Movie Review: The Bucket List

Starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I figured this Rob Reiner-directed flick would be well-acted, but shallow. Wrong! A poignient film with lots of good messages, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Oh – except for what we pro movie reviewers call a “continuity error” right near the beginning. Continuity errors make it difficult to “suspend disbelief” in the “plotline” and often have us reaching for the “eject button” in favor of “Monty Python reruns”. Fortunately, I powered through it.
What was the error? Nicholson’s caracter is a hospital owner who insists on two-bed rooms for patients, which he sees as a way to save money or something. But here’s the thing: Folks who run hospitals in this day and age know full well that the future is private, single bed rooms!
And guess why? It’s better for the patients, AND, better for the hospital! Single bed rooms offer more privacy, ease of visitation and better rest…but they also offer better control of infection, and higher utilization, since you don’t have to worry about male/female issues, adult/child issues, and a host of other reasons that your humble movie reviewer is just learning about.
SO, Nicholson’s caracter would never insist on shared bed rooms…single bed, private rooms are more efficient any way you look at it. So, if Measure A passes on the November ballot, Valley Medical Center will begin construction on a new patient bed tower – and yes, they will be private suites, unlike some of the older parts of Silicon Valley’s largest hospital.
Ah, you thought I’d never work Measure A into this post, didn’t you. Silly you. Anyway, now you have a good movie to rent this Memorial Day weekend, and another reason to support Measure A. Doesn’t that feel good?

Valley Medical Center: When old was new…

Friends, I just had to share this fantastic photo of Valley Medical Center’s “new main” hospital. New, of course, in 1965. That’s when we’re quite sure this was taken. You car buffs can probably tell me if that’s correct.

What I can tell you for sure is that for 50 years, starting in 1960 and continuing today, this building has helped serve Santa Clara County’s health care needs. It saw to the training of one in four doctors who practice in Silicon Valley. It saw the patient population served by VMC go up hundreds of percentage points. Hundreds!

Fifty years is a good run for a huge hospital building, especially in earth quake country. Health care technology has advanced at a mind-boggling pace, and it’s time to replace this old structure. The state mandates it, and the fault lines around us call for fast action. Measure A can make it happen, and it’s replacement should last far longer than 50 years, providing generations in our community with life-saving services, delivered by the best MD’s, RN’s, techs and volunteers anywhere.

Oh yeah…and if we don’t, this community is in big trouble. can tell you more. Thanks to the VMC Historical Society for this great photo – more to come, everyone!

When all around you is collapsing…

…your hospital better not.

Judy is my neighbor, and her life was saved by Valley Medical Center when her house crushed her in the Quake of 1989. It seems strange to call Judy “lucky”, but that’s how she feels looking back on the hours after the second floor of her Los Gatos home landed on top of her as she tried to escape.

Judy is my neighbor, and her story is so compelling that we wanted to capture it on film. It’s wrong to say this is a low-budget production, because that would imply that we had SOME kind of budget. So, this likely won’t win us an Academy Award – but if they gave Oscars out for saving lives, my neighbors – and the trauma team at VMC – would deserve one.

The point is this: We don’t know when the next life-threatening earthquake will hit, but we know it’s coming. Parts of Valley Medical Center need to be replaced because they don’t meet seismic standards for a quake much larger than the one in 1989. And Judy knows that if VMC had not been there for her, she wouldn’t be here today. Period.

Please watch this short video (send it to your personal email if your employer blocks YouTube) and then visit to learn about Measure A on the November ballot.
Then ask yourself the question I opened with: When all around you is collapsing, shouldn’t your hospital remain at the ready?

Seen any good movies lately?

When we redesigned the VMC Foundation website last year, we thought it would be fun to post videos on YouTube to show off parts of Silicon Valley’s biggest, busiest hospital.

By “we”, I mean me and a couple of our staff members, including Michael Elliott, Director of Program Development. Our goal was to share some of what goes on at VMC, our work in the community – especially for folks who haven’t been on a tour of our campus (I recommend them).
They were not designed to be high-budget, big-production jobs starring Ben Stiller (at least not yet) or Paris Hilton (not ever), but rather a new way to share information. You can see our past episodes of “VMC Foundation TV” at the bottom of our home page at (If your employer blocks access to YouTube, just send this link to your personal account.)
But today, a NEW video has been completed, and I’m really excited about it. This one was specifically requested by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to exemplify our work to enhance nursing practices at VMC on our journey to “Magnet Status” – that’s the highest level of nursing designation a hospital can get, and VMC is the ONLY public hospital so far to apply for this top honor.
So that means big name actors, gourmet deli trays and gaffers, right? WRONG! It’s all about the story that one nurse has to tell, and the audience will be the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Board of Directors, not the Hollywood A-List. Michael Elliott may not win his first directing Oscar for this one, but he did succeed in helping share our story with one of the VMC Foundation’s most important collaborators. We hope they enjoy it as much as you do, but please don’t nominate Linda Fenn, R.N., for a Best Actress award…she’s not acting.

A Day in the Sky for kids in San Jose…

Saturday, August 9, was an amazing day for kids with special needs who came to the VMC Foundation’s “Day In the Sky” event.

Truly, I’m humbled that the VMC Foundation was even associated with this event…we were the main fiscal sponsors, for sure, but hats are WAY off to Dean McCully and Lisa Bickford who organized the bulk of the work, and without whom it would NOT have happened.

