For our history of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, we talked with some of the leaders, doctors and donors who know it best. Here’s more of what they had to say about the hospital’s past, present and future.
Chair, Providence Saint Joseph Foundation Board of Governors
To me, the most satisfying part of being involved with the hospital is hearing the stories and seeing with your own eyes the benefit of the hard work that we do. You see the members of our community who receive the quality of care that having this medical center affords all of us, and you see that everyday lives are being changed for the better there. For example, one of our recent campaigns was to fund the neonatal intensive care unit, the NICU. You walk through and you see these little preemie babies that only weigh a pound or two, whose chance of survival without these sort of resources would be really low. To see the doctors and the nurses work the miracles that they work there, it’s just awe-inspiring. Or you go to the emergency room and see people who are on the edge between life and death, whose lives are saved there. That reinforces the commitment and reminds us how important the work we do is, really seeing firsthand the impact that this has on our residents and community.
Simply put, the Foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decades, and so many of the lifesaving facilities that are part of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center were funded by that. When you look at the level of support that the Foundation and, by extension, the hospital has received over the years, it’s absolutely amazing that our relatively small community has been willing to continue to support this institution at the level that it has. Our current [emergency services] campaign is a great example of that. It’s far and away the largest capital campaign that’s ever been mounted in the community of Burbank, and the outreach and the support and the level of commitment that the community has offered up so far is inspiring. Because so many people have that relationship to this hospital, so many people have been treated here, so many people’s families have been impacted, it has that really special connection to us. We’re really fortunate, and I think the community recognizes that.
Member, Providence Saint Joseph Foundation Board of Governors
My family and I have been treated in the ER over the years with sports injuries, accidents and illnesses, and our son was born at Saint Joe’s. My wife, Kathy, has served the patients at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center for over 22 years, since it opened its doors. My daughter Allison interned in the marketing department during her college years. My two daughters and my son took the babysitting course to prepare them for future babysitting assignments with other friends and neighbors’ children.
In my opinion, the most significant aspect of Providence Saint Joseph’s history is the total commitment to the community by a group of dedicated religious women who had a vision and delivered. The medical center was always an inspiration to me that faith is nothing without the works. The Sisters of Providence carved the way for this medical center to excel. The physical [facility] has changed; the expansion of services to meet the contemporary needs of our community members has changed. However, the desire to serve from a faith-based organization is still present. The tone and tenor of the care still has the loving touches of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Our belief in giving back to others will hopefully never wane.
The medical center will continue to need community involvement with time, talent and treasure. The medical center committees, volunteers and the Board of Governors will always need fresh eyes, ears, pockets and legs. Our younger community members need to get engaged if they want to see this great gift of a world-class health-care facility continue to thrive and grow and serve them, their families and friends.
Member, Providence Health and Services Foundation Valley Service Area Board
I was born and raised in Burbank and spent a fair share of time at Saint Joe’s, when it was just a long one-story building, for little injuries growing up as a child. As time went on, the hospital started growing, and I watched it grow with the community.
When I got older, I became more involved with Saint Joe’s because of my parents. My dad had Parkinson’s; he was diagnosed in his early 70s and fought it for almost 28 years. I spent a whole lot of my time taking care of him and getting him around. One of the things I became aware of was that we didn’t have everything at Saint Joe’s. We found ourselves going to numerous other medical facilities in the Valley and Los Angeles to visit with specialists. I can’t tell you how many places we had to go to. The specialties that were needed were everywhere other than right next to us, and that stuck with me, along with the policy of medical facilities not allowing doctors from other areas to go to Saint Joe’s. All these things became prevalent, especially when I was working hard to take care of my father; I found it all very cumbersome. My mom also had some cancer issues, and again, certain doctors couldn’t see people here and I had to drive through traffic to go from point A to point B.
Toward the early 2000s, my neighbor, Dick Baker, invited me to join the hospital board. This was prior to the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center; however, I came on board at about the same time they started talking about it. My interest piqued when Dr. Raul R. Mena, the medical director for the center, said that one of the things it would do is integrate other types of medical treatments and healing methods. Rather than stick to the norm, they would go outside of it. That’s how I got heavily involved with Saint Joe’s and the cancer center — I didn’t want people to have to go through what I did to try special medical techniques that could potentially save lives. The center would be a “one-stop shop” for care. That’s exactly what Mena did and what the hospital accomplished.
Most amazingly, in the philanthropy world, we were able to raise a very large commitment in a very short period of time for the cancer center. With the people in the group, it basically gives you that feeling of camaraderie. I saw the community come together to meet a need in the community.
Chief Executive, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center
Our community has always helped to shape our hospital and the services we offer. Important programs like our cardiovascular, neuroscience and stroke care, the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, and our obstetrics and neonatal intensive care unit exist because of important needs that were identified for this community. This includes our new 33,000-square-foot Emergency Department, planned for early 2022, which will allow for a better patient experience, offer the most advanced technology and provide improved efficiencies and care delivery.
I am extraordinarily thankful to all those in our community who, through their philanthropic support and the giving of their time, have helped Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center to create a rich 75-year history and ensure an incredible future.
Chair, Providence Health and Services Foundation Valley Service Area Board
Here’s how I happened to connect with Saint Joe’s. It was when I was running worldwide operations for the Warner Bros. Studios stores. One day, while in the Warner lot, I was walking out to my car with a senior vice president and suddenly went blind in my right eye for 30 seconds; it was like a shade came down. I said, “I can’t see out of my right eye, but when I look out of my left it’s fine,” and he said, “Your eyes look fine.” But I really couldn’t see. And then all of a sudden the shade came up. I knew there was some type of problem that was going on, so I went to Saint Joe’s and they scanned me right away and found that my right carotid artery was 99 percent occluded. I was told that I needed emergency surgery. And talk about being vulnerable — I was 48 years old at the time, I had a lovely wife and two wonderful children, and I’m lying in this bed going, “I don’t even know if I’m going to be here after this.”
