Phuc’s Story: The Art of Healing

The end of the year makes us so thankful for the incredible generosity of donors who make it possible for so much good throughout the year. In the hopes of inspiring you once more this holiday season, please read the story of one young man who has been helped by donors like you…

Art by Phuc

Though he was born strong and healthy, Phuc’s legs would soon stop developing. His parents were desperate to find answers. When their family eventually immigrated to the US in 2013 they brought Phuc to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC). Here his doctors and care team diagnosed him with muscular dystrophy, a condition that atrophies specific muscles—and in his case, his legs.

Art by Phuc

Though difficult to hear, it gave his parents some comfort in understanding his health needs. It prepared them for when in February 2018, he was hospitalized when a simple cold made it difficult for him to breathe. Eventually he would have to have a tracheotomy surgery to assist his breathing. Though his journey has been difficult, one part of his life that has given him strength is… his art.

With his nurses’ encouragement, Phuc has been working with hospital art therapist Lydia Rosso. Since that first meeting, a new form of healing began. Through acrylic paint and canvas, Phuc’s art—and Phuc himself—has thrived.

Art therapy is just one of the many programs and wrap-around services that SCVMC provides to patients. The doctors, nurses, and care teams are dedicated to caring for the whole patient, and often some of the best medicine doesn’t require a prescription.

Programs like art therapy, music therapy, and even play therapy exist because of you, our best supporters!

Please make a gift to ensure that programs that care for the whole person can continue.

Meeting the needs of today

It is a great comfort to head home after a long day. Sometimes there’s a family to enjoy dinner with, sometimes there’s a great show to catch up on. Likely, for you and me, there is a dry roof and warmth to get through the night.

For an increasing number in Santa Clara County though, this is not reality. In just the last two years, the homeless count in the County has increased by 31%. The stories of those who are homeless are innumerable, their vulnerabilities are untold. How does our health system help this critical population?

We know that for many who are homeless, the healthcare system isn’t seen as a place for prevention, it is a last resort. But this model isn’t sustainable—for the health of the individual or for the County. What systems are in place to create the best health outcomes for those who are homeless?

You can trust that our health system means what it says. We serve everyone. No matter what. So that means we treat homeless individuals every day of the year for any health need. Period.

But you see, we can’t just patch up what’s immediately wrong and leave it be. With you by our side, we have made a deeper commitment to these patients. SCVMC believes that treating the whole person is the important work of our time. And you help us achieve this. Through one of our programs called “Whole Person Care”, a team of providers assesses the surrounding needs of a patient with complex issues and when the VMC Foundation can support them, your gifts allow us to be there.

Sometimes, the small things matter the most

Maria came across Whole Person Care’s radar because of how frequently she used emergency services to help her with health and behavioral health issues. Last winter, when Behavioral Health staff first reached out to her, she was living with her adult daughter in a rundown RV. The roof of the RV was leaking, causing mold and critter infestation – the situation was quite unsafe and exacerbated her health issues. Her housing was uninhabitable.

Working with Maria’s care team, the VMC Foundation was able to provide critical funding for a tarp and other survival items such as clean clothes and food. These “small things” matter because beyond meeting Maria’s basic needs and improving her living situation so she could more safely survive the winter, they helped build trust and rapport with Maria’s behavioral health team. And that trust and rapport led to her working with staff to get connected to resources to meet her critical needs — including housing.

Fast forward to May 2019, and Maria has officially moved into permanent supportive housing and can focus on achieving her health and wellness goals.

Maria’s story illustrates the powerful relationship between donor support and health outcomes for our homeless population. The issue is big and it is unyielding. But one thing we know is that this partnership is sacred. Our champions in the community, donors like you, make it possible for the VMC Foundation to bridge the gaps that can feel too big to bridge. Until together, we get it done.

