Omar’s Dream: Educating kids…no matter what!

Remember when you were little, and the anxiety you felt missing school due to a long illness? Falling behind is sad reality for too many kids facing a long hospitalization, but now a solution is at hand.

The VMC Foundation, on behalf of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, is partnering with Omar’s Dream Foundation to enable hospitalized and medically supervised children to remotely attend school allowing them to stay connected to their teachers and classmates. The services are free for all qualified students and their educators.

We know that education and health are both equal building blocks for a child’s success. We’re so grateful to Omar’s Dream and the ability to keep those building blocks strong!

VMC Foundation staff gratefully accept a large gift from Jamila Hassan, Founder of Omar's Dream Foundation.

VMC Foundation staff gratefully accept a large gift from Jamila Hassan, Founder of Omar’s Dream Foundation.

World Breastfeeding Week: VMC a Top CA Hospital in Breastfeeding Rates

National Breastfeeding WeekDid you know that VMC is among the top hospitals in the state in breastfeeding rates for new moms? That’s no accident — VMC is a leader in innovative programs to encourage breastfeeding. We all know that breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start, providing them with an ideal balance of nutrients for their growth and development, reducing the risk of infection and disease, promoting mother-child bonding, and even reducing the risk of childhood obesity.

Funding from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County and Kaiser Permanente has made possible over 8,000 hours of training for VMC’s newborn care providers in offering best practice and evidence-based breastfeeding instruction to moms. Funding also enables follow-up calls to recently discharged moms to help address any breastfeeding challenges they face at home.

VMC is investing in an on-site Milk Lab in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to ensure that even the most vulnerable infants benefit from this healthy start. Support from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County and other generous donors has helped fund special freezers and storage units, prep stations to standardize breast milk processing (breast milk for preemies is often fortified with additional calories and nutrients), and designated staff to ensure that each baby gets the nutrition he or she needs. With a recent donation from the Will Rogers Institute, VMC will soon be adding an on-site breast milk analyzer to determine how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate is in a mother’s milk. This is important because providing sufficient nutrition for NICU infants is crucial to maximizing weight gain and assuring proper physiological development.

VMC has a fabulous team of lactation experts leading efforts for increased breastfeeding rates and creating a hospital culture that supports and encourages breastfeeding. The VMC Foundation is proud to support their work, during World Breastfeeding Week and all year long!

Spinal cord injury patients use iPads to stay connected during rehab

Bergevin familyThe Spring 2015 issue of the VMC Foundation’s Impact Report features the moving story of Chris Bergevin, the husband and father who was airlifted to VMC’s Spinal Cord Trauma Center after he dove into the ocean and struck a sand bar, damaging his spinal cord and neck.

During his rehabilitation at VMC, Chris was able to stay connected to the outside world with the inclusion of an iPad in his rehab therapy. Distribution of iPads to rehab patients is made possible by a generous grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

Chris shared, “When you’re injured and in the hospital, it’s really important to get connected to friends, family, and the outside world. This iPad made these things possible for me! I’m very grateful.”

You can read more about this story, and see updates about our other programs, in our Spring 2015 Impact Report.


Dr. Yvonne Truong brings big smiles to Valley Health Center community clinics

YT PicMeet Dr. Yvonne Truong

Yvonne Truong was an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz when she visited a friend in dental school and watched her fabricate dentures for an HIV patient who had lost his teeth due to malnourishment. She was hooked!

“Becoming a dentist was almost an immediate decision – I could see myself doing this. I liked to work with my hands, and I wanted to make a difference,” shared Dr. Truong. She practiced as a dental assistant for a couple of years and then graduated from the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University.

While in dental school, Dr. Truong completed an externship at the Dorchester House, a community health center in a low-income neighborhood of Boston. There she discovered a passion for working in a community clinic setting, supporting underserved populations: “I saw that I could really make a difference in people’s lives.”

Dr. Truong joined VMC in 2004, working for many years in the mobile dental clinic, providing dental services to high-need areas throughout Santa Clara County. She now staffs the dental clinics at Valley Health Centers Sunnyvale, Milpitas, and Tully.