Hundreds of children with autism, ADHD, and lots of other challenges soared above Silicon Valley thanks to dozens of voluteer pilots, including Chris Malachowski, who founded Nvidia and who also owns and flies a helecoptor. Chris and his family are also generous donors to the VMC Foundation’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The San Jose Mercury News covered the big event, starting below…but read the full story – you’ll be totally inspired, and thrilled that VMC Foundation volunteers like Dean and Lisa are looking out for kids in our community. Check it out:

Emerging from a Cessna that had finished flitting over Silicon Valley’s treetops and tilt-ups, 16-year-old Ryan Brown’s first-ever jaunt in a small plane made him give an excited little jump when asked if it was fun.

“It sure was,” shouted the soon-to-be 10th-grader at San Jose’s Del Mar High. According to his mom, Moira Brown, Ryan suffers from autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Noting that the pilot allowed him to briefly operate the controls, the teen added, “The best thing about it was learning to fly.”

Mission accomplished for the organizers of “Take Flight for Kids,” hosted Saturday at San Jose’s Reid-Hillview Airport by the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

Corporate citizenship is alive in Silicon Valley!

This morning I read Time Magazine’s article on corporate social responsibility/history of capitalism, written by a man who knows (Bill Gates). It’s a very well done piece, with a national and global perspective.

How the issue plays here in Silicon Valley is one of my favorite topics…and the timing of the article is amazing.

You see, when I finished reading the piece in Time, I drove to a meeting of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a very powerful organization made up of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. Founded by David Packard and led by Carl Guardino, SVLG looks out for the interests of Silicon Valley corporations.

But here’s the cool part: They look out for the entire community’s well-being too…and not as an aside, but as a MAJOR focus of their work. SVLG’s members understand that corporate profits ring pretty hollow without good schools, transportation, housing and, yes, HEALTH CARE for everyone.

So it comes as no surprise that they enthusiastically endorsed Measure A today, the bond to safeguard Valley Medical Center. New to this blog? Read a couple posts below for more info on this important measure, which Santa Clara County voters can approve this November.

The SVLG’s endorsement of Measure A adds them to a long list of supporters, and it’s growing fast. I think that David Packard – and Bill Gates – would be proud.

Wanna learn more? Call Elizabeth at the campaign at 408-888-0397.

Hooked on Reality TV?

Real emergencies happen every day…maybe not to you, thankfully, but they have – and they will again. Are you prepared?

You may have missed this fantastic article in the Mercury News from earlier this spring, and since we have kind permission from the Newspaper of Silicon Valley to reprint it, I’m sharing it with you today. Kirstin Hofmann directs the County Office of Emergency Services, and Dr. Fenstersheib is the Public Health Officer for the county. Between them, they have the power to close all the schools and hockey games in the county with a single phone call. Woah.

They also have taken a critically important issue and made it fun to read, so enjoy:

Hooked on reality TV? Get ready for some reality of your own
By Kirstin Hofmann and Marty Fenstersheib

Article Launched: 05/12/2008 01:32:08 AM PDT

Americans seem to be sharing an obsession with the “real life” of others. While we are watching more and more reality TV shows, we are ignoring a critical reality of our own.

We all know that there will be an earthquake of a major magnitude, as well as other emergencies like fires and floods or pandemic flu. Yet we constantly avoid dealing with that reality. This denial makes us dangerously unprepared to effectively respond to these real emergencies.

Here’s more reality. While Washington and Sacramento talk a lot about emergency preparedness, public dollars and resources for preparedness are limited and quickly disappearing. And one of the biggest realities we need to face is that government can’t do it alone. We all share responsibility for being prepared.

In Santa Clara County, local governments have taken their responsibility seriously and have undertaken a number of preparedness activities. For example, Santa Clara County government has embarked on an intensive, comprehensive effort to educate, inform and train county personnel to respond effectively to emergencies that affect the health and welfare of our community.

But these activities point to another reality – preparedness will never be finished. Even if every public agency were able to do all it wanted to do, business, community organizations, the news media, schools, individuals and families have to get ready, too. That’s real.

All of us – in government, the news media, businesses, schools and other community organizations – have a shared responsibility to prepare for basic emergencies. The reality is that we will be on our own for at least the initial period of any disaster. How well will we do? If all of us, including individuals and families, are not prepared at the most basic level, we will not do very well.

We all need to hold our own “reality” rehearsals and get ready for a major emergency event. Whether it’s finally having your family emergency plan in place, knowing what steps your employer has taken to deal with the aftermath of an earthquake, or helping your kid’s school prepare for pandemic flu, it is critically important that we all do our part.

It isn’t all that difficult to get started. By doing just three things you will help yourself, your loved ones and your community.

• Have a basic family communication plan: who’s calling whom, lists for everyone with the phone numbers to call (and loaded into cell phones) and an out-of-the-area number to call when local lines are overloaded.

• Shop for basic supplies like a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, flashlights that work and more batteries, food and water, and throw in some extra trash bags. A rice container is a great, inexpensive, re-usable storage container all of these smaller items.

• Put a first aid kit together and include items that would be useful in a pandemic flu: supplies of face masks and plastic gloves, medicines that treat flu symptoms like ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin and cough medicine. Include disinfectants to clean surfaces where the virus may linger.

We know this is a community of people who are strong, resilient, independent and compassionate. In most cases, we are able to take care of ourselves. We understand the value and benefit in reaching out and helping others. It will take all of us being aware, prepared and ready to successfully deal with the real world we live in – a world where disasters do strike.

You can find out more about how to prepare for emergencies by visiting the Santa Clara County’s Office of Emergency Web site at; the Santa Clara County Public Health Web site at, and other emergency preparedness Web sites, including

KIRSTIN HOFMANN is the Santa Clara County Director of Emergency Services. MARTY FENSTERSHEIB is the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System Health Officer, Public Health Department.