Monday, November 21, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
The British author Terry Pratchett, in one of his early books, has a character describe the concept of “insurance” thusly: “It’s like a bet. You’re betting that something bad will happen to you, and the insurance company is betting that it won’t.”
With that in mind, I spoke with a few folks last week while travelling around rural France. It comes to this: They think we’re just bonkers. The average French citizen keeps well-versed with world news, and they are mystified that so much of Obama’s health care reforms are being challenged, skewered and hostilely vilified. “It seems like if you can afford it”, one wine maker told me, “you get good health care. If not, you have a problem.”
That simplistic assessment is about right, and his next guess was too: “If someone who doesn’t have insurance gets really sick or hurt, don’t you basically have to pay for them anyway?” Well, yes, I told him. We have laws that ensure that if you are having a heart attack and get yourself to a hospital, they will stabilize you.
“Yes, but then what?” My wine maker friend asked.
“Well, depending on where you live, and whether you can qualify for a government program, you either get follow up care, or you don’t.”
“And if you don’t, won’t you wind up back in the hospital with maybe another heart attack, and then everyone pays all over again?”
Simplistic, and again, true.
“I have travelled a lot,” said the wine maker, “and have been called a Communist in some places for supporting the French social medicine. I am surely not a Communist, but ours is a good system. The government pays, we are taxed, and that's that. Everyone should have good care, and it’s just our way.”
We talked further, and what was clear to him was that our system is more expensive (true) and not as humanistic. Ouch. The truth can hurt, but it helps remembering why I’m so proud to work in Santa Clara County, which has a great public health and hospital system…thanks to our local political leadership and a supportive community. The dedicated team at VMC is even working to solve the problem described above – to offer all needed preventative and follow-up care to the insured and uninsured alike, which is better for them and cheaper for all of us. For much more on this topic, check out the brilliant blog post by Ezekiel Emanuel called “Saving by the Bundle”. It truly reads like what Valley Medical Center is doing – and speaks to the human element of what we’re on about.
Or, to remember Terry Pratchett’s assessment, the French have decided a better wager is for EVERYONE to bet that something bad will happen to SOMEONE, and that since any of us could be that someone, we should all look after our own.
Anyway, it's good to be home with a head full of memories...and perspective.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
I was delighted to announce last month a new partnership with the Sharks Foundation that will transform a VMC pediatric clinic into a Sharks-themed center of health, fun and overall awesomeness.
Well it gets even better.
To help raise funds for the project, the Sharks Foundation is hosting the inaugural “Sharks & Strikes” charity bowling tournament on November 14th, and you are invited. Join the Sharks Foundation, Sharks players, coaches and broadcasters for a night of bowling and raise money for a great cause. Prices start at only $100 for youth and $150 for adults with proceeds benefiting the “Sharks Pediatric Clinic at Valley Health Center Tully.”
The event will take place at 300 San Jose, near the Oakridge Mall. Tickets are limited, so act fast. For more information or to register, visit .
Thursday, October 20, 2011
The San Jose Sharks are a team of tough, big, scrappy and talented hockey players…but they are also deeply committed to their community. No wonder, then, that their entire organization and Foundation are too. Here's a picture of them visiting Valley Medical Center a while back...and our work together continued...
That’s why we’re thrilled to announce a new partnership between the Sharks Foundation and the VMC Foundation: The San Jose Sharks Pediatric Clinic at VHC Tully!
The clinic is already there at Valley Health Center Tully in San Jose, and serves more than 6,000 children each month! And while it’s long on quality care for kids, it’s short on décor and inspiration.
Enter the Sharks, who are investing up to $100,000 to “re-imagine” the Clinic. We’ll have Sharks images of players, team colors throughout and of course “Sharkie”, the team mascot everywhere. More than just looking good, the clinic will be full of healthy tips for kids and parents: Take a BITE out of your veggies, drink water not soda, get your exercise and immunizations…all positive messages to match the positive look and feel.
Parents will love it too, and of course this “Legacy Project” will help the Sharks show off their involvement in our community. They already do a lot, but this is a very big deal. Huge thanks to Jeff Cafuir, the Sharks Foundation Manager, for spearheading the project along with our team here at the VMC Foundation and throughout the Sharks organization.
