised. They’ve been demonstrating it at Valley Medical Center for years, and the VMC Foundation has assisted with grants to expand their palliative care program. Gary and Shoshana are already leading experts in this relatively new field…and now, we’ve got a scientific study to support what they do.

The next step is to ensure palliative care remains in the health care overhaul happening at the federal level. The cries of “death panels” absolutely need to be silenced, and science seems to be the best way to do that.

…not that scientific proof ever throws ideologues off their game. Spread the word about palliative care, because it’s a proven way to improve life and stop thinking of patients as a bunch of symptoms. We’re proud at VMC that our team thinks of patients’ whole lives.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s a reason I posted the photo of Dr. Lee rocking out in our band, Idol Hands. It’s a perfect example of how our MD’s are creative, well-rounded idealists, not just academics in white coats. In fact, it was while setting up for this performance last week that Gary told me about the study. Then we went on to rock the party.

My job? I think I’ll keep it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How is a winery like a hospital?

If you’re not a wine lover, this post may not be for you…but you never know until you read it...

Last weekend I stopped in to my favorite winery, Burrell School Vineyards (that's them, in the old red school house). My wife and I have been members of their wine club for years, and I appreciate their “futures” tastings.

For you non-wine-nerds, “futures” are young wines that aren’t quite ready to drink or even release, that the winery will sell you at a discount for you to pick up months later…and cool wineries like Burrell School will let you taste from the barrel to get an idea how the wine is shaping up.

I was with just one other couple, and the wine maker/owner Dave Moulton, who answered a question the other couple had of him: Why do some wineries produce better wines than others?

“If a winery gets too big, it’s hard to take an individual approach to every barrel, every bottle”, Dave explained. “Here? It’s just me. No one else.” Pointing to the racks of barrels behind him, Dave said “I know every patient here.”

“Dave, did you say ‘patient’? Are you comparing your winery to a hospital?” I asked.

“In a manner of speaking, yes”, he said. “I monitor the health of each barrel, make sure the ‘patients’ are comfortable, quiet, and at the right temperature. I monitor their vital signs all day, every day.”

He went on. “Just like a hostpital, we are meticulous about cleanliness and infection control, and if infection does happen, and we catch it right away, we can cure it. And, none of my patients gets discharged until they are healthy enough, and if I’ve done my job, each bottle will stay healthy for years, even decades to come.”

Sounds like Valley Medical Center to me! That’s why it should be no surprise that, for the fourth year running, Burrell School is the wine sponsor of the VMC Foundation’s annual Gala. If you are attending “Luxury by the Lake”, you will be enjoying the result of Dave’s (and of his wife Ann, and their great team) efforts.

If you’re not yet attending our gala on October 2, there may be just a few tickets left available…for more info, call Judy at the VMC Foundation: 408-885-5205.

And, if you’re up on Summit Road in Los Gatos this weekend, stop by Burrell School and taste for yourself. If you love wine, you’ll be glad you did.

Friday, July 16, 2010

VMC's first-ever Car Show (with just one car)...

Join Valley Medical Center on Tuesday for our first-ever Car Show!

Yes, I know it's only one car, but it's a historic one: The first-ever automobile designed and built from the ground up for the disabled community.

Naturally, the car, called the MV-1, is attracting attention nationwide...and naturally, it will be visiting your public hospital's Spinal Cord Injury Unit--since ours is one of the best in the nation.

Come see this unique and inspiring vehicle and meet the designers:

Tuesday, July 20, 12 noon through 3pm (come any time)
Valley Medical Center's "Rehab Parking Lot"
751 S. Bascom Ave, in front of the Rehab Center (facing Bascom, between Renova Drive and Enborg Lane)

Mingle with VIP's, elected officials and VMC's patients and former patients for whom this car could be a real game-changer. See you there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three events up and coming...come one, come all!

Allow me to fill your summer/fall social calendar with some worthwhile events. Each is unlike the other, but all have one thing in common: They promote and support Valley Medical Center. Get ready to mark your calendars, friends…

1. VMC’s Rehab BBQ, Thursday July 29, 11:30 to 1pm. Taking place on the “Rehab Lawn”, 751 S. Bascom Ave. in San Jose, this event benefits VMC’s Therapeutic Recreation Program. Enjoy great food, drawings, prizes, and live rock n’ roll provided by the Idol Hands Band (your humble writer plays bass guitar). All this for just a $5 donation? Amazing!