The County Hospital: When the Community Needs Us

Charlie and his brothers

In 1945, the Santa Clara valley was living through sharp incongruities. While the country had just succeeded in protecting democracy in World War II, domestically, communities were still reconciling with injustice and the human costs of Japanese internment. While the vast stretches of land in Santa Clara County were filled with mass producing orchards and vineyards, the region’s economic engine was fast transitioning to canning, industrialism and technology. Workers in the area reflected the diversity of immigrants and migrants to the Bay Area, and yet so many were shut out of jobs and economic opportunities—especially recently released Japanese-Americans and returning war veterans.

Unlike most Japanese-Americans, Charlie was not in an internment camp during the war. Instead, he was serving in the U.S. Army. In 1945, after receiving an honorable discharge, Charlie returned to Los Altos where he was born and raised. At the time, Charlie and his brother, Henry, earned a living working for local farmers and ranchers; jobs were hard to obtain, particularly for Japanese-Americans. One day during that year, the two brothers were hired by a local farmer to remove a tree trunk. They went to the site and set dynamite, but the dynamite exploded prematurely spraying the brothers with shards of dirt, wood, and debris. Their faces were blasted with gravel, their skin was burned, and neither of them could see.

The area of the accident was somewhat remote; no one else was in the vicinity except for their nine-year-old brother Harry who had accompanied them on that day. Charlie often said in the years that followed that he knew that they had to receive medical care immediately and that the only place they could go for care was Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, that it was the one place where they would not be turned away, even if they were Japanese-American.

Incredibly, they managed to get to SCVMC by having young Harry load his brothers into their pick-up truck and getting behind the wheel. Once at VMC, they received care that Charlie said saved their lives. There the two brothers were treated for burns, flesh wounds, and their eye injuries. Eventually, both brothers would make a full physical recovery, regaining their vision although Henry lost one eye due to the trauma of the explosion. Nevertheless, they were thankful to have medical doors open to them and help available for them. Both went on to live long and productive lives.

All three brothers grew up in the region and would live their lives deeply engaged in the South Bay. During the war, Charlie served as part of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), a newly created, top secret unit consisting of Japanese-American soldiers. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his achievements and after his passing, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

His prodigious service testifies to the extraordinary contributions of local Japanese-American residents. Charlie gave so much of himself to the U.S. despite the fact that his entire family was interned for three years. In the second half of his life, he returned to school, joined General Electric as a technician where he built his professional career until his retirement. Most importantly, he raised a family.

One of his children is Carolyn Brown, RN. Having experienced so much racial injustice, her father had always taught her to pursue equality and excellence, his lifelong mantra. So, Carolyn became a nurse, earned a master’s degree in nursing and worked for many years at a local community hospital. In 1995 she decided to take a leadership role at SCVMC where she could pursue her desire to ensure equitable care and health services for all people.  A fun fact: for the past six years, in her “free time” Carolyn has taught courses in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at San Jose State University with a focus on health systems, because hospitals function best when their systems are effective, efficient, and reliable. And lucky for us, Carolyn has been at SCVMC for 25 years and is the Director of Quality and Safety, ensuring that our systems and processes provide quality and ensure safety in settings where we serve EVERYONE, no matter what.

As Carolyn’s father experienced, our hospital doors are open to anyone who needs us while our providers ensure that every level of care is of the highest quality. This is our commitment to the County—this is YOUR impact.

With the end of the year upon us, I hope you’ll keep Charlie and Carolyn’s story in mind. When you make a gift to the VMC Foundation, you support a public system of health and helping that cares for all people, and your reach will be far. Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has for the first time in its history become a multi-hospital system. With the County’s acquisition of O’Connor and St. Louise hospitals, and the DePaul Health Center, the scope of care for our public safety net system just grew like never before.

 

The First Day and the future of SCVMC, O’Connor and St. Louise.

Today is the first day of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center existing as a multi-hospital system. The first day of its kind in 160 years.

At 12:01am today, the County of Santa Clara began operating O’Connor and St. Louise hospitals, as well as the DePaul Health Center in Morgan Hill. This massively expands the scope and scale of health care delivery by the public safety net system our Foundation supports. 1025 licensed beds.  Over 170,000 emergency department visits.  7,700 total staff.

