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Father of Three Thanks Circle of Friends

James Liotta thanks Cedars-Sinai staff for caring for his three children during the Circle of Friends event in May.

James Liotta can name three good reasons why he's grateful to Cedars-Sinai – Gemma, Hannah and James. They're his children.

"It's because of you that my three children are alive today," Liotta said to more than 500 Cedars-Sinai employees at the Circle of Friends recognition event Monday, May 23, in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

Liotta's oldest daughter Gemma, 5, was born at Cedars-Sinai. But at 18 months, she contracted a potentially deadly staph infection and returned to Cedars-Sinai. A delicate surgery helped restore the child to health.

Paula Anastasia, RN, and Alfredo Trento, MD, were honored at the Circle of Friends event.

In 2014, Liotta and his wife welcomed daughter Hannah and son James into their family. However, the twins were born prematurely and with serious medical complications. The babies spent their first three months clinging to life in the Cedars-Sinai Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center.

The twins recovered, explained Liotta, because "every nurse, every doctor, every respiratory therapist and every other staff member on that unit was all hands on deck working tirelessly."

Founded in 2009, Circle of Friends was created as part of the Community Relations and Development Division's strategy to provide grateful patients and their families an opportunity to say thank you by making a philanthropic gift in honor of a Cedars-Sinai physician, nurse, volunteer or staff member. Every month, the most recent Circle of Friends honorees – each of whom receives a lapel pin and letter of acknowledgment – are highlighted in The Bridge.

In seven years, the Circle of Friends program has honored more than 2,800 people.

"Some of these individuals have been recognized multiple times," Cedars-Sinai President and CEO Thomas M. Priselac told the audience at the recognition event. "So the number of honors awarded actually is more than 14,350, which is extraordinary."

In light of the high numbers, the Circle of Friends program is introducing a new multitiered system. Those who receive 25 or more honors will be given a lapel pin accented with a green circle. Meanwhile, a gray-accented lapel pin will signify 50 or more honors; an aqua circle, 75 or more honors; and a red circle for 100 or more honors.

"I'm privileged to be part of an organization that has such an incredible staff, and I wanted to take a moment to personally thank all of you for the profound impact you have on people's lives," Priselac said.

Shlomo Melmed, MD, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the medical faculty, also applauded Cedars-Sinai's staff.

"Just today, I talked to a patient on 7 Southeast," he said. "He explained that as a patient here, he felt like a human being. ‘I feel dignified and safe' – that's what he told me. And so we thank all of you for embracing our community."

Among the many of Circle of Friends honorees, two were singled out at the May event.

Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, health system chief nurse executive, vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai, presented a plaque to Paula Anastasia, RN, MN, AOCN, clinical nurse specialist, Women's Cancer Program.

"I want you to join me in recognizing someone who symbolizes a commitment to providing phenomenal care," Burnes Bolton said. "An oncology nurse for more than 30 years, Paula is truly passionate about her work and speaks nationally on the subjects of ovarian cancer, chemotherapy-symptom management and survivorship issues. Her dedication is reflected by the fact that she's been honored by patients and their loved ones 40 times – the most received by any nurse."

Chief of Staff Peggy B. Miles, MD, handed a plaque to Alfredo Trento, MD, professor, Surgery, director, Cardio-Thoracic Surgery.

"A great physician treats the patient, not just the disease," Miles said. "Dr. Trento leads by example, providing exceptional care and changing the lives of families. He is the top Circle of Friends recipient, having received 247 honors to date. He's performed more than 7,500 cardiac surgeries, but his thoughtfulness and kindness are cited by patients just as often as his tremendous skills."