Local Hospital Celebrates Milestone Anniversary


Verdugo Hills Hospital is celebrating 50 years serving  the community. An official celebration was held on Tuesday night when patients, staff, supporters and community members traded VHH stories and took time to recognize the achievement of “the little hospital that could.”

According to uscvhh.org, the hospital actually began as Behrens Memorial Hospital established in 1947.

“To keep up with the needs of the growing La Cañadacommunity, a new hospital was built on the hilltop land donated by the Greene family. In 1972, Verdugo Hills Hospital was formed as an independent, 158-bed acute care hospital,” according to the USC VHH website.

Longtime community member Vic Pallos said he was a “test patient” prior to the opening of VHH.

“I remember that the hospital was doing test runs of a floor design where all patients’ rooms would be private and configured around a nursing station. That was a new concept in nursing unit design. The staff also conducted mock ‘run-throughs’ of various services patients would receive. I was an editor with The Ledger-Independent newspapers at the time, so the paper assigned a photographer from Stevens Studio in Montrose to record my experience,” Pallos said.

From the start the hospital was community focused and that is what the current CEO of USC-VHH first noticed when he walked in the hospital doors almost 20 years ago.

“I had worked in about a dozen hospitals but I gravitated to Verdugo Hills [Hospital] because of two main reasons: the first is the feel of the hospital. When you walk in the door there is an immediate difference than most hospitals. It feels warm and the people are smiling,” said Dr.  Armand Dorian, CEO USC-VHH.

He added that from his first entrance into the hospital he found the staff to be approachable and helpful.

“That’s what I remember that first time I walked through the doors,” he said.

The second reason was the community feel andsupport.

“[Other] hospitals had foundations but it was not as interwoven and truly intertwined with the needs of the community like it was at Verdugo Hills,” Dorian said.

It was community that brought resident Teri Rice to the hospital.

“When I was pregnant with my second child my mother-in-law, who had three daughters-in-law, gave each one day a week of her time,” Rice said. So, while her mother was watching the children, Rice decided to start volunteering at the VHH. “That’s how I got involved with the hospital because [volunteering there] is what I chose to do. I wanted to reach out and do something … I love this community.”

That was about 20 years ago and she is now a clinical program director for USC-VHH. She coordinates about 200 classes a year for community members and pregnant mothers and expecting fathers. She conducts classes on various subjects including Lamaze, breast feeding and American Heart Association training for CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Rice said that being able to work with new moms and dads has always been special for her but especially lately – during the pandemic – when there was so much isolation.

“At a lot of hospitals [even now] everything is done on the Internet but I actually get to speak to our newly pregnant mommies. I believe these days that goes a long way with everyone being so isolated,” she said.

USC-VHH was without in-person classes for only about six months before the hospital administration was able to organize in- person classes again. it did thisby expanding classrooms and making sure everyone was masked.

Both Rice and Dorian said the community plays such a big role in why and how things are done at the hospital. They also said that joining with USC in 2013 was the best thing the administration could have done.

“Everyone knew this smaller community hospital Verdugo Hills could not survive on its own. It wasn’t just smaller hospitals – it was [all sizes] of hospitals across the United States that were closing,” Dorian said. “That was part of a larger [issue] where health care was at that time.”

He said that no one really knew how “amazing” this partnership would be.

“It brought the highest level of technology, it brought the highest level of subspecialty back [through] physician education to your doorstep,” he said.

He added that bringing the educational hospital power of USC in a “very warm and inviting way” to VHH was the perfect way to bring the two entities together.

USC-VHH has brought a lot of technology to the hospital including two da Vinci® Surgical System Robots that offer state-of-the-art prostate cancer treatment, a new Neonatal Dept. and a new Cath Lab.

“If you can bring that type of technology to a place that is much more hospitable, comfortable, warm and inviting … that’s magic,” he said.