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Outstanding Personality: Carla Valenzuela

Carla Valenzuela, Director of Business Development of the Coastal Communities Hospital

With a commendable trajectory of more than twenty years in the health area, with an unbreakable determination to help those who are most vulnerable, she has dedicated herself tirelessly to educate the Latino community of Orange County, to guide it and introduce it to existing health programs so it may triumph, healthfully and more sure of itself, to repay this generous country with her arduous work, optimism and energy for the benefit of all.

During her years of apprenticeship and faultless work, she traveled through the Central City Community Health Center where she offered leadership and controlled the functioning of clinics in Los Angeles, and Orange County; at Tenet Health Systems, Inc. for more than nine years as Associate Administrator/Business Director at JFK Memorial Hospital, Rancho Springs Medical Center, Monterey Park Hospital, Suburban Medical Center, Garfield Medical Center and many other health centers in southern California.

Carla Valenzuela has a Bachelors of Science in Health Service Management from the University of La Verne and she is the Director of Business Development at Coastal Communities Hospital in Santa Ana, California since August 2007.

Valenzuela is responsible for applying strategic initiatives at the hospital, including business development, doctor contracts, marketing, program development and government and community relations. Her vast knowledge and innovative style have led her to develop and implement new programs, improve existing services, forming strategic alliances valuable to the community and business, offering access to quality medical assistance to the Latino community.

Tireless community activist, Valenzuela has served as a board member of? various organization in southern California: The AQMD Ethnic Advisory Council ?Latino Caucus; a Member of Soroptimist International of Paramount; an Ambassador for the City of Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce; Second Vice President for the Monterey Park/Rosemead Soroptimist; Charter President for the Whittier Optimist Club; Executive Director on the Board of the Southwest Family YMCA, a Board member for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure ? Inland Empire Affiliated Chapter, a Member of the Southwest Riverside County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Rotary Club member in Temecula, and a member of the National Latina Business Women?s Association. Most recently, Ms. Valenzuela served as a board member for the Hispanic Outreach Taskforce (H.O.T).? She is currently a board member (Co-Chairman) for the Southern California Medical Group.

“Carla is a high-energy, enthusiastic person that loves life and lots of contact with people, all kinds of people. She is devoted to making life better for others”. Craig G. Myers – CEO – Coastal Communities Hospital

?My father was born at Pilares de Nacozari, state of Sonora, and then his family moved to Tecate, Baja California. My mother is from Juarez, her parents had a livestock farm with horses and a great orchard of fruits and vegetables, they came from a farm family. My great-grandmother was part Mescalero Apache. She would talk about being born on an Indian reservation in Morenci, Arizona and we were interested in learning more about our Indian-American roots,? says Valenzuela with profound pride.

Her parents, Carlos and Consuelo met in Tecate. One day a friend of her mother invited her to visit the Valenzuela family in Tecate. Carlos met Consuelo there. She was engaged and about to marry but Carlos insisted and courted her persistently. After an engagement of five years they were married in Juarez, her mother?s home, but the family was now living in Los Angeles, they had moved there a few years earlier in search of a better life. Consuelo spoke English perfectly and worked at the May Co. in downtown Los Angeles. The newlyweds moved to East Los Angeles where Carla was born. Her parents bought their first home in Whittier. Her father advised his brother to also buy. ?What I will always remember about my parents is that they worked very hard, my mother raised us, five children, my father worked construction and retired after 25 years of intense labor,? says Valenzuela.

His work was exhausting but paid relatively well, although there were times he didn?t have enough to feed his family, ?Our home had a few pieces of furniture, at a young age I realized that life was hard, and I saw others had a lot and we never did. Our father always told us that if we wanted to live from a shovel all of our lives, not to go to school, but if we wanted a better life we had to go to get educated,? says Valenzuela.

Her father wanted to be a doctor so with his cousin he enrolled in a college to start his studies in medicine but unfortunately his mother got sick and he had to help in her care. He moved to Tecate where all his dreams came to an end, but he never tired of telling his children about the importance of education and his children followed his advice. ?I remember a particularly rainy season when my father couldn?t find work and he had to ask for food stamps,? says Valenzuela. She was very ashamed about all of this, besides they lived in a mostly American neighborhood, during the 70?s, some asked why their skin was so dark, and why they ate pork, they called them Mexicans deprecatingly. Valenzuela grew up with a lot of insecurities; she didn?t even want to go to the beach because she thought she was already dark enough, not a positive attitude for a young girl, but all that lead her to be very demanding of herself, she swore not to forget her roots and she excelled in her studies.

