Health & Heroes, Issue 1


the Director



Welcome, I hope you find Health & Heroes a helpful resource to keep you informed about the many great resources and services available at VA Long Beach Healthcare System (VALBHS). We look forward to highlighting and sharing stories about our Veterans and the dedicated team members who are entrusted with their care. Our mission at VA Long Beach is to provide exceptional care and service to our nation’s heroes, and VALBHS offers a wide array of services at multiple locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. Our facilities include the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center located in Long Beach and community-based outpatient clinics located in Gardena, Laguna Hills, Villages at Cabrillo, Placentia, Santa Fe Springs, and Santa Ana. We want you to have the information you need to manage your health and to live your healthiest life. I invite you to explore us online at and to check out the “About us” link on the left side of the page. There, you can find videos from our VIP Experience platform that allows 24/7 access to a trove of trusted, easy-to- understand health and wellness information about the care and services we offer. I could go on and on about how excited we are to bring you Health & Heroes. I hope you enjoy our publication. Thank you for your service and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Veteran Patient Education Transformed New Inpatient Folders You Can Trust

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A New Lung Cancer Screening Program That Saves Lives



Building a Better Future and a More Healing Environment




Optimizing Access to Healthcare Services Allows Veterans Living with SCI to Live



Helping Civilians Understand What Veterans Go Through Welcome Veteran Resource Center Welcome Placentia CBOC


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Whole Health: What Matters to You?


From Weapons First Responder to Featured Filmmaker BY RENÉE MAGAÑA One Veteran Working Hard for Other Veterans Improving the Veteran Experience, One Volunteer Hour at a Time




Chief Experience Officer Responds to Veterans Questions, Inquiries or Just Plain Scuttlebutt


Walt Dannenberg, FACHE


Mr. Lewis Main, resident of SCI Long Term Care Center (top), Shirelyn Smith, MSN-Ed, RN, Nurse Manager (right)

New whiteboard screen layout

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I n May 2020, VALBHS announced enhancements to the way we deliver patient education. Since then, we have successfully piloted a new program in the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders (SCI/D) inpatient ward and various outpatient clinics within the hospital. And now it is virtually everywhere. We call it The VIP Experience. Your health and recovery are our focus during your stay, and for that, according to evidence-based practice, patient education is vital. The VIP Experience—a Virtual Integrated Platform—delivers virtual education on any patient education topic, when you want it, how you want it, and where you want it. Veterans have traditionally received education either in person or through printed materials. The VIP Experience delivers patient education to your bedside if you experience an inpatient stay. It also delivers education to your computer or mobile device. If you don’t have these, you may also receive video books loaded with education specific to your needs. If you have an inpatient stay, you will receive a welcome video orienting you to the ward or residence. During your stay, you will meet with your interdisciplinary team members and will receive education based on those discussions. This will not replace the essential communication between you and your providers and nursing staff. In fact, it will enhance your discussion of what is most important to you. Upon your discharge, providers may also assign you education to view at

home on video, or in print, if you prefer. Aside from the videos your provider assigns, you can select from the thousands of titles any time you like, through an email link or a QR code. But we do not stop there. The VIP Experience is much more than just an education system. Our goal is to provide a 5-star experience for you. The VIP Experience system also features a communication white board so patients and family members can interact with their doctor at the bedside, surveys for real-time feedback, a movie channel to use during your inpatient stay, a wellness package to help you sleep, and more. In each upcoming issue of this magazine, we will feature an enhancement to The VIP Experience. If you have an idea or a suggestion to better your stay, please turn to the end of this magazine to the “Hey Dustin” section, so our Chief Experience Officer can hear your thoughts. Selected responses will be featured in upcoming issues.

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Folder Inside

Folder Back Cover

Top: Veteran patient Robert Mcgraw with Reijeanne Reyes (RN) and Dr John Awad (MD)

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V A Long Beach continues care for our Veterans long after they leave the hospital. Whether their stay is for weeks or only a day, we know that it is important for patients to understand what to expect when they are discharged. VALBHS is making the transition after a hospital stay easier with a new discharge folder, containing simple instructions that can help Veterans continue their recovery. Materials in the folder include information about the condition that was treated, instructions on medications and their side effects, medical records, and follow-up appointments. Contact information for the hospital, emergency room, and frequently needed services is also included. Providers will review the easy-to-follow checklist with patients before they are discharged so that they can remember important instructions.

Reminders include: □ I have packed all my personal belongings. □ I have someone close to me who knows to pick me up. □ I have discussed with the hospital staff any help I may need after I am discharged home. □ I understand the limitations on my activity and diet and how to obtain my medications and how to take them. □ I understand the side effects of my medications and to call my health care provider if I experience any problems. □ I understand when I need to return for follow-up appointments. The folders contain slots to hold the business cards of the patient’s health care team. The cards contain their contact information, as well as contacts for common services that patients may need. For return trips to VALBHS, visitors can scan the QR code on the folder for a campus map. A hard copy of the map will also be provided, and it will be updated as the campus grows. We’re confident that the information provided in our new discharge folders will improve the patient experience and their recovery after discharge. At VALBHS we constantly seek ways to provide the best possible communication and the best possible outcomes for our Veterans.

