Cath Lab has ‘Wall-breaking’ Ceremony at USC-VHH

Image courtesy Savely Architects
This rendering showcases what will be one of two cath lab devices being installed at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. The new lab is expected to substantially improve the hospital’s ability to treat emergency cardiovascular situations.

He left the actual destruction to the professionals, but Rod Hanners, the interim CEO of Keck Medicine of USC, officially broke ground — er, wall — Thursday last week on what will be a new IR cath lab at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Before taking the ceremonial swing with a sledgehammer, Hanners touted the IR cath lab — short form for interventional radiology catheterization laboratory — as being a game-changing addition to the Glendale-based hospital’s ability to treat cardiovascular issues. To say the least, it’s an important ability to have — cardiovascular diseases are the top cause of death worldwide, killing nearly 18 million annually according to the World Health Organization.

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Verdugo Hills Hospital CEO Hobbs Leaving for Torrance Memorial

Keith Hobbs

After joining his hometown hospital five years ago to engineer a financial and performance turnaround, Keith Hobbs will depart USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in March after accepting the top job at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

Hobbs announced his decision to hospital staff last week, and named current Chief Medical Officer Dr. Armand Dorian as the interim CEO. In an interview this week, Hobbs — who grew up in La Crescenta and graduated from Crescenta Valley High School — agreed the transition was bittersweet in many ways, not least of which because he wasn’t actively looking to leave this job.
“It was a very difficult decision to ultimately decide to leave. It was sort of a perfect opportunity that I wasn’t looking for,” he said. “Ultimately I took an interview and it ended up being the perfect opportunity. That’s what it took for me to be willing to leave something I’m so passionate about and love.”
Hobbs was brought in as the leader of USC-VHH in January 2016, nearly three years after USC acquired the 158-bed institution. Prior to the purchase, the hospital had fallen into a period of financial and operational issues and had had trouble investing in updated facilities. Hobbs brought with him nearly two dozen years of background in administration at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he was in charge of ancillary services, support services and the supply chain for the preceding 14 years.
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Reaping Roses for Staff at USC-VHH, courtesy Kardashian

Photo courtesy USC-VHH

Floral designer Jeff Leatham and celebrity Kim Kardashian West on Tuesday sent 70 bouquets of pink roses to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital as a gesture of appreciation to the institution’s frontline health care workers ahead of Valentine’s Day. Keith Hobbs, CEO of the hospital, said “these kind gestures mean so much to our health care workers who have been working tirelessly these many months, and the appreciation from the community goes a long way to uplift them through these difficult times.” USC-VHH invites those who are also interested in giving back to the hospital to consider volunteering for its Meal Train, which can be found at

Schedule for Vaccinating GUSD Employees Is Uncertain

Photo courtesy USC-VHH
Mary Virgallito, an infection prevention specialist at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, receives her COVID-19 vaccination in December. Virgallito said the hospital is “on standby” to begin vaccinating Glendale Unified School District employees when county officials permit it.

A sudden emphasis on extending COVID-19 vaccination opportunities to residents 65 and older in Los Angeles County may alter plans for a local hospital to begin inoculating Glendale Unified School District educators.
Nothing is set in stone, and the likelihood of further changes will probably grow as President Joe Biden’s administration settles in during the coming weeks. For now, however, the plan for USC Verdugo Hills Hospital to begin vaccinating GUSD employees against the virus starting on Jan. 30 has been paused. In an era of fast-breaking news, this change of plans came 24 hours after the GUSD Board of Education was briefed on the rollout.
“As with everything with COVID, there have been so many twists and turns,” said Mary Virgallito, associate administrator for quality and patient safety at USC-VHH, in an interview Thursday. “We’re just awaiting further guidance. We’ve done everything we can, including submitting a plan, so until the county activates us, we’re on standby.”

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City, Hospital Continue to See Virus Surge

Less than two weeks after Burbank surpassed a total of 5,000 COVID-19 cases on Dec. 29, it appeared that the city would breach the 6,000-case mark as a nationwide surge continued.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported on Thursday that 5,856 people in Burbank had tested positive for the coronavirus as of the previous day, putting the seven-day average of new daily cases in Burbank at 106.3. That average had been as high as 114.3 on Christmas, thanks partially to a case backlog.
Also as of Wednesday, 129 Burbank residents had died due to the disease since the pandemic began. More than 65 of those deaths were connected to cases at nursing facilities, according to the city’s emergency management coordinator, Eric Baumgardner.
Public Health officials also reported this week that more than 200 people were dying from the coronavirus every day in the county, and that more than 8,000 were hospitalized with the disease. One in five people getting tested for COVID-19 are testing positive.
As of Wednesday, more than 871,000 people in L.A. County had tested positive, and more than 11,500 people had died. Those figures were roughly 458,000 and 7,900, respectively, a month earlier.

