Western University of Health Sciences brought vintage Hollywood glamour to its gala fundraiser A Tribute to Caring on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The annual event raises money for student scholarships and honors local organizations and individuals who contribute to the community. Guests were welcomed with scenes from “Casablanca,” a free photo shoot, a marquee with flashing lights and a silent auction featuring vacation packages, fine dining, autographs and other special packages.
L.A. Care Health Plan and its chief executive officer, Howard Kahn, received the first Access to Caring award. The Helen Woodward Animal Center and its president, Michael Arms, received the Corporate Humanitarian award.
Frank Mottek, who hosts the KNX Business Hour on KNX 1070 and serves as a reporter and business news anchor on the KTLA Channel 5 News @ Ten and the KTLA Morning Show, was the master of ceremonies.
Michael Arms became president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. in 1999. The center’s mission is “People Helping Animals and Animals Helping People,” with programs in animal adoption, education, therapeutic riding, “AniMeals” and Pet Encounter Therapy.
Arms talked about the day he dedicated his life to helping animals. While working for the Humane Society in New York, he was beaten and stabbed while trying to help an injured dog. The dog responded by licking him back to consciousness.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that was the best day of my life because it gave me purpose,” he said. “It’s my passion now.”
The center trains shelter workers from all over the world to learn more effective ways to find homes for orphaned pets, and also provides humane education to more than 33,000 children annually.
The center’s Therapeutic Riding program helps children and adults with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, stroke recovery and learning disabilities develop increased balance and muscle control, improve concentration and short-term memory, and enhance their confidence and self-esteem.
Arms organized the “Home 4 the Holidays” adoption drive, which takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The number of participating shelters increased from 14 in 1999 to more than 1,300 worldwide, and the number of annual adoptions increased from 2,500 to more than 300,000.
“The best part of my job is watching animals go home to loving families,” Arms said.
Howard Kahn accepted the Access to Caring award on behalf of L.A. Care. His organization is dedicated to improving the health of the community, he said. L.A. Care is working with WesternU’s Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions to improve services for people with disabilities.
“We help county clinics adapt their building and train their staffs,” he said. “(This) provides a real difference in quality of life.”
Kahn recited a quote from George Washington Carver: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”
“The question is, the challenge is, how well are we going to live,” Kahn said.
L.A. Care is a community-accountable health plan serving low-income residents of Los Angeles County through a variety of programs, including Medi-Cal, Healthy Families and Healthy Kids.
With nearly 800,000 enrolled members, L.A. Care is the largest public health plan in the nation.
Kahn has served as CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan since 2001. He has more than 20 years of experience in health care, leading for-profit and non-profit organizations with an emphasis on serving diverse and vulnerable populations.
As L.A. Care CEO, he is a key architect of the Children’s Health Initiative of Greater Los Angeles, a coalition of more than 50 diverse community organizations that is dedicated to providing health insurance for every low-income child in L.A. County. Under his leadership, the initiative has successfully raised more than $110 million through a public-private partnership, and currently provides health coverage to approximately 40,000 children.
WesternU President Philip Pumerantz thanked guests for attending the event.
“I think you get the sense today that we’re not just a collection of colleges,” he said. “WesternU is a family of people who care about other people and students who will care about patients.”
The event was excellent and she appreciated the fact that the awards highlighted local talent, said Dr. Kamlesh Dhawan, assistant professor of medicine and cardiology at UCLA. Her husband, Dr. Vijay Dhawan, is medical director of Bella Vista Medical Group and their son is a third-year College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific student at WesternU.
“I think the honorees were well chosen,” she said. “The program was to the point. We will be happy to be here again next year.”