The (healthiest) State of the County Address…

President Ken Yeager, far right, with Supervisor Wasserman, Congresswoman Eshoo and First 5 CEO Jolene Smith

President Ken Yeager, far right, with Supervisor Wasserman, Congresswoman Eshoo and First 5 CEO Jolene Smith

In my 9+ years of service to the VMC Foundation, I’ve never been more excited about a “State of the County” speech than I was today. Board President Ken Yeager succinctly outlined his goals for 2013, which he explained would require close collaboration from everyone present…and that’s a lot of county leaders – the Board Chambers was standing-room only.


Why was I so excited? First, because President Yeager has demonstrated for years that he truly cares about and works hard on these issues…so he’ll make it happen. Second, because the VMC Foundation is actively working on half of the goals he presented. Mathematically, that lines up: The Santa Clara County Health & Hospital System is roughly half the County’s budget, and half of President Yeager’s goals involve that “system” directly…and what do you know: the VMC Foundation is engaged in nearly all!

This, in a nutshell, suggests to me that the VMC Foundation has its priorities straight. In addition to raising funds for vital equipment and programs within the walls of the medical center, we’re addressing community health needs.

Here, then, are President Yeager’s health-related goals and a bit about how your VMC Foundation is lending a hand:

Prepare Santa Clara County for Health Care Reform

The VMC Foundation has, for years, been part of the committee to further improve the patient experience. From the moment someone walks in the door (or arrives by ambulance), we have countless opportunities to make them feel welcome and cared for. In part, this is how medical centers will be measured under the Affordable Care Act – and if we fall short, VMC loses money. Yes—this is a big deal. We also fund programs to keep patients from being re-admitted once they go home, another crucial measurement of the ACA.

Ensure every eligible child has medical and dental coverage

You likely know already that Santa Clara County was the first in the United States to offer health coverage for every single child. But that was 11 years ago, and since then county budget cuts have eroded this wonderful program. The VMC Foundation was part of the team (and the largest contributor) that campaigned and passed Measure A in November, which President Yeager confirmed generated enough funding to fully restore medical and dental services to each and every child in our county…what a huge victory!

Reduce the over-consumption of sugar-loaded beverages in our community

Again, you know this because I rarely shut up about it: The VMC Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the county’s “Re-Think Your Drink” campaign and works to encourage kids and adults to drink more water, not soda.

Create a program to install hydration stations where kids and families gather

An extension of, and example of, “Re-thinking our Drink” in our communities – and an example of how good health originates not in a medical clinic, but where we live, work and play.

Expand HIV and STD testing programs

The VMC Foundation has raised tens of thousands to support the Positive PACE Clinic, part of the Health & Hospital System and the only county agency that provides testing, clinical and support services for residents living with HIV/AIDS. The PACE Clinic also conducts testing, and with the help of the VMC Foundation, led a huge World AIDS Day event last month to bring more awareness to the issues.

Perform developmental screenings of children during pediatric visits

This is a biggie for the VMC Foundation, as we run the Reach Out and Read Program at our Valley Health Center pediatric clinics—serving a quarter of all kids living in Santa Clara County. VMC’s pediatricians provide new books to young children, and as they present the books and the importance of reading to the parents, the doctors carefully assess how the child is reacting to the book. There’s a whole developmental screening model associated with Reach Out and Read, and yearly our team identifies lots of developmental delays that may otherwise have been missed. Great to see this as part of an expanding effort to catch developmental issues as early as possible.

To me, President Yeager’s goals had everything to do with public health in a very progressive sense of the term; not just preventing disease, but Better Health for All – which is the new motto of the Santa Clara County Health & Hospital System. I’d say “let’s get started”, but as you now know, we’re already off and running.

Mercury News: County supervisors honor Almaden Kiwanis for VMC murals

The following article was published in the January 10, 2013 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.

(photo courtesy Valley Medical Center)One of the finished murals in a pediatric room at Valley Medical Center is Under the Sea, designed and drawn by Carissa Rosario, a Pioneer graduate who is currently studying at Mission College. This project was headed by the Almaden Kiwanis Club. The County of Santa Clara is presenting a commendation to the Almaden Kiwanis Club for these murals.

One of the finished murals in a pediatric room at Valley Medical Center is Under the Sea, designed and drawn by Carissa Rosario, a Pioneer graduate who is currently studying at Mission College.

Changing Valley Medical Center’s pediatric exam rooms from dull, blank white walls into fantasy murals has won the Almaden Valley Kiwanis Club a commendation from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The commendation presentation, which is planned for Jan. 15, acknowledges the club members and volunteers who by the completion date of Jan. 12, will have transformed 47 pediatric exam rooms at VMC into fanciful environments for children.

“It’s a good mood enhancer,” says Laura Cutler Kazanovicz, program manager for the VMC Foundation. “The walls are distracting and not so scary for patients. It’s changed the atmosphere.”

VMC has specialized staff and facilities allowing the doctors to treat rare illnesses as well as a wide variety of children’s health problems.

Club members, along with area artists, community volunteers, hundreds of high school Key Club members and 30 Circle K college students began the seven-month job last April. The idea behind the project was to take the plain white walls and make them bright and pretty, allowing children to feel more comfortable visiting the doctor.

High school volunteers came from a number of local schools including Pioneer, Leland, Silver Creek, Yerba Buena, Milpitas and Sobrato. These students did most of the artwork, creating the designs. Some of the murals were images manipulated from websites, while the artists imagined the others.

The idea began when Sarah Gianocaro, vice president of the Almaden Valley club, took her daughter for a doctor’s appointment and noticed the cute murals in the exam rooms. She t decided to create something similar for a nonprofit hospital.

“I inquired on a website, and it turned out the CEO of Valley Med had toured the pediatric clinic and wanted to see it beautified. So I began working with the VMC Foundation in November,” Gianocaro said in an interview.

Gianocaro and other volunteers received almost $1,000 in donations from six hardware stores and four paint stores for materials. Three local restaurants and two grocery stores provided food for the artists and volunteers. Almaden Valley Kiwanis donated an addition $714.48. Other and diverse volunteers came from Facebook, Twitter, Kiwanis communication emails and meetings and articles in community newspapers.

Each of the six weekend projects required a significant amount of work. First, the team submitted artwork for review and approval. About midweek, the club organized materials and paint. On Friday room preparation began and included removing wall items, placing drop cloths and taping while artists sketched their murals on the walls.

On Saturday, volunteers began painting, with artists overseeing the

work. And on Sunday volunteers applied polyurethane finish to preserve the artwork and allow easy wall cleaning. The final Sunday projects included paint cleanup, tape removal and putting the equipment back on exam room walls. In all, six weekends were required to complete the 47 rooms.


The board of supervisors will present the commendation shortly after its meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the county government building, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose, 95110, in the board chambers.