Discoveries Magazine


Pavilion Pioneers

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Special Report

Debbie Simon

pavilion-donorA gift from the heart: The catalyst for Debbie’s gift was Beau, her grandson, and the successful heart surgery he underwent just before his 21st birthday. “We couldn’t believe how wonderfully everyone treated us—from the housekeeping staff to the doctors.”

Looking ahead: “I want Beau to look at his name on the bridge and know what a bright, wonderful future he has ahead of him.” So far, Beau has gotten the message loud and clear: He just completed a 10K run.

Role models: “My parents taught me that we need to carry medicine forward in any way that we can.” Debbie’s parents, Dorothy and E. Phillip Lyon, have endowed two named chairs at Cedars-Sinai. The latest one, the Dorothy and E. Phillip Lyon Chair in Laser Research, is currently held by Joshua Goldhaber, MD, director of Basic Research at the Heart Institute.

World traveler: Most memorable trip? An African safari she took 37 years ago—on which she met her husband. Most exciting trip? In June 2013, she flew from her Connecticut home to Los Angeles to see the completed Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion.

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The Procedure Center Nurses


The Sue and Bill Gross Surgery and Procedure Center’s nurse leadership team includes (from left): Ann Deacon, Kyung Jun, Ann Gilligan-Maruca, Donna Aiello, Ann Duran, and Dan Sabin.

This group of six nurses is part of a leadership team that focuses on collaboration and perfecting clinical practices between the pre-operative area, operating room, and post-anesthesia care unit in the Sue and Bill Gross Surgery and Procedure Center. “This coordinated communication will optimize patient care in each unit and elevate the level of service we deliver,” says Kyung Jun, RN, nurse manager and head of the leadership team.

Fun: “It’s rewarding to know that we all work hard and have fun together as a team,” says Donna Aiello, RN. Ann Gilligan-Maruca, RN, adds, “I love how much we laugh at work, even on the tough days, and it helps keep our patients smiling.”

Safe: For Dan Sabin, RN, the focus is on education: “I enjoy being able to interact with so many people by educating them on best operating room practices and safe patient care.”

Top-notch: “The best part of my job at the Pavilion is working with the cream of the crop!” says Ann Deacon, RN. “I am deeply proud to be part of a leadership team that fosters an unprecedented level of collaboration and teamwork.”

Empowered: “I have a great team alongside me who empowers me to think outside the box and provides the encouragement and support I need to succeed in my new role,” says Ann Duran, RN.

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Roderick Dean Ray


Roderick Dean Ray, photographed inside the Sue and Bill Gross Skywalk, was one of the Pavilion’s first surgery patients.

Opening day: “I was excited when I heard that Dr. Robert Klapper would be performing my hip replacement surgery in the Pavilion. It was my first major surgery and, since everything is in one building, it made it really stress-free. It’s a short walk from the waiting area to the pre-op area, which means a lot when you’re in pain.”

The big impact: A retired U.S. Marine, Roderick has had a very active life: jumping out of planes, rappelling down steep inclines, and running long, hard routines. “Two years ago, I began feeling intense pain in my hip,” he says, “and eventually, when it could no longer be managed with medication, the VA sent me to Dr. Klapper.”

Standing strong: Roderick is the head of security at Tiffany & Co. jewelers in Beverly Hills, where he has worked for nearly 20 years—mostly on his feet, even when he could barely put any weight on one leg. His most memorable moment? “Working security for the Tiffany’s jewelry worn by Anne Hathaway at the 2011 Academy Awards.”

On his feet: “I rehab hard. I can’t wait to get back to exercising, but the best thing after my surgery is being able to tie my shoes. I used to have to pre-tie them because I couldn’t bend down.”

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Physician-Researcher, Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center

Puja K. Mehta, MD

pavilion-puja-mehta-mdDaily dose: “I see many women in the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center who have been searching for an explanation for their persistent chest pain or heart attack. Being able to provide them with answers and treatments based on contemporary research done specifically on women is the most exciting part of my work.”

Perfect fit: “My two-part job focus (patient care and research) is an ideal fit for me. I truly enjoy the art of medicine and taking care of patients. No two patients are alike, and coming up with a unique diagnostic and therapeutic plan for each individual is very rewarding. At the same time, the intellectual challenge of pursuing research and working with others to fill knowledge gaps is exciting. Being involved in research keeps me up to date on the latest therapies available for my patients.”

Joining forces: Along with Catherine Dang, MD, Dr. Mehta is developing a Cardio- Oncology Program with the support of Women’s Heart Center Director C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, Heart Institute Director Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, and Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute Director Steven Piantadosi, MD, PhD. “This is a unique program that assesses heart disease risk and prevention in cancer survivors, and addresses the growing need for cardiologists and oncologists to communicate and collaborate for research and clinical care.”

Walking the walk: “Women are different from men and may respond to stress differently. If I had to pick my best heart-healthy advice for women, it would be to walk, walk, walk! At least 150 minutes a week! Women should aim for 10,000 steps a day.”