2. National Health Reform Law: Implications for Silicon Valley
Friday, September 10, 2010
The Mayer Theater, Santa Clara University.
9:00-11:00 am (free to the public)
rsvp: nicolek@healthtrust.org

Speakers will address topics including implications for our safety net, coverage, children’s health, seniors, public health and the health care workforce.

Confirmed Speakers include:
Congressman Mike Honda
Sarah Muller, Director of Health Care Policy, Working Partnerships
Chris Wilder, Executive Director, VMC Foundation
Kathleen King, Executive Director, Santa Clara Family Health Plan
Lisa Shugarman, Director of Policy, The SCAN Foundation
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Public Health Officer, Santa Clara County
Ellen Schaffer, CA Public Health Association North

3. VMC Foundation’s Annual Gala: Luxury by the Lake - Saturday, October 2

This will be the signature event in our 22-year history, held at the stunning Sunnyridge Estate in Los Gatos, one of the finest mansions in the Bay Area. Tickets are $200 per attendee for this black-tie optional ball, which will be the highlight of the social season. Sponsorship opportunities and details can be obtained by contacting the VMC Foundation's Judy Cosgrove at 408-885-5205. This is one fund raising ball you won’t want to miss!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I oppose toys in fast food (and why you should)

When I directed City Year in San Jose, we called this a "ripple", as in, the waves that radiate out from a rock dropped in a pond that get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

The alert reader will remember my wacky, mixed-up support for Ken Yeager's new law passed on April 25. Ken is the President of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, where it is now illegal to sell fast food meals with toys inside. This made national news, you'll recall.

Fast forward to today.

I'm as supportive of the law as I was when it passed, but to offer equal time, here is an opposing viewpoint that mirrors the opinion of many in our community and others. I support the ban, which actually affects very few fast food restaurants in the county (and NO McDonalds), and I'll share my opinion by paraphrasing what I said publicly when the law was being debated:

"President Yeager, members of the board, when I first heard about this proposed ordinance I thought 'come on...surely local government could better spend its time on the budget, or on public safety.' Public safety? Well, that got me thinking.

"And I remembered that as a 17-year-old freshman at San Jose State University, in 1985, it was common practice for tobacco companies to give away their products free in front of the student union. By the time I graduated, in 1989, they weren't there anymore. Clearly, some policy decision had been made, changing the behavior.

"But policy can change more than behavior; it can change culture and attitude. If those same tobacco companies showed up tomorrow and started giving out 'free samples', I bet the community would be outraged, just as you would be if someone walked into these chambers with a lit cigarette. People would go nuts, yet thirty years ago it was commonplace.

"That's what's at stake here. Kids want the toy, they bug mom and dad for the fast food, and our childhood obesity epidemic is further fuelled. This really is a public health issue, and a seemingly small policy change can - and I think will - ultimately change culture and attitude...and we'll look back on the time when fast food companies lured kids with toys to their meals loaded with sugar, salt and fat, and wonder what we were thinking."

The law passed that morning, national media went ballistic...and here's the punchline (which you already know if you clicked the link above): San Francisco City and County is now proposing a similar ordinance!

So that's the "ripple". I hope it spreads, and believe it will. I welcome all thoughtful responses, as always.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

...and THIS is what collaboration looks like!

It's ground-breaking - as in, it's never happned before, and it's happening here in Silicon Valley. Funny...that happens a lot here.

But usually that means it's happening in the tech sector. Probably by Apple. What if it happened for the benefit of the poorest segment of our population who rely on Second Harvest Food Bank to feed their families, and on Valley Medical Center to keep them healthy?

See where this is going? Click here - you'll be inspired I promise. A Huge thanks to Pat Morino at Citizen Blog for the publicity!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to my DIET soda?

Yesterday was it. I'm quitting Diet Pepsi.

I'm doing this in support of our "Soda Free Summer" campaign, and also in light of some new information about what sweet sodas actually do to you...and by "you", I mean "me."

First, you may have heard recently on the news about Santa Clara County's ongoing effort to convince more families to go soda-free this summer. What you may not know is that the VMC Foundation is the fiscal agent of this campaign, working with Kaiser, our public health department and the Bay Area Nutrition and Physical Activity Collaborative.

The plan is simple: Educate folks about how sodas fuel the raging childhood obesity epidemic, can lead to diabetes and oh-by-the-way, have no nutritional value. A 20-oz bottle of Coke has 17 teaspoons of sugar! As Santa Clara County Board President Ken Yeager said on the news earlier this week, "It's like opening your mouth and spooning in 17 teaspoons of sugar. Nobody in their right mind is going to do that."