Our question: What does this mean for the future of the VMC Foundation? The quick answer is: “We don’t know just yet”. That’s because each foundation at O’Connor and St. Louise were not part of the county’s acquisition, and are therefore tied up in the bankruptcy proceedings. Each foundation has a board, but each board has little power at this point. Each hospital has a gift shop, but neither are currently operating. What will be left after the bankruptcy process? How will we integrate and begin supporting such a larger system? Again, we just don’t know yet.

So we felt it was important to focus first on what we DO know. That’s why, below, we have drafted a Statement of Principles that we feel should guide our efforts on this matter—and on most other matters, frankly.

Please read and if you wish, drop me line. This is such an important time period, such an opportunity. We thank you for your continued service to the VMC Foundation.

Yours In Community Service,

Chris Worrall, Board Chair
Chris Wilder, CEO

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

The joining of O’Connor Hospital, St. Louise Regional Hospital, the DePaul Health Center, and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospital & Clinics under a single umbrella represents a historic moment for our local healthcare delivery system.

For decades, these institutions have served this valley with a deeply held conviction that healthcare is a human right, and that language, class, race and income should never be determinants of good health.  Dedicated staff, volunteers and community leaders have worked tirelessly to build these hospitals into vital community assets.  Each has made a profound impact on the lives of thousands of Santa Clara County residents.

Action by the County of Santa Clara ensures that these vital invitations will continue serving this community for decades.  Each will still maintain their unique identities, but how we leverage our collective strength to forge a new, single foundation that advocates on behalf of the entire safety net will be where the greatest difference is made.

The role of philanthropy in supporting these efforts is potentially massive.  No other health system will do more to provide care to vulnerable populations in Santa Clara County.  The need for community support will be tremendous, and a new foundation structure must be in place to meet that need.  How that foundation structure evolves to incorporate all three hospitals and ultimately the broader community is the most pressing job facing us today.

The Valley Medical Center Foundation is an independent, 501c3 charity organization founded in 1988 to serve as the fundraising arm for Santa Clara County’s public, safety-net healthcare system.   Since that time, it has raised over $90 million in philanthropy, and $2.5 billion in public support for vital health programs and services.  The VMC Foundation is the only nonprofit organization in California to be accredited under the Standards for Excellence: Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.  Our vision is that one day, with philanthropic support from community, all people in Santa Clara County will have access to high-quality health services.

As we enter conversations with partner foundations on a new, unified structure, we are focused on these core principles to guide our work:

  1. Health care is a right: as a community, we should work collectively to reduce and eliminate all barriers to care
  2. Ethics: we must follow the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our work, from internal policies and procedures to how we treat and listen to each other
  3. Honoring the history: each hospital and affiliated foundation brings a unique history and culture that must guide our future actions. We will work to preserve the identity of each.
  4. Honoring donor intent: funds donated for a specific purpose must be preserved for that purpose, such that a merger does not cause a diversion of funds for unintended uses
  5. One team: through a collaborative process, we must develop a unified governing and administrative structure so all three hospitals can be served by a single Foundation aligned with County of Santa Clara policies and procedures

If done correctly, we can become the preeminent health care charity in Silicon Valley in terms of scope and impact.  It’s a challenge we embrace fully, and we look forward to sharing the journey with new partners and friends.

We have a policy on cultural humility. Here’s why.

The work of the Valley Medical Center Foundation directly supports an incredibly diverse patient population in Santa Clara County, and a health system dedicated to delivering care in that context.  This has lots of practical implications, like providing translation services or recruiting a workforce that reflects the local community. But it also means understanding how health disparities are directly linked to racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression.

As such, the Board of Directors of the VMC Foundation implemented a Policy on Cultural Humility in 2018 to better align our work with the community we serve.  We did this for many reasons, including;

  • Culturally aware staff members are more successful at working with and building trust within multicultural communities.
  • Increasing cultural humility among the board, organizational leadership, staff, and volunteers can help employees and clients feel more comfortable and secure in the workplace.
  • Nonprofits with inclusive practices are often more successful at attracting and retaining high quality talent.
  • Nonprofit organizations work more successfully with partner organizations when they have strengths internally in cultural humility.
  • Ultimately, greater attention to inclusion and cultural humility will result in our organization being more effective in our work because we will benefit from and utilize a wide range of talent, input, and engagement in achieving our mission.

