In case you missed it (or want to read it again, like the way some of us watch The Breakfast Club over and over), this was published in the Mercury News on March 22:
As you may know, the President’s first budget draft eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and for the Corporation for National Service. His first take on a health care bill – the one designed to replace the Affordable Care Act – slashes Medi-Cal expansion and would leave millions without coverage.
I feel strongly about this. See, not long ago I chaired the board at San Jose Jazz, and today I work closely with Silicon Valley Creates. I know well the good they do, and what will be lost if they go away.
Longer ago I ran City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, the premiere AmeriCorps program in the South Bay. I know well the good it does. I also know what will be lost if it goes away.
And for thirteen years I’ve run the foundation at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. I’ve gotten my health care at SCVMC that whole time…just like thousands of individuals and families who need primary care or the unique, specialty care our public hospital provides. One in four residents of Santa Clara County have recently used or rely on SCVMC, just like me.
Yes, we very well know the good it does.
You of course remember the “ice bucket challenge” of 2014, a clever idea that went viral and raised tons of well-deserved money for ALS research. Dump ice on your head, film it, post it, and donate to ALS…fun! More than fun in fact: The ice bucket challenge introduced a whole new group of people to the idea that giving to a cause is helpful and even feels good and makes you happy. Again, fun!
Well I think it’s high time for a less-fun, but equally important idea to go viral: Donate now to the nonprofits you love who are under attack. Not everyone is comfortable writing to congress or marching in the streets (which is still vital), but donating to the charities that will be impacted by these proposed cuts is another great way to channel your anger toward something positive.
You ARE angry, aren’t you? This isn’t even political, really: You don’t need to be a liberal or democrat to appreciate jazz, or a museum or the ballet. I served on San Jose Jazz’s board with conservatives and progressives alike. Through City Year, I met Bill Clinton and John McCain and Carly Fiorina, all of whom appreciated the ideals of national service.
And I’ve met Republicans and Democrats whose lives were saved by our county’s trauma team.
I can’t guess about San Jose Jazz or City Year, but here’s something certain: SCVMC isn’t going anywhere. Your public hospital has been here since 1876 and has weathered all kinds of storms. Its leaders and doctors and nurses are a brilliant team, and our county leadership is determined and resolved. This new storm, however, will bring challenges. And simply put, it makes me angry.
Now is absolutely the time for a new wave of viral philanthropy. If you’re angry about any effort to stop federal funding for arts programs that make our communities vibrant and exciting, donate to your local arts council. If you’re steamed about destroying the Corporation for National Service and the democracy it builds in our nation’s young people, give to your local favorite AmeriCorps program.
And if you’re upset about low-income families losing coverage while the wealthy see a reduction in cost, or about the very idea that some deserve quality health care while others perhaps don’t…well, there’s a public hospital foundation that could really use your help.
You don’t even need to dump ice on your head.
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center just got a little easier to visit, and a little more welcoming!
We’re so proud of our new information kiosk, purchased through generous donations from VMC Foundation supporters. It’s sturdy, wired for electricity, and expertly constructed. It’s even kinda cute; you can’t see in the photo, but it has a tiny Spanish tiled roof. I was so thrilled when it arrived last week, and was curious to learn how much of a difference it would make.
So, to find out, I spent time there today volunteering. Wow—what an education I got!
Most hospital campuses are huge and sprawling, and ours is bigger than most…and let’s face it: Most of our visitors and patients would rather be somewhere else. They arrived stressed, sick, confused, emotional—and then suddenly have to decide which building is their destination. Signage can be missed, but what cannot be is a friendly face eager to help. Our volunteers are amazing, speak many languages, and now have a station where they can provide a comforting word, a map, and the encouragement of “You’re in the right place; it’s just there, through those doors.”
In the time I spent with our volunteers today, I watched and helped them direct an elderly couple to the Sobrato Cancer Center. A frightened woman was shown our urology clinic. A man, obviously not feeling well, got to the Express Care center with no trouble. Absent our kiosk and the team inside, I’m convinced their experiences would have been less positive. I mean, it’s hard finding your way around any complex set of buildings (remember your first day of middle school)…and when you’re under the weather, it’s much harder.
That’s why, I’m convinced, that another frequent request is “Can you help me find my car?” When parking in a 5-story garage, and your mind is on a loved one who is hospitalized…well, you get the picture. We’ve all done it, and nothing takes the edge off like having someone there to help you.
This is just one more way that your public hospital is making the experience better for everyone…and we at the VMC Foundation are so pleased to have helped make this possible. If you are a donor, THANK YOU, because YOU helped make this tiny bit of new real estate a reality. And as small as it is, it’s already making a BIG difference every hour, every day.
My final interaction before I left the kiosk was a man who approached and said “This is where I get information?” I told him it was.
“Great. What’s the capital of South Dakota?”