No, of course they wouldn't (but they do). "But Chris," I hear you saying, "You said you were giving up DIET sodas...they have no calories and no sugar!"

A Fair point. HOWEVER...it turns out that diet sodas have their own problems, beyond not really knowing what the artificial sweeteners do long-term. "When you drink that much ultra-sweet soda," explains Dr. Rami Keisari, VMC pediatrician, "it seems your body gets used to and craves more sweets...and not just desserts, but also starches. They can make it very hard to lose weight."

Now THAT is a problem I understand! And I know it's true for me - I practically live on carbohydrates, and I can't seem to stop.

So I'm putting down the diet sodas, which I've guzzled since High School. I'll let you know if it helps me lose weight, and if you care to come along with me on this journey, let me know if it works for you. Together, let's make it a SODA-FREE SUMMER!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our report to the community...VMC 2.0!

Welcome to VMC 2.0 – the most comprehensive and best-looking publication the VMC Foundation has ever produced.

We’re not just proud of this report, of course…we’re proud of the men and women of Valley Medical Center who spend their lives saving ours every day. We’re proud of the innovations that make VMC a world-class medical center, and probably the finest public hospital in the state.

We’re proud of the fact that, after nine consecutive years of budget cuts, we’re still able to serve our community…and those same nine years have seen the patient population grow and grow.

…but you, alert “Wilderside” reader, already know that.

What you may not know is the value proposition that VMC provides the taxpayers of Santa Clara County – but you will when you see page 33. You may not have seen the breath-taking renderings of our “new VMC” that’s being built as we speak – but you will if you look at 44.

And you may not know what VMC is doing to prepare for health care reform…so please, take a few moments to peruse VMC 2.0. I think you’ll find it a beautiful and educational publication. Let’s face it: Not all the media attention VMC has received this year has been positive…and to be frank, not all has been accurate. This report, in part, helps tell the full story.

A huge thanks to The Health Trust and the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal for assistance in getting VMC 2.0 released, and to PRx Inc. for making it look so beautiful.

As always, if you have questions about what you’re reading, call me any time at 408-885-5299. If what you learn has you considering a donation to support our work, well then we’ve done our job! Thanks so much.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Pedaling what they preach"...

Leah Toeniskoetter is not just a board member of the VMC Foundation, and not just the most recent Chair Emeritus...she's also a die-hard cyclist.

How die-hard? She rides her tires off every year in one of the world's most treacherous bike races: The Death Ride.

Leah does this to raise much-needed money for the VMC Foundation's "Turning Wheels for Kids" program, which provides new bikes to children in low-income families. This is great for their health, their self-esteem and their sense of independence.

Leah's energy is catching: She now has a huge team of "Death Riders", and if you want to hear more from this young dynamic leader on why she does it, she just appeared on Carl Guardino's CEO Show on KLIV Radio, along with Sunpower CEO Tom Werner. Check it out here, and if you would, join me in supporting Leah's efforts!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The man they call “Sweden’s Christopher Reeve” visited Valley Medical Center today. Claes Hulting, M.D.(find him on Facebook) is consulting with the Palo Alto VA, about his dream of 20+ years ago to build the world’s greatest spinal cord injury rehabilitation center.

Many say he’s done it, and predictably, it took a combination of private donations and new thinking. Dr. Hutling was injured in 1984, and his doctors immediately told him he should not follow through with his marriage (planned for two weeks later) because he’d just be a vegetable. Shocking and outrageous, yes, but it set him on a path to create Spinalis.

Spinalis is his amazing rehab center in Sweden which looks more like a Silicon Valley tech company. Bright colors, elliptical corridors, a huge central kitchen, tables that bolt to the ceiling (great for users of wheelchairs), and a vibrant atmosphere that makes you think you’re in Google’s cafĂ© rather than a hospital. “I wanted a Studio 54 feel”, he told VMC’s assembled physicians this morning.

That “feel” begat media coverage, more grant funding, and allowed him to spread his methodology of healing – summed up best by Iggy Pop’s immortal “Lust for Life”. “As time goes by,” Dr. Hulting told us, “I’m less interested in the body and more interested in the mind” as it relates to life beyond a spinal cord injury.

So here’s the good news: We’ve been operating with the same philosophy for decades at Valley Medical Center, which is partly why we’re a nationally-recognized rehabilitation destination. Better news: VMC’s rehab center is moving in a couple years to the new wing we’re building as a result of 2008’s “Measure A” passing.