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Ann Eapen, MD with patient Wes Schwery

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A NEW Lung Cancer

Screening Program THAT Saves Lives Written by &



V ALBHS has a long history of within a larger team and provides high- quality care to improve survival rates and quality of life. We provide services including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We are excited to offer Veterans several new services. Veterans often have other medical conditions and social concerns that impact their plan of care. Our Nurse Cancer Care Coordinators (NCCCs) help ensure that all Veterans receive high-quality coordination and timely follow-up. Our NCCCs are certified in case management. They help prevent gaps or delays in service. They offer support and resources and help eliminate any barriers during the Veteran’s cancer journey. caring for Veterans with cancer. Our Cancer Program works

VALBHS offers an array of services including imaging, interventional radiology, pathology, and robotic and minimally invasive surgery, chemotherapy, precision oncology, and immunotherapy, as well as participation in cutting-edge clinical trials. We provide cancer care through tumor boards. These meetings help form relationships among providers, which helps improve care. Tumor boards can help a team of providers agree on a plan of care. Our Cancer Committee meets regularly with services across the facility. These include palliative care, nutrition, and social work. This ensures we are working in the best interests of our Veterans. Coordinating care and ensuring a personalized plan is essential to providing the best possible care.

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LUNG CANCER SCREENING PROGRAM Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in Veterans and the general public. But it can often be cured if found early enough. Screening using annual low dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans reduces lung cancer deaths by 20%. Our team has helped other VA facilities start LCS programs. The VALBHS LCS Program anticipates that about 4,500 Veterans will be eligible for screening within the first year of the program. Veterans can contact their primary care providers for referral to the LCS Program. Each Veteran referred to the LCS Program receives a lung cancer risk assessment. If the Veteran chooses to enroll, we coordinate annual LDCT scans and follow-up care. Should a screening show possible lung cancer, Veterans can rest assured that VALBHS has 30 years of experience with management of lung nodules and lung cancer. Nearly 90% of lung cancers are smoking related. Through our LCS Program, we help smokers quit. We partner with Veterans on drug management and other resources to support them. To date, 35% of Veterans who receive support through the LCS Program have either decreased or quit smoking. CANCER RESEARCH The cancer research team includes specialists from oncology, surgery, pathology, and other areas. They partner with pharmacists, nurses, and research coordinators to provide high-level care to our Veterans. VALBHS is one of only 12 VAs to be awarded the NAVIGATE (National Cancer Institute and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment) grant.

The NAVIGATE program helps facilitate Veteran participation in national clinical trials. It offers Veterans access to cancer treatment, prevention, and symptom management trials. Since 2019, VALBHS has opened 26 trials in lung, prostate, blood, liver, bladder, and head and neck cancers. In 2020, VALBHS was selected to be one of 23 Lung Precision Oncology Program (LPOP) centralized hub sites in the country. The aim of the LPOP program is to prevent, detect, and treat lung cancer in Veterans. The cancer research program is an asset for the over 500 Veterans diagnosed with cancer at VALBHS every year. We currently have 18 trials open, with a plan to open 6 more. Our goal is to offer participation in clinical trials to every eligible Veteran. SURVIVORSHIP PROGRAM Cancer survivors are at high risk for complications from their disease and its treatment, and for secondary cancers. In December 2022, we started a Survivorship Program, which provides a tailored and holistic care plan.

Pictured left to right: Lisa Lobdell, MSN, RN, CCM, CHTP; Brian Woods, BA; Diana Clarete BSN, RN, CCM; Kelly Hickey, MSN, RN; Judy Lim, DNP, RN, NE-BC, CRRN, CNL, WCC, OMS; Neha Shah, PhD, CCRP; Ann Eapen, MD; Daniele Juszkiewicz, MD; Neha Patel, MD; Helen Ma, MD; Pankaj Gupta, MD, FACP; Jaymee Nakata, MSN, RN-BC; Hyun Don Yun, MD; Tamayo Johnson, RN; Kareem Torres, BS; Linda Valles-Gutierrez DNP, FNP-BC, TTS; Anthony Valles, Program Support; Carole Arbo, CTR

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Do you want to... • Order and track your prescriptions online?

• Communicate with your provider without calling? • Have fast, easy access to your test/lab results? If so, My HealtheVet is the solution!

