The Summit of Generosity

Dallas Price and Bob Van Breda’s $1 million donation in honor of Dr. Ernie Prudente will help support a new, state-of-the-art nurse call system at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

BY NANCY BRANDS WARD / PHOTOGRAPHED BY SHANE O’DONNELL

When philanthropist Dallas Price-Van Breda and her husband, artist Bob Van Breda, donated $1 million to Providence Saint John’s Health Center in honor of Ernie Prudente, MD, they decided to announce their gift with a small reveal event for Dallas’ longtime physician and friend. “I was tricked into coming to the hospital,” says Dr. Prudente, a Saint John’s internist who serves on both the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation’s board of trustees and the health center’s board of directors. “I was told I needed to meet a potential new donor. But when I walked around the corner and saw Dallas, her husband, Bob, my wife and two kids—then I immediately suspected something was afoot.” Dr. Prudente had known nothing about the Price-Van Breda gift until he was presented with a mock-up plaque recognizing their donation in his honor. A few months later, wall lettering reflecting the gift was mounted in the first-floor patient care area.

“I was choked up,” says Dr. Prudente. “It was an emotional experience. The fact that Dallas and Bob wanted to help the hospital and include me in their generosity was humbling. It was also very special having my family there to share this experience with me so they could see that what I do all day is this meaningful to people.” The Price-Van Breda gift specified that Dr. Prudente choose how the gift is spent. “We wanted him to have the privilege of making this decision,” she says.

Because the nurse call system at Saint John’s is 20 years old, Dr. Prudente is earmarking the funds as seed money for a new, $6 million state-of-the-art integrated system that utilizes the latest technology to improve communication among doctors, nurses, patients and patients’ families. “This is a great opportunity for the hospital to improve the patient experience,” says Dr. Prudente, “and will allow our nurses to do an even better job. And Dallas is very supportive of the idea.”

PHILANTHROPY AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

As a longtime Santa Monica resident, Price-Van Breda feels grateful for the support she, Bob and her family have received through the years from Saint John’s, where one of her five children and several of her 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren were born.

“They’ve taken care of my family in moments of medical need. It’s important that people support institutions that serve our community,” she says.
And as a member of the foundation’s board of trustees, Price-Van Breda has given back immeasurably in time and support. “I think it’s important that board members contribute to the hospital,” she says. “A few years back we contributed $1 million to the radiation therapy department in honor of a treasured friend who had cancer and passed away.” The full scope of Price-Van Breda’s philanthropy and accomplishments are beyond impressive and have impacted the worlds of art, sports, business, education and adventure. She is a star of the Southern California arts community for both her extensive art collection and generous donations and is perhaps best known as founder and president emeritus of the board of trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

She has also served as a vice president and major shareholder of the American Golf Corporation—one of the world’s biggest golf properties—and is an instrument-rated pilot and former co-owner of the aeronautical services provider Supermarine at the Santa Monica Airport. During the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she served as co-commissioner of basketball. Her commitment to quality education inspired her to cofound Oaks Christian School, a private Christian school serving grades 5–12 in Westlake Village. The list goes on.

An experienced climber, she conquered the Seven Summits—the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, and her mettle helped her survive some treacherous conditions. After descending Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica, she and her guide Pete Whittaker were stranded in a storm for eight days until there was a break in the weather and a plane was able to rescue them.

“We were afraid we’d run out of fuel to melt the ice. And without water, we couldn’t survive. We had to play mind games to keep our brain functioning,” she says. “We had a paperback book that I already had read. I would read 10 pages, rip them out and give them to Pete who would read them.” Yet, despite the dangers, Price-Van Breda found her climbs a spiritual experience. “When you’re at that altitude you see the glory of God and his universe,” she says.

A SPECIAL CONNECTION

Price-Van Breda first met Dr. Prudente 17 years ago when she became his patient. Since that time, he has become somewhat of a family doctor—treating Bob and other family members.

“Ernie’s an angel with his patients, and I’m very blessed that he’s my doctor,” says Price-Van Breda. “So often gifts are dedicated not to people but to places or things, and I felt it was important for one of Saint John’s doctors to be recognized for the wonderful, caring individual he is.” “Over the years, Dallas and I have gotten to know and like each other and formed a friendship beyond the typical doctor-patient relationship,” says Dr. Prudente. “Dallas is an amazing human being who is perky, high energy and engaged. ‘Dynamic’ is the word that comes to mind when I think of Dallas.” Besides his current board positions, in his 20-year relationship with Saint John’s, Dr. Prudente has functioned in a multitude of roles. He has served as the chairman of medicine, was on the foundation’s executive committee and continues to actively serve on various committees.

“I’m not only involved in trying to raise funds and resources to help programs at Saint John’s, which is what Dallas is doing too, but I’m also helping determine how that money is used to benefit the hospital.” Dr. Prudente’s wife, Kate, also contributes her talent to Saint John’s, having served as president of the Irene Dunne Guild and through her involvement with the foundation. “We’re kind of a Saint John’s couple,” Dr. Prudente says.

UPGRADING THE NURSE CALL SYSTEM

Nurse call systems have been standard equipment in hospitals for decades, enabling patients to press a bedside button when they need assistance. Technology, however, is rapidly changing. Saint John’s chief nursing officer, Giancarlo Lyle-Edrosolo, DNP, RN, explains that the latest nurse call systems are far more sophisticated and can greatly enhance communication, caregiver workflow and patient care.

“We’ll be able to respond faster to and personalize patient calls based on the button the patient presses,” he says. “For example, if it’s a toileting need, then it goes directly to the appropriate caregiver.”

Furthermore, these integrated systems include a digital patient care board, similar to a flat-screen TV, installed in each patient’s room throughout Saint John’s, that would replace the familiar, erasable whiteboards. All the patient’s information would be regularly updated digitally. The board also has a camera and is interactive, enabling conference calls with the patient’s family and educating patients about their health care progress and care plan.

The system would be integrated with the health center’s existing electronic medical records system, EPIC, so patient information could be easily accessed by physicians and appropriate caregivers.

“The new call system will help improve the experience of our patients by decreasing their wait time when they need help because the call is sent to the right person,” says Dr. Lyle-Edrosolo. “The system will also dramatically help our caregivers by streamlining their workflow. Updating the call light system is a request that nurses have asked me about ever since I got here 2½ years ago, and it’s exciting to see it start to come to fruition. We’re extremely grateful for the generosity that Dallas has provided us.”

CALLING FOR HELP

According to Dr. Prudente, insurance companies and Medicare do not provide funds to upgrade call systems, and funds must come directly from the generosity of private donors. Therefore additional philanthropic partners are needed for Saint John’s to reach its $6 million goal to install the system.

“Our nurses are very caring and patient-centric,” says Dr. Prudente. “And at the end of the day, taking care of a patient, talking to them, touching them—it’s that direct experience that makes a difference. This system would allow our nurses to do an even better job because it improves communication with their patients. And I would tell potential donors that you could play an important role in making a great institution even better.”

Price-Van Breda shares his sentiments. “I would hope that there would be others who share my enthusiasm for giving,” she says. “If the whole world was filled with people who love to give from their hearts, how much different our environment would be.”

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