The best news: We have an opportunity to incorporate many of the great ideas that Dr. Hulting shared with us today…but like his Spinalis center, the “New VMC Rehab Center” will need private philanthropy and partnership to reach its full potential. The alert reader of this blog will remember that we’re already out in front on patient technology access, and in fact Dr. Steve McKenna simul-cast today’s lecture to the VA Hospital, but there’s so much potential.

So, if you are able and interested in helping create our own “Spinalis” concept right here in Silicon Valley, contact me and let’s talk!

Monday, May 3, 2010

VMC Foundation music video launches internal giving campaign

I am thrilled to announce that the 2010 Give a Booster Shot campaign officially launches today!

Give a Booster Shot is our annual employee giving campaign, and it’s a great way for Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System staff to invest in VMC by making a donation to the VMC Foundation.

To show you that I will do anything to earn the support of hospital employees, we put together a little video to promote the campaign.

This year’s campaign is all about showing your love for VMC and HHS. If you’re an HHS employee (and even if you’re not, but just want a dose of fun), please visit the http://bit.ly/dfq5EF and make your donation today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Now, let’s just take a step back here…

Yesterday, a Mercury News story said some disparaging things about Valley Medical Center, and while I don’t often get into these kinds of things, I just can’t sit idly by and let it go. Not this time.

Because, you see, the story was based on a consultant’s report that wasn’t discussed or accepted by county officials until AFTER the story was published. The discussion yesterday at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting didn’t make the paper, but I was there.

Some of the findings were called into question, by the consultants themselves, and data sets backing up the claims haven’t been released yet. If you read the Mercury News’ story, you’ll remember they claimed that, based on the report:

- VMC is overstaffed
- VMC spends more on salaries as a % of overall expenses than other hospitals
- Births are declining at VMC

That last stat is true, and is true for the entire nation. Welcome to a recession, in the most expensive place in the nation to live! But, let’s step back and remember the two most basic facts I’ve been telling you for some time now:

- VMC’s budget: Reduced nine years in a row
- VMC’s patient population: Increased nine years in a row

VMC is overstaffed? By what metric? I wish I knew whether the hospitals VMC was being compared to had award-winning spinal cord and brain injury programs, or top-level NICU’s. VMC spends more on salaries than other things? Proudly, the VMC Foundation’s generous donors see that expensive devices like Giraffe Beds for infants and linear accelerators for cancer patients are provided, so the county spends less on equipment when times are tough…and it seems they always are.

County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith pointed out yesterday that the report wasn’t meant to imply that VMC was anything less than fantastic. “VMC’s staff work their butts off every day,” he said, “We’re just trying to find ways to be even better, and even more efficient.”

Again, that part didn’t make the paper. And I hope that more efficiency doesn’t mean doctors spending seven minutes on a patient visit. That’s how it was for me before I got here…when my doctor worked for a for-profit system. I’m proud that my VMC doctor takes time with me, and I know the opposite is one of the major frustrations people site when discussing health care. I’m also proud that the care I get is excellent, and that someone with no job and no coverage can get the exact same quality care.

And I know I’m not alone. Our community is justifiably proud of VMC, and amid efforts to make it even better, I will never forget that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Capping a political week...

Today our Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren paid a visit to Valley Medical Center, a place she knows more about than I do.

That's because, among other reasons, she helped save it.

Back in the mid-90's, there were some who wanted the County of Santa Clara to get out of the medical center business. Zoe, a county supervisor at the time, said, essentially, "nope - that ain't gonna happen" and fought to keep VMC open and available to everyone.

Today, she came to learn about our Medical Legal Partnership Clinic. The alert reader of this blog knows about how we have attorneys from the SV Law Foundation on hand to help our patients with problems that doctors cannot solve. She was really excited about this innovation, and pledged to help us keep the program going.

She's not the only one impressed by VMC's creativity.

Yesterday, we had a visit from Michael Blake, who does intergovernmental affairs for the White House. Yes, THAT White House. He was also blown away by what he heard from our team of doctors, nurses, and administrators who never stop thinking about how to serve Silicon Valley better than the day before. Big thanks to Supervisor Liz Kniss who made sure Mr. Blake came to see VMC during his whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley.

Both Michael and Zoe also had a lot to say about health care reform, but to keep from getting TOO political, let me just say that not all the good news about it has made the papers, and not all of it is even worked out yet. I'll just quote Congresswoman Lofgren who said, about those on the fringes who oppose ANY reform at all: "We're living on the same planet, but we're breathing different air."