Dr. Truong shared that her typical day “is very fast paced! I see at least 16 patients each day – doing exams and cleanings, taking dental impressions, giving oral hygiene instructions, and performing extractions, fillings, and other procedures. Every day is different because our patient population tends to have a lot of dental emergencies.” Indeed, the dental clinics serve a combination of patients with appointments and those who walk-in with urgent needs.

“The best thing about my job,” says Dr. Truong, “is seeing immediate results. If a patient comes in with pain, most of the time I can make them feel better right away.”

Take, for example, a recent patient of Dr. Truong’s. A male in his 30s, he hadn’t seen a dentist in five years after losing his job and his dental insurance. The patient traveled by bus from Palo Alto to Valley Health Center Tully to attend a walk-in clinic because he had severe tooth pain. Dr. Truong informed the patient that the tooth had decayed and that he would need a root canal and crown, but the patient didn’t have the money to pay for the procedure so he requested that the tooth be extracted instead. Dr. Truong did some research and found that the patient lived in the catchment area of VHC Sunnyvale, and that funds were available to help pay for his root canal and crown – no extraction needed! The patient was extremely grateful and has been coming back to VHC Sunnyvale for comprehensive treatment ever since.

With financial support from the El Camino Healthcare District, the dental clinic at VHC Sunnyvale expanded to offer one evening dental clinic per week so patients with daytime jobs and family responsibilities could better access care. Dr. Truong shared, “We wanted to be better able to accommodate patients who can’t miss work, those who don’t have insurance, and those who walk in with emergency needs. Without the grant funding, these patients would not have the oral health they need to lead a healthy and comfortable life.” The evening dental clinic is consistently booked at least 2-3 weeks in advance and demand far exceeds the current capacity of the clinic.

Still, Dr. Truong is inspired by the work she does, sharing, “I feel honored and privileged to be part of VMC, working here with such a dedicated groups of dentists. This is a challenging job – we have a lot of medically-compromised patients with financial limitations and language barriers. But I love coming to work every day because of how rewarding it is.”

When Yvonne Truong isn’t practicing at VMC, she is operating her own part-time private dental practice or spending time with her 4-year-old son at her home in San Jose.

El Camino Healthcare DistrictYou can learn more about El Camino Healthcare District’s investment in the health of our community in their 2014 Community Benefit Report.

Donor Investment in Innovative Health Strategy Pays Off

Donors willing to fund “out of the box” solutions to our community’s health problems can make a big impact and help improve the way VMC provides care to its patients. With grant funding from El Camino Healthcare District, Valley Health Center Sunnyvale now has a Public Health Nurse, Joy Almquist, who visits the homes of high-risk chronic disease patients to assess environmental and home conditions that influence health behavior, and assists with the coordination of community resources. Though only in its first year, the program is already having a significant impact on people’s lives.

Joy with Patients


One of the most common patient needs is assistance with medication management. Joy works with a patient named Pamela who has a complex medication regimen that includes more than 20 prescriptions plus oxygen therapy for treatment of emphysema.

Once home from a doctor’s visit, patients like Pamela can have a hard time managing all of their medications, so Joy makes home visits to provide one-on-one help with strategies for medication compliance. Joy’s work with Pamela has also helped avoid readmission to the hospital – whenever Pamela is having a hard time breathing she communicates with Joy who determines if the issue is urgent and can quickly arrange for a clinic visit. Pamela recently shared with Joy, “I don’t know what I’d do without you. This program is very important especially for people who can’t get around. You come to my home and it makes it so much easier and more personal.”

Joy also works with Melvin, another patient referred for assistance with medication management and compliance. Joy helped Melvin establish a routine for taking medications and checking his blood sugar, which has improved his health. With Joy’s help, Melvin also keeps and attends his dental and medical appointments on time, enabling him to remain home and stay independent.