HOW TO REGISTER My HealtheVet Account

HOW TO REGISTER My HealtheVet Account

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Go to (scan → ) Select the button Complete the registration form Register

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Go to (scan → Select the button Complete the registration form (make sure to click on VA Patient and Ve Accept the My HealtheVet Terms and C Select the Create your Account button Upgrade (it’s free) to Premium either by th on, VVC and/or in person Register

(make sure to click on VA Patient and Veteran ) Accept the My HealtheVet Terms and Conditions Select the Create your Account button Upgrade (it’s free) to Premium either by third party sign on, VVC and/or in person

RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordinator 562-826-8000, ext. 12563

RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordinator 562-826-8000, ext. 12563

HOW TO REGISTER My HealtheVet Account

RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordi 562-826-8000, ext. 12 Go to (scan → Select the button Complete the registration form Do you want to order and tra Do you want to communicate w Do you want fast, easy acc If so, MyHealtheVet is the (make sure to click on VA Patient and Ve Accept the My HealtheVet Terms and C Select the Create your Account button Upgrade (it’s free) to Premium either by th on, VVC and/or in person Do you want to order and track your prescriptions onlin Do you want to communicate with your provider without c Do you want fast, easy access to your test/lab results If so, MyHealtheVet is the solution! (see back of card Register RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordinator HOW TO REGISTER My HealtheVet Account 1 2 3 SPRING 2023 9

RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordinator 562-826-8000, ext. 12563

Do you want to order and track your prescriptions online? Do you want to communicate with your provider without calling? Do you want fast, easy access to your test/lab results? If so, MyHealtheVet is the solution! (see back of card) Go to (scan → ) Select the button Complete the registration form Register

1 2 3 4 5 6

(make sure to click on VA Patient and Veteran ) Accept the My HealtheVet Terms and Conditions Select the Create your Account button Upgrade (it’s free) to Premium either by third party sign on, VVC and/or in person

Do you want to order and track your prescriptions online? Do you want to communicate with your provider without calling? Do you want fast, easy access to your test/lab results? If so, MyHealtheVet is the solution! (see back of card) 4 5 6

RACHEL HEFFNER My HealtheVet Coordinator

Anthony Streletz, Chief Engineer shares one of the new building designs with Justin Woods, Acting Engineering Business Manager and Savady Chhin, Production Control Supervisor.

Mental Health Outpatient Clinic rendering

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& Building a Better Future a More Healing Environment


T he future of VA Long Beach Healthcare System is all about creating a campus that promotes healing and wellness among its 66,000 Veteran patients. To do so, Anthony Streletz and his team of experts—including outside health care consultants—have created a master plan that will modify what currently exists on campus while also adding new structures that work together to create a truly 21st-century campus. “My primary mission has two sides,” says Streletz, the VA Long Beach chief engineer. “It’s the maintenance and operations of the current facility, and then it’s the development of the future facility to meet the needs of our Veterans and the objectives of the administration.” Streletz, an Army Veteran, says he’s traveled the world to see what works—and what doesn’t—at leading health care facilities. “It’s about being able to envision where things need to go and how things need to be organized,” he says. “I think that’s where I bring value, that and how we implement [that vision].” “You have discussions with providers and other support folks, as well as the administration, and you get this input, and they have a lot of wants and needs but they aren’t really sure

how to bring it all together,” Streletz says. “And that’s what I like doing—being able to understand and bring it all together so it’s a working facility as opposed to just a lot of little pieces.” INTEGRATED HEALTH CARE Although it is one of the country’s leading health care providers, the VA Long Beach campus could be called disjointed. The original hospital was built in the 1940s and has had many additions over the last 80-plus years. But additions without a master plan, which allows you to look at the big picture, is like applying Band-Aids. Patients now go to many different facilities on the campus, which Streletz terms a “menagerie.” “There wasn’t a lot of planning that went into the current layout; it just developed because that happened to be the space or location available,” he says. Patients often say they’re confused about where to go because things are all over the place, he says. One of the most important needs for the future of health care is integrated health care. So one part of the plan is what Streletz calls the Innovation Center. Technology is a major driver for health care delivery and for those who support the

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Community Living Center (CLC) rendering

hospital. This includes the Office of Information Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Informatics, and even Medical Media. Right now, these departments are scattered all over the hospital. They all need to work together, and putting them under one roof would help tremendously. Streletz and his team saw a need to create the Innovation Center, to encourage collaboration. Many support elements have been overlooked as well; for example, janitorial custodial services, logistics services, and engineering services. These types of services bring together many of the materials and resources that are necessary for the staff to provide for patients. When it comes down to it, the current setup is antiquated. “Hospital operations, outpatient operations, and hospital support are all on top of each other,” Streletz says.

A BETTER ENVIRONMENT TO HEAL IN Another consideration for Streletz and his team is that people heal better when they’re not under stress. And knowing your way around campus can create emotional stability and reduce stress. Privacy and dignity are just as important. Private walkways are in the works to make patient transfers more dignified. “Right now, people in the spinal cord injury unit literally go right past the canteen in their beds because that’s the only indoor pathway,” Streletz says. And patients want private rooms. They want family to be able to come in and stay with the patient. “Giving patients the ability to control their environment—lighting, TV, access to the bathroom—if they can do that under their own capabilities, their length of stay will decrease and they’ll get better faster,” Streletz says. One part of the plan is to go from 100 beds, across 25 4-bed suites, to 100 single ensuites with private bathrooms. In addition, the current parking situation is a serious concern. The campus today does have parking, but the parking design isn’t built with the outpatient community in mind. The new designs will fix that.

“It’s time to bring the campus up to date—and beyond—so it’s around for at least another 80 years.”

