hospital newsletter
an e-newsletter to Keck Medical Center of USC staff and physicians

Nursing honors staff during annual awards, national week

Only a nurse knows what it’s like to be a nurse. And only a patient understands how vital their caring manner can be.

So it was fitting when it was time to announce the nurse of the year for the Keck Medical Center of USC on May 9, the presenter had experience as both.

When Ellen Whalen introduced winner Ehrlinda Umel, she told the audience at the 2013 Nurses Week awards ceremony that when she herself was coming to USC Norris Cancer Hospital for treatment, Umel greeted her with a smile, covered her with warm blankets and inspired her with a can-do optimism.

“She was so confident, she made me confident,” said Whalen, former chief nursing officer. “She’s amazing. She got me through chemo.”

Whalen said Umel’s knowledge made her feel safe during her therapy, which ended a year ago.

“She knew what I needed to know,” Whalen said. “She answered all of my questions before I could ask them.”

Umel broke into tears when she was surprised at the podium by her husband, Albert, and son, Albert Jr., who himself is training to be a nurse.

Chief Nursing Officer Annette Sy thanked every nurse for the hard work they have put in over the last year, often in stressful situations. “We’ve done some awesome things, amazing things,” she said.

Other winners included:

  • Care Partner: Phuong Nguyen and Jenny Tran shared the award.
  • Nurse Humanitarian: Yolee Casagrande
  • Nurse Advocate: Robin Kohn
  • Nurse Leader Debora Peterson
  • Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year: Richard Fogel.
  • Keck Hospital of USC Guild scholarship: Katherine Winnie and Laura Roberts
  • Town and Gown of USC scholarship: Valerie J. Smith and Donald Solio

The awards were part of a full week of activities honoring National Nurses Week. Other activities included a cookie break and educational seminars.



























































May 14, 2013

Laboratory of Neuro Imaging moves to USC
USC is about to get even brainier. Already a leading center for research on the neurological basis of emotion, the university announced a major cluster hire of an institute with 110 faculty, researchers and multidisciplinary staff in the field of brain mapping and neuroimaging – the critical work that allows us to actually see the physical structure and circuitry that generates our mind, behavior and consciousness. Headlining the move are Arthur W. Toga, professor of neurology and co-director of the Division of Brain Mapping in the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA, and Paul Thompson, professor of neurology and psychiatry at UCLA. Toga is director of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI), which will come to USC in the fall, bringing with it a full faculty contingent and international research collaborations.

At USC, Toga and Thompson will hold joint appointments at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. They will be joined in their move to USC by a team of faculty, researchers, programmers, data analysts and doctoral students working to detail how diseases – such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and depression – are physiologically and chemically reflected in structural changes to the brain.

Together, these scientists will form the core of a new neuroinformatics institute housed on the USC Health Sciences campus. Read more here.

Staff, physicians honored during National Hospital Week
The Keck Medical Center of USC honored its staff and physicians with five days of activities last week as part of National Hospital Week.

Activities included a Dodger ticket giveaway, an educational poster symposium, a presentation on service culture, and an ice cream social. The main event came on Wednesday when food trucks handed out free meals from In–N-Out Burgers, Pink’s Hotdogs and Greenz on Wheelz.

“I’m going to get a foot-long with the works,” said Daniel Romero, who works in hospital shipping and receiving. “We work hard. It’s nice to know they appreciate us.”

USC breaks ground on Norris Healthcare Consultation Center
It has been five years since Barbara Kral was first diagnosed with advanced myeloid leukemia. Although she is in remission, she continues to receive treatment every four weeks at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Thanks to a lead gift by the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation for construction of the Norris Healthcare Consultation Center, patients like Kral will soon have even more options for personalized, compassionate care.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Norris Healthcare Consultation Center was held on May 2. During the ceremony, Senior Vice President and CEO for USC Health Tom Jackiewicz described the facility, which will include multidisciplinary clinics designed to facilitate interaction among teams, infusion therapy, an ambulatory surgery center and a women’s cancer program. The center will also feature patient- and family-centered amenities such as a retail pharmacy and comfortable patient and family waiting areas.