Visits like these certainly demonstrate one thing: VMC has a lot to show off, and many of our programs and ideas can (and should) serve as models for medical centers across the nation. Wanna hear more about what VMC is doing? Visit our website and see what's new!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Call to Service - "because that's what we do."

History was made yesterday at Valley Medical Center.

In a moving ceremony, our new flagpoles were commissioned and the colors flown, thanks to our own VMC Color Guard, Veteran Marines all, from VMC's Protective Services Department. No ceremony like it had ever taken place before. The need was a result of Measure A's passing in 2008, requiring the installation of new flagpoles (the old ones are where the new hospital will go).

Also, for the very first time, the POW/MIA flag now joins the California Flag and the Stars and Stripes. Colonel Dean Winslow, M.D., who actively serves in the Air Force while also as Medical Director of VMC's PACE Clinic, thanked the administrators of YOUR public medical center for the opportunity to do both. His tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan are only part of his riviting personal story.

(Photos are here, courtesy of Flickr and VMC's Luis Gonzalez)

Perhaps the most moving speech of the day was delivered by retired Colonel William Peacock. I'm proud to call Bill a friend, and his service to our nation goes back to his time in the White House under Carter and Reagan, and before that, Viet Nam. Bill is also a member of the Soverign Order of St. John, which has built hospitals around the world for over a thousand years.

Below is a transcript of his speech, which perfectly brought home the idea of service - both in the military and the medical field. PLEASE READ AND SHARE with others...this one deserves to be spread around:

To all veterans and Colonel Winslow, MD: I honor you for your noble service in our nation’s latest wars, and in many ways I wish I could join you. It is probably best, however, that I do not join in this expedition because we all know that we old veterans are pretty cranky and doggone impatient, and in this new and different kind of battle, as it is coming to be well known, patience is more a virtue in this new kind of war than it may have been in our earlier and seemingly simpler military conflicts.

In this connection, just the other day, an email came over the net that showed a photograph of an Army medic, the same caliber youngster as a Navy corpsman. Please note my pronunciation of “corpsman,” for those who follow the news. [laughter, especially from the vets in the crowd].

The medic was carrying on his back a badly wounded Iraqi soldier through the middle of a vicious firefight. A member of the European press yelled out in a jeering and derisive manner to the U.S. Army medic as he ran with this heavy and bleeding body in the “fireman’s carry” to the nearest combat medical facility. The foreign cameraman yelled out, “Why are you risking your life for him? He’s only an Iraqi.”

The American soldier replied through gritted teeth, “Because that’s what we do.”

A great phrase, “That’s what we do!” Think about it: it applies with near-perfect congruence to what every man and woman here at Valley Medical Center does every hour of every day, 24/7, 365. That is what you do—you take care of them all—the sick, the wounded, the needy, the disenfranchised, the poor. Just like our nation’s Army medics and the Navy corpsman. You take them all: That’s what you do.

So it is all too fitting that proud members of your military, past and present, are here, standing tall to honor you, the women and men of Valley Medical Center, as you dedicate and commission your new flagpole: a flagpole that flies at its apogee the stars and stripes, a symbol of freedom known everywhere on this troubled planet.

So too it is fitting that Captain Schork, his Honor Guard of Marines, Colonel Dean Winslow, MD of the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, and I, a Vietnam era Marine, salute you: because you, the people of VMC, here safe in Silicon Valley, are a very close analogy to our front-line combat troops. Why? Because like the troops, you could exercise your freedom of choice and do something else all day or all night, but you choose to care for them all. Therefore, you may have other slogans, but I suggest that underlying it all is the crystal clear ringing phrase: “That is what we do.”

For your service to others, may God bless and thank you.

Col. Bill Peacock, retired Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thanking our donors: A selfish thing to do...

Friday marked the unveiling of the VMC Foundation's new Donor Wall outside the Sobrato Cancer Center in the newest building on VMC's campus. VIP's and wealthy philanthropists mingled with doctors, nurses and administrators as we celebrated the generosity of our community.

...and I've gotta say, A little gratitude goes a long way.

For one thing, our staff and that of VMC felt so good to hear from our donors, including the famous Peggy Fleming-Jenkins and her talented wine-making husband, Dr. Greg Jenkins. They pulled back the curtain to reveal the new beautiful donor wall, and we all felt a surge of pride.

But hearing John A. Sobrato tell the group why he is so committed to VMC, well that is a gift so heartfelt and powerful, I feel like we all came away enriched. Yes, I know that sounds overly-emotional, but if you were there, then you know.

