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More Physicians Coming to South LA

Dr. Francisca Mata received care at the former King/Drew Hospital as a child. Now, she’s providing healthcare in the community where she grew up, completing a new medical residency program at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU).

In partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Agency, the residency programs will train a new generation of doctors to serve patients in South Los Angeles and surrounding communities. For Dr. Mata and her colleagues, the need is great and the calling is personal.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Janice Hahn and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors approved startup funds to establish residency programs in both psychiatry and family medicine. Dr. Mata is part of the first class.

“We have a dramatic shortage of primary care and mental health clinicians in this nation, and this shortage is most acutely felt in communities such as South Los Angeles,”  Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is vital that we empower doctors-in-training to become medical leaders who promote wellness and healthcare equity in a compassionate manner.

“This residency program will create a new pipeline for our homegrown LA County physicians,” added Supervisor Hahn.

The Family Medicine residents will rotate through Department of Health Services facilities in the southern region of the County, including the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, which will be their home base for inpatient rotations.

The Psychiatry residents will focus on ambulatory services in communities that comprise the County’s Service Planning Area 6, which includes Athens, Compton, Crenshaw, Florence, Hyde Park, Lynwood, Paramount and Watts. Their primary training site will be the Kedren Community Health Center in South LA.

CDU is an accredited Graduate Medical Education Sponsoring Institution. The Family Medicine residency started off with eight residents, but is expected to enroll 24 residents by 2020. The Psychiatry residency had four residents to begin with, but is expected to enroll 16 residents by 2021.

BioLA: Innovation Catalyst and Entrepreneurial Hub

The Board of Supervisors has thrown its weight behind Bioscience Los Angeles County (BioLA), a nonprofit corporation created to accelerate the growth and development of the County’s bioscience industry.

Unanimously acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board directed LA County’s Chief Executive Officer and departments to support BioLA’s mission to serve as an innovation catalyst and entrepreneurial hub for government, research institutions and private investors to accelerate startup activity and amplify economic opportunity.

Modeled after the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which catapulted Boston into of the world’s leading bioscience hubs, BioLA will help coordinate academic institutions, research hospitals, investors, startups, mature companies, trade associations and public and quasi-public agencies to advance the pace of innovation.

BioLA will also facilitate local job creation. Currently, much of the talent and commercializable research developed at LA County’s world-renowned universities migrate to other, more developed, bioscience hubs.

“LA County has always been a bioscience powerhouse from a research perspective, but now we are flexing our entrepreneurial muscle,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “LA County has a deep bench of young companies as well as a diverse pipeline of relevant underlying research. BioLA is being formalized to further encourage the region’s top scientists to partner with entrepreneurs and commercialize, as well as to ensure that the core elements of startup activity – infrastructure, capital and talent – exist in abundance for all early stage life science companies.”

A 2014 study by the Battelle Memorial Institute affirmed LA County’s potential for becoming a national bioscience industry leader and identified the enablers that could grow the industry and help LA County realize its full potential. In 2016, under contract to the County, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation released the Los Angeles County Bioscience Industry Cluster Development Implementation Plan. A key need identified by these two reports was the establishment of an entity that could serve as a hub for knowledge, innovation resources, coordination among players, and greater cohesion around biosciences countywide.

As a non-profit corporation, BioLA will be funded through various donations and will recruit and retain staff who will work to promote the Los Angeles region as a national hub for bioscience. It is to have a 12-member founding board which includes Amgen SVP of Business Development David Piacquad. More director announcements are anticipated in January.

Supporting BioLA is only the latest LA County initiative to boost the bioscience industry. LA County has also funded bioscience incubators at California State University Los Angeles and at LA BioMed on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus; set aside 15-acres on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus for the development of a biotech park; allocated $15 million to create a Bioscience Investment Fund for early-stage startups, and partnered with community colleges and industry leaders to implement life sciences apprenticeship programs.

Los Angeles Takes a Stand Against Hate and Racism

By Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
and Councilmember Marcqueece Harris-Dawson

In a moving and emphatic show of solidarity after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, hundreds of people from across Los Angeles County gathered for an interfaith worship service at the First AME Church. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In a hate crime meant to instill fear and incite violence, vandals recently spray-painted swastikas across the faces of Black Panther women on a beloved South Los Angeles mural celebrating African-American history and achievement. A week later, another swastika was discovered in a bathroom at California State University, Northridge, this time with a threat: “Shooting in Sierra Hall 12/12/18.”

The chilling messages came in the wake of white supremacists committing mass murder against Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and against African Americans at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston.

A moment of prayer during the interfaith ceremony at First AME Church. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Unfortunately, in the age of Donald Trump, racist and fear-mongering rhetoric have emboldened purveyors of hate once driven into the shadows by decades of civil rights activism and sacrifice.

The FBI recorded a 17 percent nationwide surge in hate crimes in 2017. Locally, the increase was 32 percent over the last four years, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Rights.

We’ve seen swastikas painted on synagogues in Woodland Hills, North Hills, Westwood, Woodland Hills, Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, and enough is enough.

When vandals defaced the mural that stretches along a block of Crenshaw Boulevard, a potent symbol of black pride entitled “Our Mighty Contribution,” it immediately drew strong condemnation.

The community activist who broke the story to the press sparked a national conversation.

The artist who painted the Black Panther women immediately removed the offensive symbols scrawled across their beautiful and fierce faces, and dozens of local residents came out to clean the surrounding neighborhood.

Holding hands in solidarity at First AME Church. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

How ironic that the vandals who sought to denigrate a community ended up uniting them instead. The mural remains a cultural anchor and a centerpiece of the Destination Crenshaw project to elevate Los Angeles’ African-American heritage.