Parking Garage rendering

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WHOLE PERSON CARE There’s a constant need for more patient care, Streletz says. And the best way to approach that is through whole person care, meaning comprehensive care in every aspect of their health. For that reason, VA Long Beach is adding new facilities for primary care, women’s health, and mental health, and incorporating integrated technology. “Just like when we move to the patient-aligned care teams for primary care, it’s the same thing for many of these other capabilities, particularly spinal cord injury,” Streletz says. “It’s not just the spinal cord injury staff, it’s also the physical medicine staff, it’s the prosthetic staff that supports them, even the neurologists. The improvements we’re making will allow for integrated services.” And these integrated services allow for better whole person care to our Veterans. BEHIND THE SCENES “One of our missions is to be able to provide emergency health care during disasters,” Streletz says. Integrating the utility systems—hot water, steam, chilled water for HVAC—will help maintain the operation of the facility during catastrophic disasters.

Nurses Station rendering

Pictured top and above: Kitchen demolition and completion

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Streletz says there are also plans to build out the underground tunnel system. “We already have one under the main hospital, but by expanding that and connecting our logistics reception area, we’re able to deliver all of our capability, our supplies, and everything like that without interfering with regular public operations,” he says. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW While there are more than 150 projects happening at VA Long Beach right now between new construction and refresh and repair of existing facilities, all have one thing in common: better care for our Veterans. “This is all about how we take care of the patients,” Streletz says. The following projects are now under construction:

• Mental health inpatient facility • Mental health outpatient facility • New community living center • Athletic facilities to support patients with spinal cord injuries

COMING SOON Next, Streletz and team will focus on a new spinal cord injury facility, expected to bring together the full complement of programs covering physical medicine, rehabilitation, prosthetics, specialty care, and other support services. Additionally, it will include a 110-bed inpatient facility with increased long-term care capabilities, outpatient clinics, prosthetics production space, water therapy pool, athletic rehabilitation program areas, and other amenities. LOOKING AHEAD Further out on the horizon is a more modern operatory services tower, which will free up the current tower to accommodate 100 single-patient rooms. But the overall plan has been designed and agreed upon and is in the midst of being executed. The goal for VA Long Beach is to have everything completed by 2030. “Every time we talk about the campus, it’s like, why did they do that?” Streletz says. “Down the road, I want people to be saying, ‘Man, I’m glad they did that.’”

Mental Health Inpatient Clinic rendering

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Surgery Ward room rendering

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Optimizing Access to Healthcare Services Allows Veterans Living with Spinal Cord Injury to Live [ Independently ]


B Being able to freely move around your home and local community is something that many people may take for granted. The ability to get where you need to go to live your life can be a barrier for Veterans with limited mobility. Going into the kitchen to make yourself a meal, into the bathroom to take a shower, or even in and out of your house can pose major challenges. Veterans with spinal cord injury, ALS, or multiple sclerosis who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices can experience these challenges on an ongoing basis. The rehabilitation team at the Ernst Bors M.D. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Center at the Tibor Rubin Long Beach VA have the specialized expertise to complete complex home evaluations. They can make personalized recommendations to improve access within homes and increase participation in health-promoting activities. The gold standard for home evaluations has always been an in-person assessment conducted by multiple therapy disciplines, such as occupational or physical therapy. However, there can be obstacles to completing in-home evaluations. During the pandemic, for example, frequently going into people’s homes was not always an option. Long Beach is the hub site for SCI Veterans living within approximately 200 miles. Traveling those distances on a regular basis is not convenient for either the Veteran or clinical team. It can take weeks to schedule the average 4-hour block of time required for therapists to do a home evaluation. In partnership with the VA telehealth team, SCI therapy promotes physical access to Veterans’ homes by expanding

options for health care services. In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awareness and use of telehealth services has increased across the VA and other health care systems. However, technology alone cannot address all the issues involved in improving access. Working with VA administrative teams, SCI therapy created a new therapy consult to identify Veterans’ needs, and scheduling directives to avoid confusion about whether an appointment is in-person at VA, in-person at their home, or via telehealth. At the core of the telehealth services is the VA Video Connect system. This offers a secure “medical room” for evaluations. The SCI telehealth team will do a test call and address any connection challenges. It is critical for a caregiver to be present in the home. With guidance from VA Long Beach SCI therapists, the caregiver can be directed to tour the areas of concern and take measurements. SCI therapists can then advise the Veteran on what solutions may be possible, and coordinate follow-up. As part of follow-up, a vendor may bring a trial piece of equipment to the Veteran’s house and demonstrate it during a telehealth session with the SCI therapist. Then the therapist and Veteran can see in real time how the equipment will work in their home. If coordinating during business hours is difficult, the VA MyHealtheVet Secure Messaging system allows for encrypted emails with picture attachments to be sent directly to SCI therapists for review. SCI therapists can also respond directly to Veterans.