So yes, the Sharks are caring, humble, community-minded idealists…unless of course you meet them on the ice. Wearing an Anaheim Ducks uniform.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Music is more important to me than most things, and for years I’ve served on the Board of Directors of San Jose Jazz. Our Summerfest is the biggest deal in town every August, bringing 100,000 music lovers together for a weekend of celebration and performance. This year’s was maybe the best festival yet…
Ticket sales, beer, food, weekend weather…all similar to 2010. Could our efforts to promote a “Soda-Free Summer” be working? Well, let’s look at some facts:
- The Bay Area Nutrition and Physical Activity Collaborative (BANPAC, part of the VMC Foundation) has data that shows parents and kids are starting to get the message and reduce soda consumption.
- There’s been a sharp rise in local media about the dangers of sweetened drinks this year.
- The American Beverage Association (representing soda makers) recently called Santa Clara County’s anti-soda messages “misleading”. They’re not, and we have reams of data to prove it…but they’re worried, and that’s good.
- Kaiser Permanente, the biggest supporter of our “Re-Think Your Drink” efforts in Silicon Valley, became a major sponsor of San Jose Jazz’s Summerfest this year!
Yes – this is a big deal. For the first time, KP was a major player in our Jazz Festival, setting up wellness stations around the Salsa Stage (the most physically active of the Summerfest, with non-stop dancing all weekend). They gave away water with fresh lemon to all revelers, promoting a healthier alternative to soda.
My friend, colleague and VMC Foundation Board Member Kathleen King takes all the credit: “My giving up diet soda this year is personally responsible for the decline”, she joked with me yesterday. But she’s on to something: The fight to reduce unhealthy drink intake is going to ultimately be fought one person, one family at a time. And with obesity and diabetes rates still climbing, a fight is exactly what this is. Please, join us—it starting to work!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
1. Yes, I was sober. Mostly.
2. No, it wasn't pre-planned, other than the thought crossed my mind a couple hours earlier. David DuMont's amazing band provided unplanned appropriate music though, which made it seemed rehearsed. It wasn't.
3. Yes, I left my good shoes on, but remembered to take my blackberry out of my pocket.
Here's how it reads in today's Mercury News:
Pizarro: VMC Foundation Executive Director Chris Wilder takes a giant leap for charity
Monday, August 29, 2011
I met recently with Jennifer Loving, the CEO of Destination: Home. They are a great Silicon Valley agency working to end chronic homelessness, and I’m inspired by their effort.
I’ll admit something to you: There are times when I’ve turned away at seeing a homeless person or family, as it’s just too painful. But let’s take the emotion out of the issue for a minute: Our community spends tens of millions annually (yes, right here in Silicon Valley) without addressing the core issue that people need a home.
Because if they had one, we ALL would benefit. Several studies show that a person that is chronically homeless costs $60,000 a year…in shelters, food assistance, law enforcement – but mostly, medical care. In our community, that means Valley Medical Center.
You may know that Jennifer Loving’s team surveyed some of our county’s homeless a couple of months ago. Here’s some of what they learned from the 943 people they met:
- 100 were 60 years old or more
- More than half visited the emergency department in the last 3 months, resulting in
- 644 hospitalizations in a year.
- Half reported a serious medical condition like heart disease, hepatitis or liver disease.
- 144 were veterans (this, IMHO, is a national disgrace).
- Almost all reported a behavioral health issue or mental illness.
There is a ton more data at http://www.housing1000sv.org/ but you get my point: Even if I didn’t care about the homeless (I do), I’d sure care about the money they cost us all. And I won’t live in a society that just lets them die. I’ll leave. Goodbye.
While Destination Home works on longer-term solutions, Valley Medical Center meets short-term needs with an award-winning program called New Directions. VMC staff see frequent users of our county’s Emergency Department and provide housing, transportation and specialized assistance…the goal being to keep them healthier and out of the hospital.
The VMC Foundation raises money to support New Directions, but funds have run dry. If you would like to help, please click here and give as generously as you can.
There are more than 7,000 homeless people in Santa Clara County on any given night. Help us help them, with my thanks.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I'm proud to help announce the newest, coolest campaign by Turning Wheels, the VMC Foundation program that provides brand-new bikes to underprivileged kids. The benefits are so many: The sense of independence and responsibility, the freedom of movement, and the health aspects of riding a bike vs. sitting inside. What's not to love?
Now, it's even easier with Buck for a Bike! The idea is so simple: If everyone in Santa Clara County gave just a dollar, we could buy a bike for pretty much any child that needs one. And if you gave $10, or maybe $100...now we're talking program expansion, bike build clinics - the sky is the limit.
Visit www.buckforabike.org to see some really fun videos, and make your own! The website also makes it easy to share with friends, and to donate what you can.
Oh yeah...when I say I'm proud to HELP announce, that's because local media beat me to it. Take a look here, and support Buck for a Bike!