How many siblings do you have?

We are five, I am the oldest, my brother is two years younger and his name is Carlos, then comes Adriana, followed by Carmela, and the youngest is Cristina. My brother is an engineer and lives in Newport Beach.

What grade school did you go to?

Aeolian Elementary School. My father bought the house near to the school and that?s where I went, I didn?t know English, I only spoke Spanish until I was five, but I learned it almost immediately. That?s why when people come from another country that don?t know the language I understand how they feel; one has to learn and assimilate to the new culture quickly.

Were you responsible for the care of your siblings since you are the oldest?

My mother was totally dedicated to us, only on those occasions when we didn?t have enough she worked as a bilingual assistant at a school, also at the school district and sometimes at a hospital in East LA, PBX, as an operator, during the night shift from 11PM to 7AM. My father would take her and pick her up because she didn?t drive and besides, we didn?t have money for another car.

“When we were kids my siblings and I would go to Thrifty?s for an ice cream cone for a nickel. I started playing the accordion and participated in many events, I won several trophies until I was 14, and at the same time I was part of a ballet folklorico- I stayed with them until I was 20. My two sisters danced professionally, I wanted to learn also and one season we danced at the inn with the Mariachi los Camperos,? Valenzuela recalls amused.

Where did you continue your studies?

Los Nietos Jr. High, located in the poor area of Whittier where there were many Latinos; I went there only for middle school because it was a dangerous neighborhood; there were a lot of gangs. My parents sent me to a Catholic school, Saint Paul High School from which I graduated. Because of the enormous sacrifice they made to send me to this school I promised myself not to let them down, I studied a lot and graduated with straight A?s.

At Saint Paul?s she is offered a continuation of her education at the best colleges, but she feels insecure and does not realize the greatness of the offers, her parents even less, so she chooses to do what her classmates do and goes to a college near Whittier, Rio Hondo Junior College where she got her AA, to then see what life brings her.

“At 17 I took my first job at the Whittier Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, in the filing department, and I never again left the world of hospitals. I worked for almost 17 years, then became a secretary, a manager, I left for six months and when I returned when they offered me the job of Provider Relations Consultant and Care Manager,? says Valenzuela.

She continued bettering herself while she worked as a director at one of the hospitals of Tenet Health Systems, they offered to pay for her studies at La Verne. She married, had a daughter, Gabby, goes to night school at La Verne, kept a home and graduated with honors.

When did you marry?

In 1990 and it wasn?t long before I was pregnant with Gabby, but my marriage didn?t work out. My father was having heart trouble and I always wanted him to have a grandchild, so I rushed the wedding and gave him the grandchild even though I had to continue to work and go to school. But she is a lovely daughter, who my father enjoyed almost a year. That was really important to me. My father wasn?t very affectionate, he didn?t show his feelings much, he was always very strict, and this child totally changed all that. He would buy her toys, drinks; they enjoyed every moment of it. My parents had gotten a divorce years earlier, but before he died, mom took him to her house to live and took care of him with dedication to the last minute. It even seemed they would get back together had my father recuperated. It touched me to see them together and knowing my father ended his days beside her gave me peace.

Valenzuela got to know Orange County better when she was Executive Director of Anaheim Memorial Hospital. “I was surprised to find in Anaheim, where Disneyland is located, the most special and happiest place on earth, so much poverty, so much necessity. So I decided to work a lot more to alleviate that community in some way. And that?s precisely what we are doing with Coastal Communities Hospital, where most people speak Spanish, 90% are monolingual, but then there are those who speak English, Vietnamese, and we must serve them all. And I am able to do all this, thanks to my group of professionals who do what they should for the community- be it Friday night, Saturday or Sunday: Marcela Romero, Gloria Aguilar, Alma Tamayo, Raquel Luna, Anna Chau, Simin Makuie and Lorna Freeman, work tirelessly, with total dedication. Our motto is to serve all those who need services, even when we don?t have the money to do a better job because of our limited resources, we have been really successful at working with community organization of the county. Our obstetrics and gynecology program, OB, offers all a woman could need, tests, studies, prenatal care, classes, free transportation, all we ask is that they deliver their babies here, at Coastal Communities Hospital, because that?s what is fair.

Catholic Charities is one of the organizations with which we work; we offer marital courses for partners to help them live harmoniously. At Catholic Charities 80% of the graduates are from our classes, and in the last few years we?ve had larger classes. It?s surprising to see the men at the beginning, big machos, but by the end of the course they?re carrying their children, share with their wives, carry the diaper bag and say, ?I must be more responsible, I must do this for my children.? Most have no formal education, no one has taught them anything, they are like sponges, they are so hungry to learn, and you witness a beautiful transformation. We work every Friday evening and we?re very gratified to see the results, see so many miracles”, dice Carla.