The full policy can be read here.

We aren’t the only organization doing this kind of work, and we hope others join in.  Please connect with us if you do.

VMC Foundation achieves highest certification for nonprofit ethics

Read full press release here.

SAN JOSE – The Valley Medical Center Foundation has become the only nonprofit charity organization in California to achieve the Standards for Excellence Institute® “Seal of Excellence”, the nation’s highest level of accreditation for nonprofit governance and ethics. The designation comes after a year-long process to test compliance with Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector, with specific measures for honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility and accountability.

“The number one commodity we have is donor trust,” said VMC Foundation CEO Chris Wilder. “We felt the best way to honor that trust was to put ourselves to the test and see if we are worthy of it. And we just aced that test.”

The process to achieve the accreditation was exhaustive, involving the entire VMC Foundation Board of Directors and staff. And that is by design. The full scope of the organization was tested, well beyond the annual audit typical of most nonprofit organizations. To do so, the Standards for Excellence Institute® drew upon its cohort of 80 licensed consultants and 100 volunteer nonprofit professionals to review all aspects of the VMC Foundation’s governance and operations. That included an examination of financial policies, employment policies, strategic plan and code of ethics. It also measured how prepared the organization is for the unexpected, from a natural disaster to sudden departure of the CEO.

“This is about making sure that we have systems in place that will guide the organization no matter who works here,” said Wilder. “This is ultimately about protecting our donors’ money. Good intentions only go so far. We want to institutionalize systems and a culture that promotes transparency and integrity in all that we do.”

As part of the compliance process, over 25 new policies were drafted and approved by the VMC Foundation Board of Directors, with the application itself comprising 649 pages of content. The process touched on issues such as diversity, gender discrimination and racism that are roiling many American workplaces.

“I’m most proud of our new Cultural Humility Policy that address head-on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Wilder. “That came out of this process, and we are a much stronger organization for it.”

Though the VMC Foundation is an independent agency, its mission is to serve as the fundraising arm of the County of Santa Clara Health System and its flagship public hospital, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Those are public entities and subject to meticulous oversight. Wilder wanted the same for the VMC Foundation.

“Our work reflects on the County of Santa Clara and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center,” said Wilder. “We have to be held to a high standard.”

This achievement would not have been possible without the support of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, which worked directly with the Standards for Excellence Institute® to promote the accreditation program to Silicon Valley organizations.

“The Markkula Center reviewed programs nationwide before becoming a replication partner for the Standards for Excellence Institute,” said Joan Harrington, Assistant Director of Social Sector Ethics at the Markkula Center. “This is the most rigorous and meaningful certification program in the social sector. We are so pleased that the VMC Foundation stepped up as a leader in Silicon Valley.”

The Markkula Center is keen on seeing more organizations apply as a way to strengthen the local nonprofit sector, and to give potential donors a new tool to seek out philanthropy partners. Wilder hopes to support that effort.

“Volvo famously did not patent their seatbelt,” Wilder said. “I hope to share lessons learned with other organizations and help them apply, because we want to send a message to our donor community that the nonprofit sector in Silicon Valley is driven by the highest standards for ethics.”

About Valley Medical Center Foundation

The Valley Medical Center Foundation is an independent, community-driven 501c3 nonprofit organization founded to support Silicon Valley’s most vital public health institution – Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospitals & Clinics. In partnership with SCVMC, the VMC Foundation raises philanthropic dollars to improve existing services, pioneer new models of care, and advance the cause of high quality healthcare for all. To learn more, visit www.vmcfoundation.org.