Friday, July 15, 2011
The avid reader of this blog remembers that I gave up my beloved diet sodas a year ago. Today I learned my dear friend Kathleen King has joined me...and she loved her Diet Coke more than I did!
But I hear you: "Sure diet soda isn't GOOD for me, but c'mon...it's not BAD for me, is it?" Well, maybe.
A recent study highlighted in the San Jose Mercury News confirms that diet soda drinkers have much larger waistlines than those that say no to diet (and all) soda.
Reasons given: Some people splurge on calories in their food because they're saving on calories in their drinks. Think Big Mac and super-sized fries with a Diet Coke.
Another factor [the researcher] says plays a role in expanding waistlines is "taste dysfunction." Because artificial sweeteners taste hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar, our bodies come to expect sugary foods to be extremely sweet. So we start to seek out more sugar-laden options.
A third explanation is that our bodies are smarter than we think. When we suck down sweet things, our bodies register the sugary taste and wait for the accompanying calories, said Lillian Castillo, a public health dietitian with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
Click here to read the full article, which I think misses another key point: Maybe - just maybe - people who drink diet sodas (which clearly aren't good for you) are not as averse to eating other things that - whaddaya know - aren't good for you? Seems logical to me, and I know I am 100% guilty.
But I'm working on it. How about you? Join me in making it a truly soda-free summer!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The VMC family has lost a true hero.
Richard Patterson passed away last night peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends, to a personal rendition of his favorite song.
In the words of Dr. Stephanie Kolakowsky-Hayner, who leads VMC's Rehabilitation Research Center: Richard was an amazing man who influenced so many diverse circles and will be missed terribly. He led the peer-support counseling program at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for the past 15 years. He was a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities, peer support coordinator, committee member for the Public Authority for In-Home-Supportive-Services, a co-chair of the Disability Advisory Commission for the City of San Jose, brother, son, fiancé, colleague, and friend. His loss will impact the thousands of lives he has touched.
One life was mine. I met Rich eight years ago, and there's no end to what he taught me. Rich was the first to explain to me that "you never really 'accept' your spinal cord injury, rather you learn to live and work with it, the best you can, which is why peer support is so critical." As much as someone not living with a disability can understand, Richard Patterson helped me understand.
Our work together saw Richard leading adventurists (like him) with disabilities on glider rides, whale-watching and SCUBA trips, and other excursions that proved what was possible. Great men like Steve Lyon and Marv Tuttle worked with Richard for years to demonstrate to thousands that life after a spinal cord injury can be full and exciting. The VMC Foundation will be forever proud to be part of his legacy.
We have, therefore, established a fund in his name, to ensure that his peer support and community work will grow. His family requests that gifts be sent to the VMC Foundation, 2400 Moorpark Ave. #207, San Jose CA 95128. Be sure to write "Richard Patterson" in the memo of your check, or to give by ccard, call us at 408-885-5299 or visit us on line.
Rich, I'll miss you buddy. We all will.
Monday, June 13, 2011
It's a pretty rare thing that I reference Men's Health, a publication that spends a lot of time trying to improve one's sex life. But, on occasion, they actually focus on - yes - men's health...which oddly is often the same thing as women's health, and kids' health!
Who would have thought?
Anyway, as the VMC Foundation launches another year of our Public Health Department's Soda-Free Summer campaign, it's important to remember that you can ingest a lot of unhealthy drinks without guzzling Dr. Pepper or Jack Daniels - often without thinking about it, or worse, thinking you're doing the right thing.
Here, then, is a great article from Men's Health that should raise your eyebrows...and hopefully, your water glass. Cheers.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
After receiving permission from the family, I am excited to share this story with you. As difficult as it is to imagine feeling "locked in" your own body, imagine being given a chance to start communicating again. That's what VMC's team did for Laure, and part of what the VMC Foundation proudly supports.
When I asked Mr. Chow if I could share this with you, in fact, he responded right away, saying You can certainly share. We credit the staff at SCVMC, especially Dr Duong and your PT/OT/ST staff for challenging while respecting Laure. Laure always faces her challenges head on.
You should also know the nursing staff has always been fantastic. Laure was very particular about her care and Laure felt both safe and genuinely cared for by your nursing staff.
Laure has a long way to go, but your staff has been a source of compassion, support and encouragement towards her recovery.
This, then, from Mr. Chow:
To Laure’s extended family:
It has been a long and difficult year for Laure and her family. She is still paralyzed and mute, and everyday life has been extremely challenging. Today however, I share some good news.