“The unconditional love and generosity that Carla offers genuinely, have transformed the life of many families of our community. Its professional and human collaboration in the program presented by Catholic Charities of Orange County every Friday in the Coastal Communities Hospital, has been vitally important for the success that has obtained. Around 253 Latin couples of low income, expecting a baby or with one already born, has benefitted not only by the training that fortifies their relationship and improves their interpersonal relations, but by the extraordinary hospitality of a woman who gives herself oboe what her position as Director requires. With her wonderful personality and human quality Carla makes the difference in the development of a Latino Community that is interested more and more in improving”. – Luz de Lourdes Vela Community Outreach Coordinator -Catholic Charities of Orange County.

“We also work with Mother?s Nutrition, giving vouchers for baby food; it has 57 stores throughout California. Our next step will be the Vietnamese community, many families go to the Mother?s Nutrition centers and you?re surprised when you hear them say, ?Buenos dias! They go there because they are treated well and respectfully”, concluye.

What is your message for the Latina woman?

That she has the power and intelligence to become whatever she proposes; and if she has no direction nor guide, or grew up with insecurities, there are places like our hospital where we give educational chats and organizational data designed to help her. I had people who believed in me and gave me the self confidence to become the person who I am today. Being better is not easy, it?s a lot of work and you must take on many responsibilities, but this is the only way to reach higher goals, where you feel happier and satisfied. You only have to discover what you want to be, what fulfills you, what is your talent, you have to look for it, and when you find it, learn how to hone it and use it professionally. If you have already had children, we have information regarding existing resources. We also work with an adoption agency who finds good homes and offers their adopted children a good family and education; often these girls don?t want these children because they weren?t planned and they are not ready. In their case this is the best possible solution.

We also work with Valley High School, with the program High School Inc., through which we guide students so that they focus on their chosen career, graduate and are able to support themselves before they have children to support. But it seems when speaking with some girls that the only career they have in mind is getting married and having babies. They say it is part of the Latino culture but I have four sisters and none of us had a baby at 15, because we all aspired to more. And the worst thing is that some of them don?t want this but feel compelled, that it is the only thing to do in life.

Some young girls who had babies and think their world is over, I say, ?You know what? Even if you?re not married, even if the father is not responsible, you have to be for your child; there are resources to continue your education because you will have this child for ever and you deserve a good life. Many girls with a lot of effort succeed, they change, they get their degrees and by themselves have progressed and support their children and live productive lives.

??Carla Valenzuela is one of those rare business professionals with a good understanding of business and a big heart for the community and especially young families in need.?

Rev. Lee de Leon – President – Templo Calvario CDC

What do you like to do?

I like anything related to nature, running, climbing, I enjoy activities in the open air, I appreciate my surroundings. I also enjoy solitude, reading, being alone with myself. But my great vocation is helping those in need, that fills my soul. Before I married I was a volunteer for the ?Good Samaritan,? we?d go to places in Baja California, there was no airport, we?d fly on a small plane that landed on a dirt road. We were picked up by buses that took us to places where we?d spend the weekend and where needy people would come to receive clothes and other useful things we brought. The pilots, doctors and nurses did not speak Spanish, I was the translator and I?d ask myself, ?Where are our people who don?t help by volunteering?? Being there a weekend was a marvelous experience, I enjoyed helping.

Carla Valenzuela is an extremely generous person and her greatest satisfaction is to work tirelessly to improve her community and offer information regarding available options. ?More than 2000 people a month come to the emergency room in this hospital, this hospital is not big enough for all these people but they come because there is a doctor or they don?t know where else to go; from here we send them to clinics that don?t charge, they also learn about food stamps, created for those with low resources, but many Latinos don?t use them because they are afraid of being deported, or that they will have to pay when their children are taking care of. They need to be better informed and confide in the people who work for them like us here at Coastal Community Hospital of Santa Ana. Call Marcela Romero at (714)290-2664 for more information regarding meetings we offer about food stamps and other options. Here we give you tools to care for your children and yourselves because you have to be healthy in mind and body to keep your family healthy. And a very important message for the Hispanic woman: you must take care of yourself first of all because to take care of your family is a very hard job and you must stay very strong to be the pillar of everyone in your home”, assures Carla.

Valenzuela lives in Whittier and dedicates most of her time to the Latino community of Orange County.

* By Silvia Ichar interpreted by Peggy Edwards

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