Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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A BI-WEEKLY PUBLICATION FROM THE CEDARS-SINAI CHIEF OF STAFF April 13, 2012 Issue | Archived Issues

A longstanding commitment to making our community stronger

Thomas M. Priselac
President and CEO

In one of many letters from grateful patients that cross my desk, a woman who faced a serious illness just after being laid off from her job and losing her health insurance wrote to thank the many individuals at Cedars-Sinai who "...without meeting me, or knowing much about me, came to my aid and offered help in the same way that a family member or a good friend would offer love and support in a difficult time."

One of our social workers had walked this patient through the process of applying for financial assistance to help pay her hospital bills. As part of Cedars-Sinai's multifaceted, far-reaching Community Benefit commitment, we offer free or significantly discounted care to those who qualify, relieving patients' financial stress so they can focus on healing.

It's second nature for Cedars-Sinai to express compassion in tangible ways like this - part of our DNA as a nonprofit academic medical center with deep roots in this community. From Cedars-Sinai's beginning more than a century ago, we've addressed our community's healthcare needs with a special sensitivity to those who are most vulnerable. And in times like this, when a prolonged economic downturn has left more people living on the edge, our role in expanding access to healthcare becomes even more critical.

In the course of my interactions with community leaders who partner with us to improve health in underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles, I often hear stories of how our medical staff and employees are making a difference in people's lives. Your personal contributions are seen and greatly appreciated, within our organization and in our community. Thanks to your individual and collective efforts, Cedars-Sinai has earned a reputation as an organization with a passion for helping others that extends far beyond our campus.

Addressing the community's most serious health issues

In FY 2011, Cedars-Sinai's financial contribution to Community Benefit totaled $600.6 million. This encompasses traditional charity care, the unreimbursed cost of caring for Medicare and Medi-Cal patients and biomedical research that leads to major medical advances. We also train future healthcare professionals and offer hundreds of programs in the community through which we share our expertise and resources to help people lead healthier lives. We provide free health education, screenings and medical services at schools, community centers and clinics where we can connect with at-risk children and seniors, the homeless and the mentally ill, among many others.

Based on the community needs assessment we conduct every three years, obesity, diabetes and heart disease are among the biggest health issues in the Los Angeles region, so many of our programs are aimed at helping people prevent or manage these conditions. We're also working to overcome disparities in health status and disease risk among people of different ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds in a region that is one of the most diverse in the nation.

People from all walks of life benefit from our efforts to make our community stronger. While Cedars-Sinai is known to some as the hospital of the stars, in reality the rich and famous represent a very small fraction of the people we serve. In fact, nearly half the households within a 10-mile radius of Cedars-Sinai earn less than $35,000 a year.

We work closely with schools, community centers, homeless shelters, places of worship, senior centers, local government and other partners with first-hand knowledge of community needs, providing support in ways that expand their capabilities and maximize the impact of our joint efforts.

A broad-based approach with far-reaching benefits

For some families in our community, the benefits of these efforts have spanned multiple generations. For example, a mother of three in Watts remembers visiting Cedars-Sinai's COACH for Kids and Their Families® mobile medical van in her neighborhood on numerous occasions when she was growing up. Now she brings her children to COACH for healthcare - to the same nurse practitioner who looked after her when she was a teen-ager.

Among other ways in which we expand access to healthcare for those in greatest need is through our Emergency Department and Level I trauma center, our Ambulatory Care Clinic and the involvement of our medical residents in caring for patients at free clinics around Los Angeles.

Each year, we also participate in many health fairs where our nurses provide education and screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer and other medical conditions, as well as flu shots for the elderly and other at-risk individuals.

Getting children started on a lifetime of good health is one of our top priorities, and our community health educators have a growing presence in Los Angeles elementary schools where they provide lessons on nutrition and fitness through ongoing Healthy Habits for Kids workshops. This program is offered primarily in underserved neighborhoods of Mid-City, Koreatown and Hollywood.

We reach out to disadvantaged teen-agers, too, helping to broaden their future opportunities - and strengthen the healthcare workforce - through programs such as Youth Employment & Development (YED), which brings Fairfax High School students to Cedars-Sinai in their junior and senior years. Over the years, many of you have mentored these students and helped them learn job skills. A high percentage of YED students finish college and end up pursuing careers in the healthcare field, and some have even returned to Cedars-Sinai to work full time after finishing their education.

Also part of our broad efforts to improve community health is a $1.5 million grant program to support nonprofits that provide direct, community-based mental health services for underserved populations.

I could provide many more examples of how we express our extraordinary commitment to community service, but it's more important to thank you for everything you do to help our neediest neighbors lead longer and more fulfilling lives. Your day-to-day efforts - and Cedars-Sinai's overall Community Benefit contribution - will have a positive impact on our community for many decades to come, as one generation after another benefits from better health.

Click here to read past President's Perspective columns.