...and if you weren't there, please read this wonderful blog post from Erica Cosgrove, regular contributor to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. She describes the day better than I ever could. If you're moved by what you read, please share it with others. Our donors deserve the notoriety, and frankly, so does the beautiful Sobrato Cancer Center at VMC.

If you're REALLY moved, please visit

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Social Media...what are we doing here, anyway?

San Diego, CA – This year’s conference of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (thankfully known as NACHRI) included a workshop on how medical centers can and should be using social media.

The presenters were me, Ed Bennett and Deb Braidic. Ed directs media strategy for the University of Maryland Medical System, and Deb manages web content for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We had a great time and I think the audience did too…some came all the way from the UK to be there, and if the tweets and comments and reports are an indication, we rocked the house.

Here are a few take-aways, without attributing them to any of us (we were all brilliant, of course):

• Hospitals are behind in using social media, and most that do are large institutions. Out of 6,000 hospitals in the USA, only 557 have social media accounts.
• Almost all block employee access to social media, yet the rules about privacy or “wasting time at work” are the same as with email…and nobody blocks that!
• Best quote of the conference: “The control issue of social media is very important to people who care about being in control”.
• …which is why we all should do social media: We are NOT in control of our own message anymore. Time to face that reality.
• Social media can help win campaigns (2008’s Measure A), can help keep donors connected, and spread the word faster than ever before.
• Therefore, don’t worry about the ROI just yet…focus on ROC: Return on connections. Besides, these tools are free and don’t take up too much time.
• 5 years from now, a conference like this will sound as silly as one advertising “the strategic uses of the fax machine.” This is increasingly how people communicate, and there’s no going back.

To see more comments and links to the four-hour discussion, search for #2010cc in Twitter. What? You don’t use Twitter? You should, in my not-very-humble opinion. It’s fun and keeps you connected…you can use it to populate your Facebook status as well. No, Facebook and Twitter are NOT just for 16-year-olds. They really can help medical centers reach the audience they seek – I know it works for the VMC Foundation.

http://http://bit.ly/b3F7AU for more on my presentation…thanks NACHRI, Deb and Ed!

Friday, March 5, 2010

VMC Foundation: Jobs, health, and Silicon Valley

Next Friday, please consider attending a breakfast forum I'm helping present...and I promise you'll be glad you did, because it's important and engaging.

I'm in this year's class of American Leadership Forum, and our event Friday March 12 is called "A New Recipe for Job Growth." What it WON'T be is a typical "panel discussion with Q&A." Rather, you will be a participant in this uncommon conversation aimed at solving what many feel is our #1 problem: Jobs.

How does the VMC Foundation fit in? That's easy: Your public hospital's patient population is soaring as unprecedented numbers of people have lost their jobs/ health coverage and are turning to VMC. The stress is at an all-time high, and we've got to do something. Several things, actually.

Silicon Valley's unemployment rate is WAY higher than the national average. Add to that Colorado's Governor declaring "Colorado Loves California" Day last month, trying to lure companies away from here to relocate there. Yikes.

We've assembled a top group of leaders to participate in this critical discussion. Please be one of them, and register by clicking here.


A New Recipe for Regional Job Growth - a Conversation for Change
Friday, March 12, 7:30 am - 10:30am
Computer History Museum
1401 North Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA
$25 general, $15 seniors/nonprofits, free for students

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On the eve of the President’s health care summit, I spent a day in Sacramento with my American Leadership Forum class. We’re a small group, but represent a cross-section of industries at fairly high levels – so we got a high-level look at how things roll at the state-level.

In short, things are NOT rolling well.

Whether you care about health care reform or solving the $20B budget shortfall mess, Sacramento is “broken”. We heard this consistently, starting with Senator Joe Simitian, who painted a grim picture of what he called Hyperpartisanship. “If you even appear to reach across the isle”, he told our group, “you wake up to find you’ve been stripped of committee assignments or that no one will support ANY bill you author – regardless of the topic."

We met with Possibly-Maybe-Soon-to-Be Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, who agreed. “Used to be,” he said, “that we were Republicans or Democrats when debating on the floor, and then Californians when spending time together after hours. No more.” I agree that he should be confirmed, and that the hold-up is a great example of Simitian’s Hyperpartisanship. It’s also silly. It’s the Governor’s choice, and unless Abel has a screw loose, they should give him the job and move on (his screws aren’t loose; I’ve gotten to know him and although I don’t agree with him much of the time, he’s a good man and incidentally, really loves Valley Medical Center).