About Standards for Excellence Institute®

The Standards for Excellence® originated as a special initiative of Maryland Nonprofits in 1998 and has since expanded into a national program to help nonprofit organizations achieve the highest benchmarks of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management and operations. The program is offered by eleven state, regional and national affiliate organizations, and is supported by nearly 80 Licensed Consultants and over 100 volunteers with professional experience in nonprofit governance and administration. Since its inception, the program has accredited or recognized over 200 individual nonprofit organizations that completed a rigorous application and review process to demonstrate adherence to the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

A new look for a new year

Since you’re reading this post, we probably don’t have to say the obvious: the VMC Foundation has just launched a new website alongside a new logo.   Planning started nearly a year ago, and on the way we engaged with dozens of champions and experts on how to best execute a new look.  We’re very pleased with the outcome, and hope you are too.   A few quick thoughts.

The logo

Our goal here is clear – we wanted a look that better reflected the hospital and health system that this foundation was created to serve.  The old, cursive logo was too often misunderstood by the general public, and had no obvious visual connection to SCVMC.  Yes, the Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization legally separate from the County of Santa Clara and SCVMC, but our mission, values and work are totally connected.  The new logo tells that story.  It was designed pro bono by Maricich Health, the folks that brought you the “Go Public” campaign.

The website

We worked with designer extraordinaire Annabel Mangold to bring you a sleek, contemporary site that adds lots of new functionality.  You’ll see a new section dedicated just for SCVMC and Health System staff so that they know best how the Foundation can support their work.   You’ll also see a listing of nearly all our programs and campaigns, and an overview of all the ways you can support the VMC Foundation.

The site photography is all original as well, shot at various SCVMC locations by Atlanta-based photojournalist Artem Nazarov.  It captures unique, intimate and otherwise visually compelling moments that convey the day-to-day magic of SCVMC.

We’re very proud of the new site and logo, just like we’re proud of the work we get to do each day.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for being a champion of our public healthcare system that serves everyone and anyone regardless of ability to pay.

Have feedback on the site?  Send us an email.

Can’t get enough of 2016? Check out our Annual Report

We are pleased to share our 2016 Annual Report, highlighting the terrific people and projects that made last year a special one.  The report also includes our Includes Independent Auditors’ Report and Financial Statements.

To read the report, visit our “Publications” page under the “About” menu, or click here.

The State of the County 2017

Last night the President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Dave Cortese gave his State of the County Address to a standing-room-only crowd. He spoke for sixty minutes, far longer than his previous SOC address.

…because in 2017, I think you’d agree, there’s more to discuss.

President Dave Cortese (second from  left) with a crew of us who fought for Measure A last year: Ben Field, Betty Duong, Tom Steyer, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, me, Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Derecka Mehrens. 

A reminder: The County owns and operates Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and the Health & Hospital System of which it is part–the busiest healthcare deliverer in Silicon Valley and making up roughly half of the 19,000 employees of Santa Clara County (not including some 25,000 home care workers, according to President Cortese, whom he also praised).

But no matter where in the County one works, Dave’s message resonates and in my view, informs how we must think and act: 2017, Dave proclaimed, will be the Year of Compassion.

I was sitting in a section of the Board Chambers last night reserved for we who helped pass Measure A, the County’s historic supportive housing bond. Along with my colleagues Kevin Zwick and Derecka Mehrens, we applauded throughout Cortese’s speech and took pride every time he referenced the bond measure to upend the housing crisis. And the reason we did, he reiterated again and again, was that ours is a compassionate community.

At times he openly defied recent federal threats to our region’s marginalized and underserved, referencing the recent County lawsuit to defend sanctuary policies. It says a lot about our County that this was the strongest applause line of the night: All the work we’ve done, all the people we’ve helped, all the distance we’ve come… We are not going to turn back and abrogate our responsibilities now.

His message of dogged determination and the need for deliberate compassion certainly resonated with me. See what you think; here is Dave Cortese’s State of the County Address (and it’s been edited somewhat; don’t be afraid). Read it and let me know what speaks to you.

Our new Information Kiosk (yes, it really is a big deal…)

Me, my hat (it was cold), Kim Lopez and two excellent volunteers showing the way.

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?”