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Research Scientist, Department of Neurosurgery

Dwain Morris-Irvin, PhD, MPH

pavilion-dwain-morris-irvin-phd-mphFull bench: Under the Neural Stem Cell Program, Dr. Morris-Irvin’s research group focuses on identifying novel therapeutics for the treatment of brain tumors as well as early-detection methods and experimental treatments for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Brain research: His expertise in cancer stem cell research is being used to improve the efficacy of dendritic cell immunotherapy—a vaccine developed at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute to fight malignant brain tumors. “A patient with a glioblastoma often has less than a two-year median survival after diagnosis—even after treatment that includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—because his or her tumor will inevitably grow back. But for the first time in several decades, we’re actually starting to see improvements in survival because of this vaccine.”

Collaboration station: “I have already run into other clinical-based researchers more often than usual since my lab moved to the new Pavilion. This change is significant because the collaborative process stimulates the power of problem solving and creativity. We can easily share and apply what we know from the clinic and the laboratory in a short time during a chance encounter in the hallway. Now, all of our research worlds are smaller. We are more relaxed, and we can let our creative juices flow.”

Science wins: Dr. Morris-Irvin didn’t always want to be a scientist. “As a kid, I could never really make up my mind. I wanted to be a football player, a priest, an airplane pilot, or an engineer. It took me a while, but I found my home in medicine and research.”

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Research Scientist, Regenerative Medicine Institute

Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD

shaomei-wang-md-phdClear focus: Dr. Wang’s research focuses on finding a stem cell therapy to delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP)—an hereditary degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness.

Motivation: “When I was a medical student, a 30-year-old pregnant woman told me her parents had RP and she had RP, and she pointed to her belly and asked me if her baby would have RP. The chances were very high her baby would have it, too, and I couldn’t lie to her. I still remember her face. I wished so badly there was a cure. I couldn’t imagine taking care of my own children without my sight.”

Stats and facts: AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, affecting more than 10 million individuals in the United States alone. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to its development, though the precise trigger remains unknown. As for RP patients—most of whom are legally blind by age 40–50—gene therapy is only available for the few who have a specific mutation.

Goals: “We are using cell-based therapy to treat retinal degenerative diseases in animal models. Our goal is to translate this research into new treatments for these devastating conditions.”

Collaborative effort: “Our new laboratory space in the Pavilion will make it easier for us to build on our existing collaborations and advance discoveries more quickly.”

Health cycle: Dr. Wang commutes to the Pavilion on two wheels. Bicycle lockers and showers in the Pavilion make it easier for employees to bike to work and freshen up before they start their day.

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Clinical Pharmacist

Julie Ly, PharmD

pavilion-julie-ly-pharmdOne-stop shop: “The Pavilion Pharmacy serves patients who come in for procedures or clinic visits as well as those who are discharged from the main hospital. They can get the care they need in one location.”

Safety first: The pharmacy features new technologies such as wireless radio frequency identification and barcode scanning that allow for optimum patient safety and efficiency. “They also enable us to locate a prescription faster while freeing us up to provide patients with the highest level of care.”

Quality care: “Pharmacists need to be both detail-oriented and patient advocates.”

Pharm future: “I think the pharmacist’s role will expand as an integral part of the healthcare team, particularly in managing complex medication regimens and new personalized therapies that are being developed to treat cancer, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease.”

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Parking Supervisor

Ronnie Preza

pavilion-ronnie-prezaBookends: “The valets are the first people everyone sees when they arrive at the hospital and the last ones they see before they leave—it’s our job to start a patient’s visit off on the right foot and end it on a good note.”

Rearview mirror: “Looking back, no two days are ever the same.” Ronnie’s encounters include a 150-pound German shepherd sleeping in the back of a car, and a woman minutes from giving birth who drove herself to the hospital. He also helped save a life by immediately calling for a nurse when a patient had a seizure in the driver’s seat.

Trends: “We get cars that range from $500 to $500,000. We’re seeing a lot of hybrids and a lot more electric cars lately.”

Patience and patients: More than 550 cars are valeted at the hospital every day. The Pavilion’s parking structure offers 500 additional parking spaces for visitors. “I think this will help reduce stress for patients and their families.”

Dream car: A Lamborghini

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Roslyn Fox and Barbara Weiner

volunteersPlanned giving: Roslyn “Roz” Fox remembers the exact moment she wanted to volunteer at Cedars-Sinai. “My late husband had cardiac bypass surgery in 1982. The volunteers were wonderful to me. I knew when I retired I wanted to volunteer.”

Heart to heart: Roz is part of the Heart Families program, in which volunteers who have had a cardiac crisis—or experienced one in their immediate family—provide emotional support and care for cardiac patients and their relatives. “My job is to be a caregiver for the family while their loved one is in surgery. I know what they are going through because I’ve sat where they are sitting. I help them with whatever they may need—even if it’s finding the best cup of coffee.”

Buddy system: Barbara Weiner and Roz have been friends for more than 25 years. “We met at a card game, and we’ve been making each other laugh ever since,” Barbara says. So when Roz asked Barbara to volunteer, she didn’t hesitate. “We both love people, and it was something new to do together besides go to lunch, play mahjong, or go to Bloomingdale’s.”

Crossing the bridge: Being among the first volunteers in the Sue and Bill Gross Surgery and Procedure Center appealed to the pair. An office manager for many years, Roz enjoys creating her own systems in busy environments. For Barbara, it was about the space. “You don’t even feel like you’re in a hospital here: It’s so beautiful that most of the families are very relaxed.”

Good timing: “Barbara’s a natural,” says Roz. “We both know that if we can’t give with our wallet, it’s just as rewarding to give with our time.”

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