Speaking of the Governor, I got to visit his cigar-smoking tent. Yes! No one gets to do that! More importantly, we had lunch with his Chief of Staff, Susan Kennedy, who is one of the most experienced and brightest bulbs in the chandelier. A career-long Democrat, she risked (and lost) life-long friendships when she agreed to work for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She lost ME only when I asked her if she could provide her opinion of just how the partisan divide grew so wide over the past dozen years or so, as described by every legislator we’d met with that day. Ms. Kennedy shot back that it hadn’t; it’s always been this way, and in fact we’ve gotten lots of great stuff done in the past couple years. I kept myself from reminding her that 2007 was supposed to be the Year for Health Care Reform in California. Other than supporting Obama’s plan, let’s be honest: Schwarzenegger hasn’t shown up for health care at all.

So we cannot even agree on the problem.

Can we agree on any solutions? Possibly.

Pretty much everyone we met with understands that term limits have screwed everything up (I agree) and should be extended or even abolished. We met with many moderate Dem’s and Rep’s who all want the “Open Primary” to pass in June (I’m not sure yet). Pretty much everyone opposes the idea of a Constitutional Convention (me too), and I have to disagree with Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s suggestion that “Democrats dislike public/private partnerships”. This Democrat doesn’t, and in fact many VMC Foundation successes have come from them.

We ended the day with a final meeting with Joe Simitian, where he handed out hankies to dry our crying eyes. We’ve got to change the system – we all agree. How long has it been broken, you ask? Well, in thanks for reading this far, two quick stories offered by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher: He was asked recently how he felt about California’s legislature having a 9% approval rating. His response: Who are those 9% and what could they possibly be thinking?

Second, he took us back to the 1850’s and why Mount Whitney is called that. It’s the highest peak in our state, and is named for a geologist/surveyor named Josiah Whitney. When legislators moved the State Capitol to Sacramento, it was to be near and with the railroads. Railroads attracted mucho dinero in Federal subsidies to build track, and building in mountainous regions cost more – and therefore meant the fed’s paid more dollars per mile than those built on flat ground.

Can you guess? According to Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, our legislature (largely controlled by railroads then) benefitted greatly when Mr. Whitney reported to the federal government that all land east of Sacramento in California was mountainous. Cha-ching! To show their gratitude, our elected officials named our highest peak for Mr. Whitney.

So some things change…and some don’t!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We're dominating the blogosphere!

Getting tired of reading my thoughts and musings in "The Wilder Side of Health?" No, of COURSE you're not...but, there's more to say, and more voices with which to say it.

That's why The VMC Foundation is proud to announce the launch of its new blog: VMC Foundation Lifelines. This forum will be used to highlight trends in heath care, philanthropy and how "The Great Recession" is impacting people in all walks of life in Santa Clara County.

It will also provide you a venue to meet the doctors, nurses, administrators, therapists, technicians and others who make Santa Clara Valley Medical Center one of the finest county hospitals in the country.

Follow our blog at: http://www.vmcfoundation.org/blog

Just now, you can learn about how many High School students fainted during a recent tour, and about the biggest grant we've ever sought (help us by crossing your fingers!)

You can also connect with us on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/vmcfoundation

AND Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/vmcfoundation

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A hospital is no place for sick people.

As I'm sure you know - or can easily understand - hospitals work really hard to prevent infections in patients...but the truth is, infections of all kinds happen, and in hospitals it's a major concern.

That's why Valley Medical Center is very proud of its record in preventing them, as described in today's release by Consumer Reports. CR is all no-nonsense, so you know their putting us in the top tier really means something.

Ironically, as VMC works to increase our use of technology, it's a low-tech solution that works to prevent some infections. Just goes to show you - or remind you - it's really all about the dedication of the team, isn't it?

Below is a portion of their report, with additional info available here. See the fourth paragraph, where they refer to VMC as an "urban giant". Is that like the green guy on the broccoli package?

Consumer Reports Health: Many Hospitals Fail To Lower Infection Risk Despite Lifesaving ChecklistNew online ratings provide patients with easy access to hospital infection rates, a first for consumers

YONKERS, N.Y., Feb. 2 -- Far too many hospitals expose patients to deadly central-line bloodstream infections despite the availability of a simple life-saving checklist proven to prevent hospital acquired infections, says a new investigative article in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

The report coincides with the addition of infection rates to Consumer Reports' in-depth hospital ratings available online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

A First for Consumers; For Too Long "in the dark"

"For far too long, consumers have been in the dark, with no easy way to find out how well their hospitals perform when it comes to these often deadly infections," said John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. Consumer Reports collected and compared data for ICUs in 926 hospitals, finding tremendous variations within the same cities and even within the same health-care systems. Bloodstream infections cause at least 30 percent of the estimated 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths in the U.S. and add on average $42,000 to the hospital bills of each ICU patient who gets a central-line infection.