Since Laure has been working diligently with physical/occupational therapy every day, she has managed to gain enough head control to hold her head steady. This allows her to use a machine called Dynavox.
The machine tracks her eyes along a keyboard and when Laure blinks, it accepts this as if she were pressing a key. Once she completes a sentence, she uses her eyes to “click” on the “speak” button and the machine speaks what Laure has just typed with her eyes.
At first Laure spelled, “I am tired”, then “thank you Larry”, and “Annie (her caregiver) you are special”. Then Laure was on a roll, spelling:
I want Internet.
I want email.
I want email.
I want email.
She was then able to spell / speak, “I love Ton Ton” and “I love Caillou”.
Finally, she spelled, “ I am happy” and “I have a voice”. We all cried.
All this took well over an hour; the device is not 100% accurate, and Laure gets exhausted just trying to hold her head steady, but we will keep practicing and hopefully send a few emails soon.
I know you share in our joy, and thank you for your thoughts, prayers, love and support of Laure.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
What do you suppose makes the biggest difference to your health? Genes? Kicking the cigarette habit?
These things are important, sure, but according to a groundbreaking new study done by our own Public Health Department, racism you experience and where you live are MORE important.
Troubling? You bet it is. I've been fighting racism and injustice where I see it for a long time, and if this study (done in partnership with The Health Trust) doesn't get make you as mad as it does me, then I'm sorry for you.
The way people treat you based on the color of your skin, and the amount of money you make, and the neighborhood you live in have a dramatic effect on your health. This is unfair, and as a society we need to figure out what to do about it...at least that's how I feel.
Check out the study here, and let me know your reaction to it.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I met Leonard Ely in 2007, and by 2008 he had become such a strong supporter of our "Measure A" campaign to rebuild Valley Medical Center that I'm not sure we'd have won without him.
"VMC saved my life", he often said of his time with us, which was told and retold by news sources around Silicon Valley.
Now Leonard Ely has passed away at 87, and will be greatly missed and remembered. A generous man, he was also a shrewd business leader - and woe unto anyone who misjudged that!
Mr. Ely, thank you for all you have done for our community...your gifts will keep giving for generations to come. The full obituary can be read here.
Friday, April 29, 2011
I'll be in San Diego for a couple of days this week, attending a national conference on behavioral health. My presentation is on social media and how we in the public benefit sector can use it to raise awareness - and money - for the work we do.
One fun little tool I like is QR codes, which turn your web address or file into a Jackson Pollack painting...which you can then read with your smart phone, and have a video or website pop up. The one above right is a funny video we made for hospital staff demonstrating phone etiquette.
I'll be wearing one at the conference as a name tag, which will be my electronic business card...anyone who scans it with their smart phone will land on this blog page, and have my contact info:
E. Christopher Wilder
Valley Medical Center Foundation
2400 Moorpark Ave. #207
San Jose CA 95128
Fun! Think of ways you might use these neat little tools, and of course, follow me and the Valley Medical Center Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Also, if you want to get an idea of what I'll be talking about this week in San Diego, here's the slide show.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
For most of the northern hemisphere, summer starts on the twenty-first of June.
However, this year, for a select few, summer will come early.
This year, the season of barbecues and baseball, of suntans and lemonade, of long days and warm nights, will begin on June 4 on a rooftop in Silicon Valley...
We invite you to "Swing Into Summer," a fundraiser for the VMC Foundation, presented by Lexus Stevens Creek and American Medical Response. It just may be our best party yet.
Dance to the big band sounds of the 18-piece "Full Spectrum Jazz".
Savor the delectable cuisine of Parsley Sage Rosemary &Thyme.
Taste local artisan wines from 8 local winemakers.
Enjoy gift bags and prizes that include music, gift cards to local restaurants and attractions...this is just about worth the price of admission by itself, seriously. Thanks to Armadillo Willy's for sponsoring these great gifts.
And that's not all. One lucky couple will win airfare for two to Hawaii courtesy of Peak Travel Group, just for showing up! It might be you (I promise it won't be me, sadly).