The alert reader of this blog will remember two years ago when we celebrated the five-years of VMC’s Medical Legal Partnership Clinic. This is the innovative idea that, sometimes, a lawyer can solve your medical problem better than a doctor!
Intrigued by that concept? So were we in 2009, and so was FIRST 5 Santa Clara County which funded this great partnership and kept it going for five years.
Sometimes, it takes that long to prove a concept…but the good news is that in Santa Clara County, especially at Valley Medical Center, a proven concept leads to my favorite word: SUSTAINABILITY.
After hundreds of patients helped, fueled by donations from FIRST 5, the leadership of VMC asked the County to make the Medical Legal Partnership a permanent part of its budget, and to give it a home in the new Valley Health Center Downtown.
…and that happened, and today was Opening Day! A huge congratulations to Dr. Leanna Botkin and the team at the Law Foundation Silicon Valley’s “Legal Advocates for Children and Youth” for demonstrating how this collaboration can make such a positive difference for patients who often have little recourse to improve a situation for themselves or their children.
Click here to learn more about the Medical Legal Partnership, and here to learn more about Valley Health Center Downtown, the latest jewel serving the population of our country’s tenth largest city.
I’m proud and pleased to share our just-finished Annual Report with you! The report details the VMC Foundation’s work in calendar year 2015 and includes our audited financial statements.
More importantly, you can “meet” some of our generous donors, learn about our programmatic work, and see the real impact of philanthropy on the health of Silicon Valley. Just click here to see the report….it looks great in full-screen mode.
After more than a decade, on the site of the former San Jose Medical Center, in the downtown core of the 10th largest city in the United States, medical care is happening. Yes, Valley Health Center Downtown is OPENING!
For folks new in town, a little history:
In the winter of 2004, San Jose Medical Center closed abruptly after 80 years of service. A coalition of downtown activists tried—and failed—to prevent the closure, and then quickly turned their energy toward the future. The question: What could we do to ensure that downtown residents, regardless of insurance status, had somewhere to go for urgent and ongoing medical care?
Meanwhile, up the road at Valley Medical Center, the impact was felt as twice the number of patients began arriving in the Emergency Department than before the closure. Then three times the number.
The team at VMC’s ED worked brilliantly to manage the patient demand. At the same time, a growing coalition began crafting a plan to re-build part of VMC and build another health center downtown.
The opportunity came during the presidential election year of 2008, and the coalition moved with purpose. Measure A was crafted, and long story short, we WON in November. This secured the $50M it would take to build a state of the art health center at 777 East Santa Clara Street where San Jose Medical Center once stood.
And now, eight years later and on budget, Valley Health Center Downtown is serving patients. Last Wednesday we held a VIP and donor reception to thank everyone who made it all possible. The event included many attendees who were there, eleven years ago, working to save what ultimately couldn’t be saved. It was an emotional event and included scores of donors, elected officials, builders and medical professionals. Truly a wonderful evening.
You may think I’m “burying the lead” here, but I’m not. The VMC Foundation throws good parties, sure, but the most important thing is that the mission of Valley Medical Center is being actualized in downtown San Jose…and I am so happy and so proud. For all who made it happen: THANK YOU.
If you would like to be a part of the excitement, a grand opening celebration happens Saturday June 11 at 9am, on site at 777 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose. Free to attend, lots of fun for the whole family – c’mon down!
December 1st is Giving Tuesday, a national day of selfless generosity around the annual shopping and spending season… and we’re asking for your support.
For today only – VMC Foundation CEO Chris Wilder has teamed up with one of our generous donors, Dave Culler, to MATCH ALL DONATIONS received by the VMC Foundation up to $5,000. Can you help us reach our goal?
Dave Culler is senior financial consultant with Pacific Advisors and an overall awesome guy! For over 30 years, Dave has helped clients grow and protect their wealth while integrating charitable planned giving strategies in support of organizations like the VMC Foundation. We are so grateful for his partnership.
Please take a moment to show your support for the life-saving care provided by Valley Medical Center, home to San Jose’s only Level 1 Trauma Center. This is a service any of us could rely on in case of a serious accident, regardless of where you typically receive your healthcare.
Giving Tuesday is a great way to balance the consumerism marked by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the holiday season. Please join us by making a gift to the VMC Foundation today, and have it doubled.
UPDATE: What an exciting day! We reached our initial goal of raising $5,000 by 12:00pm and claimed the full match offered by Dave Culler and Chris Wilder.
With several hours left for Giving Tuesday, another donor has offered a NEW $5,000 MATCHING CHALLENGE!! Thank you to VMC Foundation board member Elaine Elkin! If you haven’t gotten around to making a donation yet today, please do it now and have your donation doubled by this matching gift.
Long story short: When I first started here at the VMC Foundation, the job afforded no health coverage. Which was ironic, don’t you think?