I got to meet Dr. Daniel A. Eisenberg, who is the chief of cardiology. I never met this guy in my life. He came down to my room and said to me, “Peter, your wife, Marianne, contacted a partner of mine in Pasadena and he called me and said if he ever had a brother, you’d be the guy, so I’m going to worry about everything that happens to you from this moment forward and you’re going to get through this fine.” I was just stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was super caring, and they did everything to keep me calm and just help me get through it.
So that’s how I got introduced to Saint Joe’s. I just was blessed to be at the Warner lot when it happened, because there’s this beautiful hospital in Burbank that I’d never heard of and there I was, in need of emergency care. Once we finished with my eyes, they tested everything around my heart and I then had quintuple bypass surgery. I got through it all, and it’s been 19 years. I could never be where I am today had it not been for that hospital. The level of care I received during that time is what got me interested in supporting the hospital.
Raul Mena, M.D.
Medical Director, Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center
I finished my training in internal medicine, hematology and medical oncology in 1981. In my last year of training, I covered medical oncology at Providence Saint Joseph for about six months. That’s how I got to know the hospital. I knew it was the place where I wanted to practice. The number one reason was the mission of the Sisters of Providence — for them, the patients’ welfare and health came first. The medical staff of the hospital believed in excellence. It was also the ambiance and cooperation of the medical and nursing staff and the community support. I felt like this was an environment where I wanted to practice for the majority of my career, and now it’s where I have spent the entirety of my professional life.
What got me here, encouraged me and maintained my involvement is the hospital’s firm belief of doing the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons, in every aspect of decision-making. When the Sisters asked if should build a cancer center, I thought about it in great detail and talked with enough people to get some good ideas. I said, yes, we should build a cancer center where we can participate in clinical research and meet patients’ needs in body, mind and spirit in their neighborhood. For many things, being treated close to home, family and one’s support mechanisms, that wins. On that basis, we took information to the foundational members and hospital board, and that’s how we built the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in almost record time. It’s an incredibly responsive organization.
Providence Saint Joseph provides health screenings, education and programs such as home hospice and homecare services. When people are sick, they can be treated in the right place for the right reason in as timely way as possible. For many diseases, such as neurological disorders, minutes matter — if you can reverse the damage to organs early on, then a persons’ disability will be minimized. All that helps create a healthier community. Having the resources at Providence Saint Joseph is a resource for community.
Treasurer, Providence Health and Services Foundation Valley Service Area Board
Over the years, the Burbank area has grown significantly from a business standpoint and the hospital is growing along with it, which is one of the reasons we now have the biggest campaign the hospital has ever done, for a new emergency room and urgent care center. The emergency room has become the window to the hospital — most of the people admitted these days are admitted through the ER — and visits have grown exponentially. I think it’s a good selling point for a neighborhood, to have state-of-the-art hospital services nearby, especially in case of an emergency. That’s why the local businesses have always been so associated and connected to the local hospital, and from a residential standpoint, Toluca Lake has been very supportive of the hospital and the emergency campaign.
The hospital has changed over the years in terms of how it’s expanded and grown and all the additional services it can provide, but the one thing that’s remained a constant is the quality of care and the compassion for patients. It has that warm feeling that makes people feel more at ease, and patients feel that they’re treated as an individual, not as a number. There’s more of a comfort level.
If they haven’t had the need to go to the hospital, some people are still surprised to know it’s there. When you take them on a tour, show them what a great place it is and the capabilities that it has, they’re impressed. When you say, “In case of emergency, this is where you’re going to go if you’re living or working in this area,” that resonates with people. You want to make sure that you have a high-quality hospital close to you, because someday your life may depend on it.
David Sato, M.D.
President, Providence Specialty Medical Group
Providence Saint Joseph has been my home for the past 33 years, since I finished my cardiology fellowship in Irvine in 1986. I was a medical student at USC previously, and my classmates who rotated through the hospital had nothing but good things to say about it. When I had the opportunity to join a practice here, I had no reservations. A year after I joined the staff, I was invited to join a cardiology group in Orange County. I struggled with that decision, but because of my experience here and the quality of the nursing staff, I elected to stay.
I’ve probably spent more time here than at home. I cherish the relationships I have developed and the generations of patients I have seen. Saint Joseph is a major reason for the success of my career as a physician. It remains the cornerstone for health care in our local community.
Philip Schwarzman, MD, FACEP
President, Burbank Emergency Medical Group
Saint Joe’s is an institution in Burbank — if you live in Burbank, you know about Providence Saint Joseph. We strive to live up to that reputation where people can come to the hospital and get the best care possible.
Saint Joe’s was at the forefront of getting emergency medicine–trained physicians. It was a new field in 1973 and there weren’t that many people certified. It took time. Back then, people had no idea that emergency medicine was a specialty. I used to be asked, ‘Where is your office? How can I follow up with you?’ I had to explain that this [department] was my office.
The hospital has always supported us as we tried to make improvements to the hospital and the field of emergency medicine by bringing in the latest, state-of-the-art equipment. I don’t have a problem recruiting. A lot of it is done through word of mouth. I basically tell them this is possibly the best place to practice emergency medicine in the county.
We have one doctor who was born at Saint Joe’s and two who grew up in Burbank, and now all three are on staff. One of them even remembers coming to the emergency department as a kid.