Coincidentally, while the community was taking action in South L.A., a diverse group of more than 100 government, business, philanthropic, religious and civic leaders were participating in a Days of Dialogue event at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The theme of their discussion: “Reclaiming Civility and Tolerance in the Face of Violence.”

At Cal State Northridge an investigation is under way and patrols have been stepped up.

The university issued a statement condemning the hateful language in the strongest possible terms, and denouncing the threat against the community.

With a troubled history that includes the Chinese massacre and the Zoot Suit Riots, as well as the 1965 Watts rebellion and 1992 civil unrest, in which police brutality ignited powder kegs, Los Angeles cannot afford to take hate lightly.

We must be vigilant against efforts to tear communities apart by animating the hate in some people’s hearts.

In the aftermath of the attack on the mural, the city and county of angels lived up to their name.

Los Angeles rallied — and will continue to rally — against hate because, in the words of an old saying of the civil rights movement, “We are the ones that we are waiting for.”

Mark Ridley-Thomas is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing District 2. Marqueece Harris-Dawson is a member of the Los Angeles City Council representing District 8. This article is republished with permission from the Daily News.

DigiCamp: Ideas and Imagination at Work

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas kicks-off the daylong DigiCamp at Lennox Library.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas welcomed more than 50 students from Lennox Middle School to the Los Angeles County Public Library and Microsoft DigiCamp, and encouraged them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“STEM is an approach to the world – a critical way to understand, explore, and engage with the world – so that you have the tools and capacity to change that world,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said as he kicked-off the daylong event at the Lennox Library. “STEM prepares our youth for the jobs of the future, many of which will require tech skills as automation, digital platforms, machine learning and other innovations change the fundamental nature of work.“

Students from Lennox Middle School explore robotics at the Los Angeles County Public Library and Microsoft DigiCamp. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

As part of the $3.3-million Microsoft Digital Alliance grant, Microsoft provided free software to all of the County’s 87 libraries, in addition to hosting DigiCamps at Lennox Library and Compton Library . At DigiCamps, students can build a robotic finger and program it to move. They also learned about coding, and designed a game to track a dolphin.

“We strive to be a local resource for our communities and particularly for our kids,” said LA County Public Library Director Skye Patrick, who also provided welcoming remarks at the DigiCamp. “We are committed to building strong relationships with schools to encourage them to utilize library services.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has previously reached out to young boys and girls of color to bridge the digital divide, encouraging them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. In October 2015, he hosted the County’s first hack day at Lennox Library, with technology giants Microsoft, IDEO, CGI and NeoGov leading workshops for about 100 youth ages 16-25 on such topics as turning an idea into a product, developing software applications, and launching a career in Information Technology. Students were able to create their own apps and share their innovations with one another.

In March 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas spoke at a DigiGirlz Day event, co-sponsored with Girls Build LA, that urged middle and high school girls to identify a problem in their communities and engineer a plan to solve it. Students from Grace Hopper STEM Academy in Inglewood and Orville Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet in Westchester were among those who participated.

In October 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas welcomed more than 100 middle and high schoolers from across Los Angeles County to the Microsoft YouthSpark DigiCamp Extravaganza, to encourage them to consider careers in technology during a two-day bootcamp, held in Microsoft Square at L.A. Live, as part of a series of programs to benefit the community.

“Keep exploring. Keep dreaming. Keep asking why,” concluded the Supervisor. “The power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work will all change the world.”

Lennox Middle School students enjoy science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while engaging in skill-building. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Days of Dialogue: Reclaiming Civility & Tolerance in the Face of Violence

Amid a rise in gun violence and hate crimes that have traumatized communities across the nation, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center convened more than 100 civic, business, community and religious leaders for a Days of Dialogue session around the theme of Reclaiming Civility and Tolerance in the Face of Violence.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the Dialogue. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

The gathering encouraged constructive civic engagement as a powerful rebuttal to such horrific acts of violence as the recent mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, as well as the targeting of Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and of African Americans at the Mother Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston.

“We have seen dark days before and there will surely be more to come but dialogue creates a bond that will help us withstand any attempts to divide us,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told those invited to the dialogue at Cedars-Sinai’s Harvey Morse Auditorium. “As community leaders, it is our responsibility to stay focused on solutions and never waver from this commitment.”

“Dialogue is the first step in constructively dealing with the range of issues that we are bombarded with,” said Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles Co-Director Avis Ridley-Thomas. “We very rarely take the opportunity to just sit down, think, and discuss the various ways that we can tackle these challenges.”

“At Cedars-Sinai, part of our tradition is that we were founded by the Jewish community at time when Jewish physicians and nurses weren’t free to practice everywhere. We are proudly aware of that heritage and are dedicated to working in the service of all communities,” Cedars-Sinai Senior Vice President of Community Relations Arthur Ochoa said. “As an institution that stands counter to what that represents, it is appropriate for us to be a partner and to do what we can to host this event.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA Police Chief Michel Moore, and LA Council President Herb Wesson at the Dialogue. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence, said, “I hope today’s dialogue will inspire more conversations about how to back away from incivility. We need leadership to do this and the fact that we are holding this conversation as leaders, we are going to be able to counteract the rise of intolerance, hate and aggression.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said, “LAPD has been involved with Days of Dialogue since its inception and we are pleased to continue our engagement with this vital and necessary resource. As participants, we see this as an opportunity to listen and understand various perspectives.”

At the conclusion of the dialogue, participants noted that bringing leaders together to talk about what can be done to address the epidemic of violence is as healing as it is necessary. Others said the dialogue was transformative, and would allow communities to emerge stronger and more resilient from tragedy.

For over 25 years, Days of Dialogue has provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. The sessions have included political town hall forums in large auditoriums, as well as more intimate gatherings at neighborhood libraries and churches.