Saturday, June 4th 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Rooftop of Lexus Stevens Creek 3333 Stevens Creeks Blvd., San Jose
Tickets are a bargain at $100.00. Click here to purchase or call 408-885-5299.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Silicon Valley is home to some of America’s best hospitals. So when the competition is this tough, there is no shame in taking the silver. In U.S. News and World Report just released “America’s Best Hospitals” annual report, VMC was ranked second only to Stanford for best hospitals in the San Jose Metro Area. VMC was specifically recognized for “high performing specialties” in Ear, Nose and Throat, Gynecology, kidney disorders and rehabilitation care. Rankings aren’t everything, of course. But the recognition is well deserved. VMC and Stanford, of course, share a long-established bond. Together, both hospitals operate Santa Clara County’s only top level trauma centers. VMC is an official teaching hospital of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and numerous VMC physicians also serve on the Stanford faculty. To see the report, check here.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Nine out of 10 AHP [Association of Healthcare Philanthropy] respondents surveyed in February said the Bowles-Simpson proposal would cause significant reductions in overall giving to their organization, with 64% saying the adverse impact on major gift-giving would be considerable. About 40% said giving would fall between 10% and 30% if significant changes are made to the current tax incentives for charitable donations—which conservatively could amount to more than a $1.07 billion drop in total annual giving to nonprofit hospitals, AHP said, based on its own FY2009 statistics.
AHP Chair Mary Anne Chern said any reductions in the tax incentives for charitable giving could be "devastating for healthcare in the U.S."
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
You probably know that our rehab center is one of the best in the country. This week, we’ve got news for you – it’s even better than you think.
Check out “Rebuilding Lives,” the special 12-page section in the March 11, 2011 weekly edition of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal, for an up-close profile of VMC Rehab. Read remarkable stories from patients, and meet the amazing staff. Learn about our efforts to use technology; from stem cell research to bionic exoskeletons, to find the next great breakthrough in rehabilitation care.
Buy your copy of the Business Journal on newsstands now, or download the special section here.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Need proof that only takes the power of one person to make a positive change in the lives of others?
Look no further than Lisa Blanchard and the Grateful Garments Project she has just launched to benefit VMC’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). The idea for Grateful Garments began when Lisa was working on a school project. Tasked to develop a fundraising initiative, Lisa chose a cause that aligned with her volunteer work with SART. She knew that the clothes of the clients treated by SART were being collected for evidence, leaving the patients in need of comforting, warm clothing to wear home after their exam.
The Grateful Garment Project's mission, then, is to ensure that every client that crosses the threshold of the SART facility is provided with whatever clean, new clothing, toiletry and food items they may require to reduce any additional impact on their being. Additionally, VMC’s SART Program can benefit from upgrades to equipment and supplies…sadly, this need is real, no matter how we wish it wasn’t.
Lisa’s project has put her passion into action. Working with resources provided by the VMC Foundation and SART, Lisa has raised hundreds of dollars to support this act of compassion, and she is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Grateful Garments Project is now a Facebook Cause: http://www.causes.com/causes/588638-the-grateful-garment-project Join the cause and use your donation to say “thank you” to Lisa, for showing us that it only takes the power of one person to make a positive change in the lives of others.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Every few years I like to experience the emergency services at Valley Medical Center for myself, to make sure the excellent care I always tell people about is for real. Last weekend, Saturday 3am seemed like a super time…nothing much on TV, ya know.
I’ll leave it a mystery how it exactly happened, but I’ll say this: If you gave me a hundred bungee cords and had me try to replicate the accident—on purpose—I’d never manage it again. It was in so tightly and deeply, there was no way I was getting it out without expert help.
So off we went to VMC’s Emergency Department…my friend Lydia drove, thankfully. She was visiting from the Southland, and I think she was pretty surprised to see how efficient and, yes, cheerful everybody was in OUR “county hospital”. Many—okay, most—folks waiting were in worse shape than I was and had priority, but it couldn’t have been an hour before they were taking x-rays of my finger to see if I’d gone through the bone or something else important.
By this time I was pretty freaked out. If you know me, you know that playing guitar is more important to me than pretty much anything else I use that finger for, so you can imagine my relief when the news came back that I’d missed serious damage by, oh, the width of an eyelash or two.
I’m not used to being the least chipper person in the room, and it really helped that all the doctors and nurses and techies around me were so upbeat. Maybe they thought this case was pretty cool. I wasn’t looking (believe me!) when they finally got the bungee hook out, but in no time I was anesthetized, sterilized, trussed up and we were on our way.
Yes, this wasn’t a life and death situation like so many others that come through the doors (or land on the roof via helicopter) at VMC every day, but I cannot thank the team enough for saving my finger.
Maybe you have a VMC Emergency story more compelling than mine (most are, I recon). Feel free to share if you like at firstname.lastname@example.org , as we at the VMC Foundation pass on the kudos when we can. Until next time, make sure your bungee cords have those rubber safety tips on each end. It could save your weekend.