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18 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience


Let’s see how this can help a Veteran. Mr. M has lived alone in his home in Bakersfield for more than 30 years. With no movement in his legs, he uses his manual wheelchair to get where he needs to go. However, 30 years of using his arms to push

his wheelchair has caused arthritis in his shoulders. This makes getting in and out of his wheelchair and into his bed difficult and sometimes unsafe. He has fallen several times and is wary now of getting out of

bed or being as active as he would like. He wants to seek guidance from the SCI team he has been with since his injury. But he doesn’t know how they will be able to help from such a distance. He has a smartphone but has never used telehealth. Using the new SCI Home Evaluation consult, Mr. M’s doctor told the SCI therapy team about his situation. After a phone call the next day by the SCI therapy team, a telehealth visit was deemed the best way to evaluate his needs given the distance he lives from VA Long Beach. Using the new scheduling directives, the VA can now schedule the telehealth home evaluation. Mr. M’s tech-savvy granddaughter helps on the day of the evaluation to operate the phone and take measurements. Mr. M and his granddaughter open his email, click the link to the “medical room,” and the evaluation begins. The primary recommendation is to install an overhead lift that Mr. M can operate via remote control to move himself in and out of bed. Mr. M was hesitant to have such a big piece of equipment coming into his home. But the team and Mr. M agree that a trial of the equipment, along with the equipment vendor, would be best. After a follow-up telehealth session with the vendor and SCI therapists, the trial is deemed a success. He finds it easy to get on and off, and can control everything himself. The SCI therapy team sends a quote to prosthetics to have the lift installed. Prior to installation, Mr. M uses secure messaging to send a question about a ceiling fan potentially being in the way of the lift. He attaches a picture, and the team responds and confirms that the fan is fine where it is. This technology allows the SCI therapy team to expedite Mr. M’s access to the equipment to allow him to live his life independently. With the growing options for Veterans to access health care services at VA Long Beach, Veterans who have limited mobility or live far from the VA can always have excellent care.

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HELPING CIVILIANS UNDERSTAND What Veterans Go Through Graham Velasco Seeks to Understand – and Share – the Reintegration Process for Veterans

I t all started as a project for Graham Velasco’s master’s program in health care administration. Graham, who is a civilian, is the anatomic pathology supervisor at VA Long Beach Healthcare System. The project involved using population health strategies to create an academic poster that highlights a specific group in need. Titled “Triggered,” Graham’s poster demonstrates transition stress. One side of the poster shows a civilian standing in a war zone. The other side shows the same person as a soldier at a family barbecue—the trauma that is often the return to civilian life. “I was inspired by my brother and a good friend, both Veterans,” he says. “I watched them struggle to reintegrate into civilian life after a life of active duty. I saw the potential to create awareness and strengthen the connection between Veterans and non-Veterans.” Transition stress is feelings of stress or anxiety triggered by a significant period of change or adjustment. When applied to Veterans, it refers to the difficulty of adapting to life after discharge from their service. Graham believes there’s a real need to bring attention to it. “I wanted to understand the enormous expectations we place on the individuals who join the military,” he says. “First, the immense pressure to become a soldier, and then asking them to return to normalcy.” He said he knew his project was going to be something important when his professor cried as he presented it.

Graham completed an internship with the VA as part of his master’s program. After completing his project, his internship coordinator suggested he show it to VA Long Beach’s Chief Experience Officer, Dustin Thompson. Dustin, in turn, showed it to those working with the VA’s new employee orientation (NEO) program. This program highlights the Veteran experience, from recruitment to returning to civilian life. “Triggered” is now featured in NEO. “This (graphic) is the center point for the new employee orientation slide series, for civilians who don’t understand the traumas faced and how profound this journey is—what a Veteran goes through,” Graham says. “Once you see something like that, there’s no going back. Once that’s in your head and you see what they go through, it helps you empathize more and become a more compassionate person as you work with Veterans.” As a civilian working with Veterans, Graham wants to do everything in his power to be of service to them, “whether that involves performing my technical job well, raising awareness for an issue that’s important, or just being a friendly person in the hallways,” he says. “As our medical center director says, ‘There is no better mission than to serve those who have served.’”

or TEXT 838255

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Pictured left to right: Dustin Thompson (Chief Experience Officer), Christina White (Deputy Director), Justin Foster (Experience Office Analyst and Veteran), Walt Dannenberg (Medical Center Director), Michael Fisher (VISN 22 Network Director), Dr. Elizabeth Aubry (Chief of Staff), Bryan Arnette (VISN 22 Deputy Network Director), Dr. Lia Kraemer (Acting Associate Director), Dr. Usha Subramanian (Acting Deputy Chief of Staff).

Chief Experience Officer gives a tour of the VRC to Congressional delegations and press.

Chief Chaplain Peter Ma gives the Invocation.

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W e are pleased to announce the opening of the Veteran Resource Center (VRC) at the Long Beach VA Healthcare System. Many of our Veterans shared their concerns about having to navigate from one service to another, often located in different buildings across the campus. Veterans said this often left them feeling lost and frustrated. They suggested a one-stop shop that would assist them with things like gathering documentation, accessing Veteran benefits, and getting help with housing. The VRC is a welcoming place for Veterans to connect with resources, receive support, and get assistance with various needs. Veterans spoke, we listened. Welcome VETERAN RESOURCE CENTER

Emily Rodriguez (District Representative for State Senator Thomas J. Umberg) presents Walt Dannenberg a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate.