My wife’s company did, and I was already on her plan. I don’t remember what it was, or any of my doctors’ names. That’s because the few times I ever went to see one I felt like a number (at best) or an imposition (at worst). Nobody ever got to know me, or talked to me about my overall health. Many of us have experienced the “five minute doctor visit”…and until 2006 I thought that was normal.
That was the year the VMC Foundation became a true “employer” and had to decide what kind of company we were going to be. If we were going to hire staff, we needed to offer benefits—and they’d better be good, since that’s a core value that the VMC Foundation and Valley Medical Center holds dear. We were finally ready to talk to Valley Health Plan about doing something they’d never done before: Offering coverage to a private non-profit. We were the first, and suddenly, my health care was with VHP and Valley Medical Center!
What. A. Difference.
My doctor, Chris Snow, asked me questions, and not just about me, but my whole family. Some of them went like this: “Why are you taking cholesterol medicine when you’re vegan, and when everyone on both sides of your family live into their 90’s or longer?” Other questions, like “How much time to you spend sitting at your desk?” or “What would it take to schedule some more cardio?” demanded that I truly think seriously about the answers – because by then, I had come to like and trust Dr. Snow and I wanted him to be proud of me.
Not long after, Chris Snow moved on…but not his caring manner. He left that for Dr. Bob Horowitz who inherited me next. Just like Snow, Dr. Horowitz took the time to learn about me and me about him. Rarely, he would refer me to others throughout the VHP system and always, I met world-class providers and Nurse Practitioners and X-Ray Techs and – well, everyone really. Even when I showed up at 3am with the weirdest emergency I’d ever had, I was met with compassion and technical brilliance. I still have ten fingers as proof.
Over the years, as the VMC Foundation grew from a tiny nonprofit to one more robust, Valley Health Plan has also grown. What a thrill it was when they were selected to be part of the Covered California health exchange! Suddenly, our “little” VHP was one of just a handful of choices that anyone could choose through our state’s exchange. For me, it was no choice at all; when was the last time you got to interact personally with the CEO of your health plan? For me, and “super-local” VHP, it happens frequently.
Here’s a bonus: Whenever I get medication or visit my doctor, I’m not asked for a co-pay. This isn’t always the case, but at Valley Health Plan, it certainly is the norm. Other perks include acupuncture, the widest array of specialists for whatever might ail me, MyHealth Online, and because I work here, running into my doctor in the hallway all the time. Okay, that last part has its downsides, but the occasional “getting those 10,000 steps in, Chris?” do have an effect.
And the result? I’m a healthier person for my VHP membership. I know it, and I appreciate it. Happy birthday, VHP. I’m writing this on my 48th, and I expect you and I will both have a lot more birthdays to share.
An apartment fire on June 25 severely injured two of Amelia Gomez’s three children, and has left the family with no home or possessions. The injured children, Julio and Abigail, jumped from a second story window to escape the fire. Both sustained serious injuries and have been treated at Valley Medical Center. Julio is expected to remain in Valley Medical Center’s burn unit for months and endure surgeries for years.
Read more in these articles from the San Jose Mercury News:
Two children jump from second story window to escape apartment fire
Long recovery begins for San Jose mom, siblings who jumped for their lives from apartment fire
San Jose apartment fire that burned 2 kids blamed on electrical malfunction
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please help this family of four by making a donation to one of the sources below.
Donations of Household Items and Clothing in Good Condition
Can be dropped off Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm:
DCP El Camino Middle School
1155 E. Julian Avenue
San Jose, CA 95116
Gift cards, school supplies, linens, household items, furniture, clothes/shoes, etc.
Amelia (mom): Pant size 14/16, shirt size XL, shoe size 7
Atziry (16-year-old daughter): Pant size 5 (teen), shirt size small/med, shoe size 4 or 5
Abigail (12-year-old daughter): Pant size 7 (teen), shirt size large, shoe size 7
Julio (10-year-old son): Pant size 14, shirt size large, shoe size 5
BB was a hero to me and darn near any rock/blues musician. Today at noon, VMC’s “house band” Idol Hands will be performing for the staff as we offer gourmet food at a deeply-reduced price. Just our way of saying THANK YOU to the selfless and essential team at Valley Medical Center.
And, so, we’ll be playing some blues today in tribute to The King. Here’s something to think about: BB King was 89 when he passed. That means he outlived the average life expectancy of African American men by at least eleven years. Depending on the source, it could be as high as 16 years…and for African American men born in Mississippi (as BB was), tack on another four years.
We have a great deal of work to do in this country regarding the social determinants of health. For more on that, check out the World Health Organization’s website or locally, The Health Trust. And remember, BB King has passed but the thrill is NOT gone!
I hope everyone had a great National Hospital Week. Cheers and good health to you.