Poorly performing hospitals include several major teaching institutions in major metropolitan areas. Some examples include New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Strong Memorial in Rochester, New York, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, New Jersey, and the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center in California.

Meanwhile, determined reformers across the country have shown that hospitals can cut their infection rate to zero or close to it by following a low-tech program that includes a simple checklist. Those hospitals range from modest rural hospitals to urban giants such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Harris Methodist in Houston, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, and seven Kaiser hospitals in California. The full list of 105 U.S. hospitals that have tallied zero central-line infections in their most recent reports can be found at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The State of the County...not bad, considering!

Today the baton was passed from Liz Kniss to Ken Yeager, who is now the President of the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County - that's the "county of Silicon Valley", for youse out-of-towners.

In a ceremony before hundreds led by VMC Foundation Board Member Susie Wilson, Ken outlined his plans for 2010. I won't recount them all now, because you can do that here, and I encourage you to read his official "State of the County" address.

That's beacuse most of his initiatives have to do with our health. He wants to keep teens off tobacco, create a council on health, and fight childhood obesity. Ken is also a big-time environmentalist, which is also good for...yes! Our health!

So congratulations, Ken, and here's to a successful 2010. As you stated powerfully in your address, the economy may be in the tank, but our community is TOPS.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The doctor will see you now. Like, RIGHT now."

We're having crazy-bad weather in Silicon Valley, which always makes me grateful for Valley Medical Center's Emergency Department - at the ready 24/7/365.

But it's gotten harder to meet the need, what with fewer hospitals around, and a skyrocketing number of unemployed coming to the "ED" (we don't call it an "ER" like the TV show) because they just don't have anywhere else to go.

So, to meet the need, the team opened an "Express Care" clinic across the hallway. It's there for folks who are sick, but not sick enough to need a bed in the ED. "When you get there," explains Dr. Jeff Arnold, Chief of the ED, the first person you see, right when you check in at the registration desk, isn't a clerk or an administrator. It's a doctor."

Dr. Arnold has seen this speed up care dramatically. "If the first person you meet is an M.D., they can say things like 'Okay, I want you to see the attending physician, but while you're waiting I'll refill your blood pressure medication'". Then the doctor does it with a few key strokes, just moments later. The medication can be ready before the patient is ready to leave!

He's really bothred by the number of newly-uninsured who have to choose between their vital medications and, say, groceries or paying the rent on time. "The advantage of having a doctor see patients right there at the desk extend beyond the obvious," Dr. Arnold says. "Our patients know that right away, their care has begun. It gives them a feeling of comfort at a time when they are feeling pretty vulnerable and lousy."

Sometimes, that's as important as the clinical care VMC provides. If you want to help fund this unique program, visit the VMC Foundation website, or as always, give us a ring any time. To learn more about VMC's emergency services, click here!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A gift shop that's MORE than a gift shop

Happy New Year, everyone...hope 2010 brings good things your way. At the VMC Foundation, I'd like to start the year by celebrating a sometimes underappreciated part of our organization: The VMC Gift Shop.

Managed by Kathy Trutz and staffed by volunteers, our gift shop is a really special place. That's a group of our volunteers there in the photo, pitching in to build the new VMC Bed Building.


So why is our gift shop more than a gift shop? It's really a place of refuge and community. Patients might go there to buy a book while waiting for an appointment, but what they'll find is a team of caring people willing to listen. Even VMC's staff visit to escape, share a laugh with a volunteer, or pick up a gift for a friend. Let's face it, many of our daily schedules don't leave room for shopping.

The intent may be that the gift shop is a place for family and friends to buy something nice for their loved one while staying at VMC...but over the years, it's become known as the place where you can just escape for little while. In fact, during last year's audit of the VMC Foundation, the gift shop was figured as a program expense, not just a fund raiser...that's how powerful the human element is.

Oh - and of course, everything is low-priced, high quality, and every dime of "profit" gets donated right back to VMC. So, next time you are visiting your public hospital, stop in and brouse...you'll be surprised what you find, and delighted with whom you meet.