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GUSD’s Actions Amid Pandemic Earn Chamber’s Salute

Photo courtesy Steve Pierce
Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce President Mike Riley (second from right) presents school board President Armina Gharpetian, school board member Jennifer Freemon, and Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Vivian Ekchian with awards of recognition from the chamber.

For its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Glendale Unified School District was tabbed as the Organization of the Year by the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce in the group’s annual recognition awards last week.
One of the district’s board members, Jennifer Freemon, also was named Educator of the Year by the chamber. Overall, the organization handed out 10 awards in a virtual ceremony last week.
In its program, the chamber highlighted what it described as a nimble response by the GUSD when the pandemic struck in March, prompting school closures and stay-at-home orders from the county. The district distributed laptops for students to use in distance learning and prepared to-go breakfasts and lunches every day for all children in the city who needed them.

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USC-VHH Virtual Golf Tournament Is Sept. 21

Photo courtesy USC-VHH
USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation Board Chair Tina Marie Ito, hospital CEO Keith Hobbs and Golf Classic co-Chair Sue Wilder are pictured at last year’s tournament. Because of COVID-19, this year’s 29th annual Golf Classic will be held virtually on Monday, Sept. 21.

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital will host its 29th annual Golf Classic virtually on Monday, Sept. 21.
“We invite members of the community to join us for a bring-your-own-cocktail, ‘Caddyshack’-themed happy hour, comedy show and program,” an event spokesperson said. “Golf and ‘Caddyshack’ trivia, humor, a fabulous online auction and a brief hospital update from CEO Keith Hobbs and USC-VHH’s chief medical officer, Dr. Armand Dorian, will be teed up.
“The health-care crisis that prevents us from golfing together is also creating the hospital’s most pressing need for support,” the spokesperson continued. “Since mid-March, our front-line caregivers have worked tirelessly to care for more than 300 COVID-19-positive inpatients and have tested nearly 4,000 people through our Emergency Department.”
For more information about how to participate (buy a ticket or bid on online auction items), visit The online auction runs Sept. 14-28.
To learn more about USC-VHH’s COVID response efforts, visit

USC-VHH Sets Baby Birth Record Despite Pandemic

Photo courtesy Keck Medicine of USC
A new mother and her baby are pictured with USC Verdugo Hills Hospital nurse Kristin Anderson.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital has doubled down on its commitment to safely help mothers bring their bundles of joy into the world.
In fact, USC-VHH delivered 61 babies in July, the most it has welcomed in any month in the last seven years and more than double the number of births in the same period in 2019.
Part of the reason for that increase is the hospital’s growing reputation for creating a supportive environment for expectant mothers and fathers and having state-of-the-art medical care, like the neonatal intensive care unit’s specialized staff and equipment to treat ill or premature newborns, USC-VHH officials said. The unit opened in 2018.
“We have developed a wonderful relationship with our obstetricians and created a collaborative, supportive environment for them and the mothers who entrust them to deliver their babies. We have focused on adding additional support, the NICU and laborists, to provide a higher level of care capabilities,” said Kenny Pawlek, USC-VHH’s chief operating officer. “During COVID-19, we’ve stressed safety for our moms, parents, babies, MDs, nursing team and employees.”

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USC-VHH on Alert as COVID-19 Cases Surge

By Keith Hobbs
Special to Outlook Valley Sun

Keith Hobbs

As businesses and public spaces in Los Angeles County gradually reopened over the last few weeks, the data surrounding COVID-19 infection is showing some concerning trends. Last week, after several weeks of decline, L.A. County saw an uptick in not only the absolute number of positive cases, but also in the percentage of positive results. Some are attributing the increase in cases to more testing. However, the increased percentage of those tests that are positive indicates that COVID-19 is spreading more quickly in the community. The data also shows that the average age of those testing positive is trending younger than before re-opening.
While hospitalization for COVID-19 across the county is also again on the rise, the capacity in intensive care units and the supply of ventilators remains stable for the time being. We at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital remain prepared to care for any members of our community who may require hospitalization for complications arising from COVID-19.
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LCHS Graduate Plays Key Role at USC-VHH During Coronavirus

Mary Virgallito

Mary Virgallito’s fingerprints are all over USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Her title as infection preventionist means this isn’t a literal statement — she’ll sooner sanitize and wipe down a window than smudge a handprint on it — but rather metaphorical. Whether it’s food prep, janitorial service or surgery, if it happens at USC-VHH, it’s because Virgallito — a La Cañada Flintridge native who went off, became a nurse and returned home — gave it the thumbs-up.
“This involves every single aspect of what we do, even on the finance side,” she explained in a phone interview. “It’s something that I never really expected but you get a flavor for every aspect of how a hospital functions. You have to have a snapshot understanding of all of the disciplines. It’s really comprehensive. Many times people will ask me what I do and it’s hard to answer them in one sentence.”
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