Patient with cystic fibrosis hosts art show in room
Dominic Quagliozzi was looking for a unique place to display his artwork (at right). He found it in his hospital room at the Keck Medical Center of USC, where an in-room art exhibit was recently held to showcase his art. Quagliozzi made the art while recovering from an acute exacerbation episode caused by his cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that lands him in the hospital two or three times a year.

Quagliozzi channeled his illness through his work, giving viewers a chance to see what cystic fibrosis looks like – through the eyes of a trained artist. In all, he made 20 paintings that reflected the pain and the loneliness he felt during his 11-day hospital stay. An additional image was projected on a bathroom wall.

“When the CF team heard about it, they contacted the hospital administration, and were really supportive of having a show," Quagliozzi said. “Being in a hospital for two weeks can be really hard," he said. “It really meant a lot to me.”

Evaluation and Treatment Clinic reopens following remodel
When the Evaluation and Treatment Clinic opened at Keck Hospital of USC in 2009, it proved to be so successful that the need for expansion soon became apparent. Nearly four years later, the newly remodeled – and much larger – clinic has reopened for patient care.

The clinic, which hosted a grand reopening last month (at right), now boasts five examination rooms, including a larger one that can better accommodate bariatric patients. It has nearly doubled in size from 562 to 1,028 square feet. “It’s private, beautiful and clean,” said ETC Director Yolee Casagrande. “It’s just what we need.”

In addition to the examination rooms, the ETC includes a waiting area, a nursing area and an adjacent admitting space. It currently sees about 180 patients a month, and that volume is expected to grow.

USC programs recognized for excellence
Three programs at Keck Hospital of USC have recently been recognized for their excellence by different agencies. In the first, USC's cardiac program received the UnitedHealth Premium specialty center designation in recognition of quality care, according to Avtar Ahluwalia, the hospital’s administrative director of managed care.

In the second, the hospital’s solid organ (heart, liver, and kidney) transplant programs as well as the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) programs were approved by OptumHealth for continued participation in the organization’s Transplant Solutions Centers of Excellence network. For Rick Selby and Mark Barr, both professors of surgery, the approvals are an important milestone. “This is an important step in better integration at the highest levels of service from both parties and will hopefully lead to efficiencies in patient care across both organizations,” Selby said.

Finally, the hospital has been designated a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement and as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery. “This designation confirms that we are providing our patients with quality care and excellent outcomes,” said professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics Jay Lieberman. “We are committed to providing our patients with the best care in he region.”

Purchase discounted Los Angeles Dodgers tickets for 2013 season
The Los Angeles Dodgers are offering special discounted tickets for staff and physicians of the Keck Medical Center of USC. Visit to purchase 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers tickets at special rates!


May 20, 22, 28 – Keck Huddle dates for May
Keck Huddles for the month of May will take place on May 20 at 4 p.m. in the Keck Hospital of USC NIT Cafe; May 22 at 7:30 a.m. in the NIT Cafe; and on May 28 at 7:15 a.m. in USC Norris’ LG503/504 conference room. This month's topics include an update on the Norris Healthcare Consultaton Center and more.

May 21 – Keck Hospital of USC Guild luncheon
Lawrence Dorr, professor of orthopedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, presents "Die Once, Live Twice: Continuing Conquest of Medicine's Frontiers" at 10:30 a.m. at a private club in Pasadena. Cost to attend is $50 and includes lunch. For more information, contact Carol DeMeester at (626) 440-0679 or at

May 29 – Health Matters: Breast cancer care
USC physicians will discuss "Breast Cancer Care: What do you need to know?" from
6:30 to 8 p.m. at the University Club of Pasadena, 175 N. Oakland Ave., Pasadena 91101. For more information or to RSVP, log on to (code: HEALTHMATTERS5) or call
(323) 442-2830.


LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS – Nitrous oxide abuse
The May 5 article quoted Sean Nordt, assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, about the misuse of nitrous oxide. "Recreational use has been around almost as long: There were 'laughing gas parties' at the turn of the last century," said Nordt.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – Levitt named to neurogenetic post
The May 3 article reported that Pat Levitt, provost professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology and pharmacy at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, will serve as inaugural director of the Developmental Neurogenetics program of the newly created Institute for the Developing Mind at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

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