Assessing environmental factors is something Joy is also trained to do. In her work with April, a patient with cirrhosis who is dealing with related symptoms, Joy focused on the importance of good nutrition and abstaining from alcohol. Together they discussed how April could adopt a liver-friendly diet, and Joy shared resources for alcohol counseling and treatment. Joy has actively helped April address barriers to attending her regular follow-up appointments with her primary care provider. April shared, “Joy has absolutely changed the way I think about my body and myself. I had the worst eating habits and, until I got sick, I never understood how it was all related. She makes me want to do all the right things to stay healthy and get my body and mind focused on long-term goals.”


Indeed, Joy says that her patients’ goals become her goals. She works to help patients maintain good health with her guidance and encouragement, which can make all the difference for those with complex medical conditions and challenging environmental factors. Having a dedicated Public Health Nurse working directly with VHC Sunnyvale’s primary care team means that every patient who needs individual support in a home setting can receive it, ideally improving the health of patients and reducing trips to the emergency room. Shari Hurst, VHC Sunnyvale Clinic Manager, shares, “I am confident that the collaboration between Public Health and Adult Primary Care at VHC Sunnyvale has helped patients in the North County area get access to key services that improve their health and well-being. The collaboration is an example of creative, patient-focused teamwork.”

El Camino Healthcare FoundationWith the support of El Camino Healthcare District, we hope to continue implementation of this innovative program at VHC Sunnyvale and establish a model of care that can be replicated to help patients throughout Santa Clara County. You can learn more about El Camino Healthcare District’s investment in the health of our community in their 2013 Community Benefit Report.



Medical-Legal Clinic Celebrates 5 Years!

Members of the Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic team: Dan Szrom, Dr. Lee Anna Botkin, Patti Massey, and Maighna Jain.

Members of the Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic team: Dan Szrom, Dr. Lee Anna Botkin, Patti Massey, and Maighna Jain.

VMC’s successful innovation to place lawyers on site at pediatric health clinics has reached an important milestone. This month, the Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic celebrates its 5 year anniversary at Valley Medical Center.

The rationale for medical-legal partnerships is simple: Sometimes a child’s health problems require a legal solution. Pediatricians treat children with chronic asthma due to substandard housing conditions, children who face challenges at school when they need to take medications during the school day, and children whose parents need assistance accessing food stamps and other benefits to help keep their children healthy – among many other issues. Sometimes in cases like these, free legal services from a specially-trained attorney can mean the difference between a child’s ever worsening health and identifying a lasting solution in their home or school environment.

The Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic is a collaboration between Valley Medical Center and Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, a program of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. Since its inception, the clinic has received 763 referrals from VMC pediatricians, nurses, and other clinical staff. Providers widely agree that the program is a valuable addition to VMC’s patient services and an important tool for improving health outcomes for higher risk patients. Dr. Lee Anna Botkin, the medical director of the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, describes the MLP as “a win-win program: we provide needed services to patients in a familiar and trusted setting, we educate medical professionals to identify unmet legal needs that impact health, and we give medical professionals a new framework for how to address the underlying factors that contribute to illness, stress, and crisis.”

The Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic is the first in operation at a county health care facility in northern California. It was founded in 2009 with generous grant support from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, an ongoing funder of the program. As we prepare to grow the program to additional clinic locations in the coming years, the support of private funders will be crucial. For more information about the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, including how you can be involved and support this valuable resource, contact Elizabeth Nielsen at (408) 373-6647 or

Bank of America Makes Grant to Support Critical Needs of VMC Patients

San Jose homelessSupporters of VMC Foundation know that Valley Medical Center provides health services to 1 in 4 residents of Santa Clara County and has an open door policy that guarantees everyone access to healthcare, regardless of ability to pay. But often overlooked is the fact that poor health is commonly linked to other conditions, such as substandard housing and lack of healthy food. We strive to serve the comprehensive health and welfare needs of patients by providing wraparound services like case management, emergency housing, food assistance, and acquisition of benefits to help break the cycle of poverty. In fact, no other agency in our area provides as many services to low-income families.

These types of critical needs services are supported by a $20,000 grant from Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Bank of America makes grants to organizations that aim to create a pathway to stability for those who rely on safety net services. Our partnership with Bank of America enables VMC to consider and address the variety of factors that influence a person’s health.