Our new VRC provides: • Release of Information (ROI)/Medical Records • Virtual Health Resource Center (Telehealth training) • Whole Health • Bene Travel • Patient Advocate Office • Social Work (including HUD/VASH services) • VBA (Vocational Rehabilitation only)

• Veteran Service Organizations • Access to My HealtheVet kiosks

VRC staff are experienced in providing the appropriate resources and support to Veterans. They are available to answer questions and provide guidance to those who need it. The VRC is located inside of Building 165, Room 108, near the “Veteran and Visitor Parking” parking lot. If you would like to grab a bite to eat or do a little shopping, it is conveniently located next to our retail store and cafeteria which has a Starbucks. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For additional information, email

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Pictured left to right: Dr. Lina Salty (CBOC Clinical Director), US Representative Young Kim (CA-40), Doug Chaffee (Chairman of the Board of Orange County Supervisors), and Walt Dannenberg (Medical Center Director).

Pictured left to right: Anne Vong (CBOC Admin Specialist), Jane Le (CBOC Admin Specialist), Congressional staffer from Rep. Lee’s office, Jake Fong (former Associate Director), Dr. Elizabeth Aubry (Chief of Staff), Amy Canter (Acting Public Affairs Officer), David Keele (VISN 22 CFO), Christina White (Deputy Director), Charmaine Mainor (Deputy Nurse Executive), Dustin Thompson (Chief Experience Officer).

US Rep Young Kim and Chris Wilson, CBOC Manager.

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J ust 25 miles northeast of VA Long Beach is our newest Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Placentia. We held the Grand Opening ceremony on October 3, 2022. With the lease at the Anaheim CBOC expiring and a need to expand services, a search for a new CBOC building began over a year ago. The search ultimately led to the new location, at 770 S. Placentia Ave, at the crossroads of the 91 and 57 Highways. The new CBOC’s services include primary care, mental health, pharmacy, laboratory, kinesiotherapy, and ultrasound, along with telehealth. With its larger footprint, the CBOC now also offers podiatry and physical therapy, including acupuncture and chiropractic services. In the future, there will be radiology services. Certain procedures, including epidurals, will be available through Minor Procedures/Same Day Surgery areas. CBOC INFORMATION: (714) 223-6000 Clinic Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. For more information, contact:

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Community Based Outpatient Clinics

Cabrillo (Villages) EST. 1999 2001 River Ave., Bldg. 128 Long Beach, CA 90806 (562) 826-8414

Santa Ana EST. 1998 1506 Brookhollow Dr., Ste 100 Santa Ana, CA 92705-5405 (714) 434-4600 Unique Services: • Audiology • Acupuncture • Optometry • PM&R • Radiology • Yoga Gardena EST. 1998 1149 West 190th Street, 1st Floor Gardena, CA 90248-4303 (310) 851-4705

Placentia 770 S. Placentia Avenue Placentia, CA 92870-6832 (714) 223-6000 Unique Services: • Acupuncture • Diabetes Classes • Wound Care Santa Fe Springs EST. 2001 10330 Pioneer Blvd. Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670 (562) 347-2200

Unique Services: • Healing Touch

Laguna Hills EST. 2008

23719 Moulton Parkway Laguna Hills, CA 92653 (949) 587-3700 Unique Services:

• Nutrition • Radiology

Unique Services: • Healing Touch • Radiology • Wound Care

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Long Beach VA Fisher House "A home away from home"

LODGING CRITERIA • Be a family member/caregiver of a patient receiving care through the Tibor Rubin VA medical center. • Live 50 or more miles away from the medical center. • Be deemed essential to the patient's care. • Be able to stay in a non-medical, unsupervised setting. Children under 18 must be supervised at all times. • Veteran, along with a qualified guest, may stay at the Fisher House the day before their procedure.

CARE TEAM • Verify that patient has valid episode of care. • Assure guest meets all the criteria for temporary lodging. • Care team should email Fisher House Manager to assure accommodations are available. • Care team must submit a Fisher House consult for qualified guest.

FISHER HOUSE STAFF • Fisher House staff will contact the guest 24-48 hours after the consult has been received regarding any questions/concerns about their Fisher House accommodations. • Weekends and Federal holidays the administrative office is closed. • VA Long Beach FH staff are available to answer any questions. • Call us at 562-826-5016/5905 • Email us at: -

- -


 Masks are optional in common areas.

  Guests with COVID-19

  All guests must

provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result. (within 3 days)

symptoms must check out of the

HOURS OF OPERATION Monday-Friday 8:00am until 4:30pm. Weekends and Federal holidays the administrative office is closed.

Fisher House immediatley.

