Richard Atlas was a tireless champion for children, directing his generous philanthropy to programs enhancing early childhood development for children from birth to age three. His investment in Venice Family Clinic’s nascent efforts to re-envision our pediatric care program in the early 2000s can be seen as the seed that later blossomed into the incredible comprehensive care model showcased at the Lou Colen Children’s Health and Wellness Center and across our other clinic sites each day.
Our connection to Richard, his wife Lezlie and their Atlas Family Foundation began in late 2003, when the Clinic started to shape and share our vision to transition from being a medical provider aiming to meet patient needs as they arose, toward becoming a true medical home for the children we serve, focused on providing a lifetime of comprehensive care. Rich agreed to underwrite a new role, a child development coordinator, who was responsible for coordinating the systems already in place for young children’s care and integrating important new assessments, referrals and resources to strengthen our families. This first step was a success and led to a longer-term commitment from the Atlas Family Foundation that over time has helped us continuously innovate our care model. We were able to consider not just our staffing, but also how the physical environment impacts patient experience. We trained team members in the Touchpoints model of care, which helps providers strengthen their connection with caregivers to enhance services for young children, and Rich later introduced us to trauma-informed care, which acknowledges the role that trauma plays in each person’s overall health. The care we provide has been bolstered by both Touchpoints and trauma-informed care; both are key aspects of the approach our providers use each day.
In our work with Richard and Lezlie, achieving this vision was always about bringing people together. Rich hosted breakfast meetings to discuss our new model, inviting friends and colleagues and asking for their support. We were able to launch our transformation and to sustain it, as a result. Over the years, our meetings with Rich almost always included discussions of potential new partners, and he has never shied away from picking up the phone to advocate on our behalf, no matter how closed a door seemed. Many of our supporters today are connected to us because Rich believed in us.
Rich said from the start that when the Atlas Family Foundation partnered with an organization, they expected that relationship to be enduring, and we are grateful for this long-term commitment. We are saddened that we will not be able to share our future successes with Richard, who passed away on November 12, 2020. Those of us who knew him at Venice Family Clinic have deeply mourned his loss, and will always treasure the memories of time spent in his presence. A meeting with Rich was sure to be less about dollars and cents and more about him taking time to understand the true experience of the people on the frontlines. It is heartening to look at all we have been able to achieve because Richard and Lezlie Atlas, through the Atlas Family Foundation, trusted and invested in our highest vision, and allowed us to continue pursuing it each day.