Thanks to FIRST 5, genetic counseling is provided to low-income families

First 5 Logo

Due to a generous grant from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, VMC can offer genetic counseling to high-risk families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Bill Campbell, a genetic counselor at VMC, recently supported the parents of a NICU

FIRST 5’s grant support makes care like this possible for babies in VMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You can read more about this story, and see updates about our other programs, in our Fall 2013 Impact Report. baby born with the chromosome abnormality 4p minus, commonly called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Bill worked through an interpreter to provide support to the parents who were understandably worried and confused – they had never heard of their baby’s condition and had many questions about what it meant. Bill met regularly with the family and together they developed a plan to guide them through the testing and treatment options. Without this specialized support service, the family would have been completely unprepared to care for the unique needs of the baby.

El Camino Healthcare District awards $1.4 million grant

El Camino Hospital DistrictContinuing a partnership that began in 2008, the El Camino Healthcare District has awarded a $1.4 million grant to the VMC Foundation to fund low-income health services provided to North County residents at the VMC-operated Valley Health Center Sunnyvale.

The $1,400,000 grant includes $1,061,000 for integrated primary care services and $339,000 for the dental clinic.

The recent expansion of the dental clinic to include evening hours was entirely due to the District’s support. This allows the clinic to better meet the extremely high demand for adult dental services. Both daytime and evening clinic hours will continue due to this additional grant funding.

An exciting new aspect of the grant is the inclusion of public health activities as part of the integrated primary care model. Funding from El Camino Healthcare District will enable the clinic to add a public health nurse to work with the primary care team, specifically to focus on community level health factors for high-risk chronic disease patients. The public health nurse will conduct home visits to assess environmental and home conditions that influence health behavior (specifically identification of community health barriers) and assist in coordination of community resources.

For more background on this partnership, check out the video below.


It’s time to re-think charity…for the good of us all.


When I first watched Dan Pallotta’s TED talk, I wound up yelling back at my computer screen: “That’s IT! That’s what I’ve been trying to say!”

Of course Pallotta, the founder of the AIDS Ride, said it far better than I could. His talk, “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”, lit a fire under me and many of my colleagues in the public benefit sector. He discusses why salary ranges are all wrong, why marketing and advertising is undervalued, and why the mission and potential of a charity (like the VMC Foundation) is more important than that of a video game company…yet the double-standard of for-profit vs. non-profit keeps societal problems from getting solved.

He also points out something getting new traction: The amount a charity spends on “overhead” – meaning fundraising and administration – is a poor measure of their worthiness. Now, a letter written by the leaders of three leading charity watchdogs called The Overhead Myth, is making the case in a loud and clear voice.

I would add to this conversation that another area where charities under-participate is in issue advocacy. Many nonprofits believe they are not allowed to get involved in politics, and in some cases that’s true. But in others, like the county Measure A campaign in 2008, the VMC Foundation was the largest donor. Why? Because a victory would mean a new hospital building and seismic compliance for Valley Medical Center. Seriously – how could we NOT have been involved? It was the very definition of “go big or go home” for us. By the way, we won, and the Sobrato Pavilion opens next year as perhaps the finest public hospital building in the nation.

So we learned a lot in 2008, and we applied it again last year in another “Measure A” campaign. This time, the $400,000,000 generated over the next decade will support county services that include fully funding the Children’s Health Initiative—ensuring that every child in our county has health coverage. This is not just good, but GREAT for Valley Medical Center…and more importantly, for our young patients.

Is issue advocacy a risk? You bet it is. We failed in 2010 with a similar ballot measure, and I wish we had that money back! But the private sector risks all the time, and frankly, Silicon Valley rewards aiming high and failing when it’s followed up by trying again. The public benefit sector has too much expertise and mission alignment to be sidelined when issues like hunger, homelessness and health become the subjects of political decisions.

Charities need to be bold, take calculated risks, and be measured not by the smallness of their spending but by the largeness of their dreams.