SPRING 2023 27

Enroll in Whole Health services today! To learn more about Whole Health at VA Long Beach, ask your health care team to place a consult, or self-enroll by calling (562) 826-8000 x1-3210. View our website at or use the attached QR code to learn more about the Whole Health programs available to you.

28 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience



W hen it comes to Whole Health, the conversation shifts from, “What is the matter with you?” to “What really matters to you?” Whole Health helps people take charge of their health and well-being to live their life to the fullest. The Whole Health approach to care includes conventional and complementary treatment options offered throughout the hospital and also specifically provided by the VA Long Beach Whole Health Program. It focuses on self-empowerment, self-care, and self-healing. This approach places Veterans at the center of their care. It recognizes the importance of your voices in the future of VA health care. VA Long Beach Healthcare System offers a full range of Whole Health services to assist Veterans in their own journeys toward health and empowerment. Goals can include being more active in daily life, stress reduction and management of chronic health conditions, striving for better nutrition and healthier weight, and reconnecting with one’s purpose in life. If you want to make a change in your life, the Whole Health Program is there for you. Our Whole Health Coaches and clinical providers will equip you with the resources you need. Services include: WHOLE HEALTH COACHING Whole Health Coaches assist Veterans with setting health and wellness goals based on their values, and with making plans for acquiring the resources to achieve these goals. Individual and group programs are available. WELL-BEING PROGRAMS These programs promote self-care and well-being (Stress Management, Sleep Education) as well as Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) offerings such as Acupuncture, Mindfulness & Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, and more.

THRIVE THRIVE is a 14-week, gender-specific group that helps Veterans build resilience and define their purpose through a holistic approach, including psychoeducation, experiential exercises, creative arts activities, and community building and support. This group is led by multiple providers across disciplines, such as social workers, peer supports, primary care physicians, psychologists, and nutritionists. TAKING CHARGE OF MY LIFE AND HEALTH TCMLH is a 9-week group where Veterans will go on a journey into the Whole Health Circle. You will explore what matters to you—your values, dreams, and purpose in life. WHOLE HEALTH ON-CALL EDUCATION Whole Health Coaches are available to meet with Veterans on a walk-in basis to provide same-day education on Whole Health and connect them with resources. Visit the Veteran Resource Center Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in Bldg. 165. CREATIVE ARTS AND HUMANITIES PROGRAM Veterans can explore their creative side through the arts, using mediums such as drawing, painting, and storytelling.

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30 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience


FROM WEAPONS FIRST RESPONDER TO Featured Filmmaker by Renée Magaña

T he Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, California, lives up to its name. It has ornate art deco mosaics and intricate wood and painted patterns decorating the ceilings and walls. It was the perfect red carpeted venue for the San Pedro International Film Festival, premiering John Salcedo’s short film, Racial Idiocracy . Within a year, he wrote a script, gathered his film team, and shot and edited the film to get it accepted into his first film festival. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, John served as a chemical weapons first responder in the U.S. Army. He was then recruited to be part of the international first responders for weapons of mass destruction as a federal employee. Over the past 10 years, he has worked for film and television studios as a technical advisor on counterterrorism. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in narrative film directing at California State University, Long Beach. He now owns a media production company.

SPRING 2023 31

Last year, John visited Story Corps, a Creative Arts & Humanities group at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center. In this weekly Whole Health group, participants express themselves through creative arts such as writing, photography, and video. Salcedo shared what drew him to the group. “I am always seeking creative avenues and was surprised to hear the VA supports the arts. I think more Veterans should pursue the arts as therapeutic methods to express themselves to heal emotional scars.” “We have visual storytelling as a tool in our hand to show the world the importance of these values,” said Salcedo’s creative producer, Jankla Gyapai.

“I think more veterans should pursue the arts as

John Salcedo photographed on red carpet at SPIFFest (photo by Renée Magaña)

therapeutic methods to express themselves to heal emotional scars.”

— John Salcedo

32 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience


Panel discussion of Racial Idiocracy includes Toronto & Budapest on screen (photo by Renée Magaña)

In Racial Idiocracy , his student thesis film, Salcedo challenges the structural racism behind the housing segregation regulations and laws prohibiting people of color to buy, rent, or occupy property in the United States during the 1950s. In addressing these issues, he abides by the film’s tagline, “We can’t rewrite history, but we can change the narrative.” Influenced by another director who used the style of film noir, Salcedo presents a new subgenre in his film that he calls “Chicano noir.” Utilizing the classic black and white format along with haunting music evokes the tense emotions in the film.

Salcedo won first place for his creative writing in the Short Script category of the VA Long Beach Medical Center’s Creative Arts Festival. The script has since advanced to compete nationally among other VA facilities. It was also selected for a production scholarship by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in partnership with CSULB. Racial Idiocracy was screened again in March after being accepted into the 2023 LA International Film Festival, and Salcedo has been invited to show his film at underprivileged schools.

SPRING 2023 33

34 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience



OTHER VETERANS Improving the Veteran Experience, ONE VOLUNTEER HOUR


J uliann Desmond is grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at VA Long Beach. Born and raised in Michigan, she was halfway through nursing school when her parents could no longer pay her tuition. Around that time, Juliann attended a Career Day on her campus. There she found out that the military had a program that would pay for school. “I went home and told my parents, ‘The Army will pay for the rest of school—books, tuition, lodging, the whole kit and kaboodle!’ I couldn’t believe it. That was the start of my military career,” she says. Juliann served half active and half reserves, and retired from the military in 1994. She went on to have a fulfilling career as a nurse until 2017, when she retired. By then, she was living in Long Beach and really wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to her all those years ago.

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36 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience


“I get a lot of positive vibes from being able to

make people happy.”

“If it wasn’t for the student nurse loan program, I’m not sure what my career would have looked like,” she says. Four years ago, after deciding she wanted to explore volunteer work, she saw an ad on Facebook looking for non-employee Veterans willing to volunteer as a community representative and as a voice for Veterans. That’s when she knew she wanted to commit to VA Long Beach. Currently, Juliann serves on three different committees: the Veteran Appreciation Committee, the Veteran Experience Council, and the Frequent Shopper Committee. Each has its own focus, but all are committed to helping make improvements in the lives—and VA experiences—of the Veterans served at VA Long Beach. “Going into this, I had no idea what to expect. I just wanted to be a value to them,” she says. “I’m happy to be working on the committees I’m on.” Juliann says she really appreciates the people who ultimately invited her to participate in these committees. “Volunteering gives me a purpose,” she says. These committees and volunteers make an impact on the patients. Specifically, Juliann says she’s received feedback from the nursing staff that patients really enjoy what the Veteran Appreciation Committee does, such as sending cards on different holidays and going caroling over Christmas. The Veteran Experience Council looks to improve clinical and support services. They’ve had great success because of the feedback from surveys they send out to patients. For the Frequent Shopper Committee, volunteers are like secret shoppers, where they go on their VA appointments and provide feedback via a questionnaire, ultimately letting different departments know how Veterans feel they were treated and where improvements can be made. In her role, Juliann has a monthly time commitment of six to eight hours. That may sound like a lot of volunteer time, but Juliann says she gets just as much back.

— Juliann Desmond,

VA Long Beach Volunteer

Anthony Brown, co-chair of the Veteran Experience Council, meeting with Juliann, council member.

“I appreciate meeting new people and looking at what other folks are doing within the hospital system. And I get a lot of positive vibes from being able to make people happy.” VA Long Beach is grateful for the hard work Juliann puts in to help make sure our Veterans get what they need, when they need it.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please contact the Center for Development & Civic Engagement at 562-826-5715.

SPRING 2023 37


Veteran Social Connection – Jesus Martinez from Veterans Standing Together and Kerri Towles (Army Vet and VALBHS Veteran Experience Specialist).

Veteran Social Connection – Del Indelicato (Veteran), Larry Nelson (Veteran) and Bruce Dankmyer (Veteran and Co-Chair of the Veteran Social Connection Committee) who helped plan our first in-person event in three years!

Vietnam War Veterans Day – Quinton Henderson (Veteran and PSA in Center for Development & Civic Engagement) helped showcase photos from soldiers in country in Vietnam and distribute gift bags to Veterans.

Vietnam War Veterans Day – Michael Akametu (Veteran and PSA in the Veteran Resource Center) shared information with Robert Oliver (Veteran).

38 HEALTH & HEROES VIP Experience


Hey Dustin! Chief Experience Officer Dustin Thompson responds to Veterans questions, inquiries or just plain scuttlebutt.

I miss live events. When will you have an in-person event? Now that we are in Code Green, we will have more in-person events. The first one was our VRC Grand Opening on March 7. We hosted our first Veteran Social Connection in three years on Friday, March 31! See photos on page. 38. I have some time on my hands and lots of ideas to improve the VA. Can I sit in on your meetings? We have many opportunities for Veterans to have a voice in our facility. We have a Veteran Experience Council which has several committees, like Veteran Social Connection, Veteran VIP, Veteran Appreciation, Women Veteran, Frequent Shopper, and a host of projects that need Veteran representation. If you’re interested, please contact our Veteran Experience Officer, Anthony Brown or our Veteran Experience Specialist, Kerri Towles at or 562-826-8000, ext. 6678.

My bulldog Percy doesn’t bite people and I take him everywhere. Can I bring him to campus? I'm sure Percy is a great dog, but unless Percy is a Service Dog that has been trained to provide a service for you, you can't bring him to campus. Unfortunately, emotional support animals are not recognized as Service Animals by the federal government. They are considered pets. You are not allowed to bring pets to campus.

What are you doing about parking?

See article on page 12.

Is the Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays only for employees?

No, anyone can buy the products offered by our vendor, Bruce’s Produce.

Are you going to bring back Veterans Orientation?

Do you have free haircuts?

Yes. This spring. Look out for information soon.

We don’t, but we do have a Hair Salon/Barber Shop on campus where both men and women can get their hair cut, in the hallway of Building 2 near the Credit Union. The hours are 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday – Friday (closed on Federal Holidays).

HOW TO REGISTER My HealtheVet Account

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