Our Visionaries: Leaders who have changed the course of public health

In honor of those who have had a significant impact on public health in our community and beyond, particularly now with the proliferation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we recognize the following leaders as part of our 50 Visionaries, people who have inspired our work of providing affordable comprehensive health care to people in need.

Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is a noted surgeon and public health advocate who has dedicated his career to improving the efficiency of health care systems and lowering the cost of delivery, so that everyone can afford the care they need. His commitment to compassion, access and equity has served as an inspiration for Venice Family Clinic providers.

Heather Edney
Heather Edney was an early advocate for the health and well-being of people who use drugs and an early board member of Common Ground, which is now Venice Family Clinic’s HIV prevention and treatment program. She was instrumental in crafting a unified definition of harm reduction, a set of strategies and ideas that seek to minimize the harmful effects of using alcohol and other substances rather than ignoring or condemning them.

Zev Yaroslavsky
Zev Yaroslavsky was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and a key leader in resolving the Los Angeles County health crises of 1995 and 2000. He brought federal funds into Los Angeles thorough the 1115 waiver, effectively saving the county’s health care system and developing the County Public Private Partnership program. Additionally, he supported Venice Family Clinic’s takeover of two county facilities on the Westside of Los Angeles.

Donna Shalala
As the former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala championed programs critical to Venice Family Clinic patients. Despite significant public criticism, she was a strong advocate for needle exchange services, which recognized the dignity of people with substance use disorders and demonstrated compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS. She was also instrumental in the development of Early Head Start, giving infants and toddlers in low-income families greater opportunity to succeed.

Coley King
Dr. Coley King is the director of homeless health care at Venice Family Clinic. He continues to be influential in Los Angeles in advancing street medicine, an innovative and specialized practice that brings desperately needed medical care to people experiencing homelessness. He has trained countless residents in this practice, and is currently spearheading an effort to develop guidelines that will help more providers adopt this approach.

Nancy Pelosi
As Speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi shepherded the Affordable Care Act to its passage, ensuring that it included a public health insurance option. Without her leadership and guidance, the ACA would have likely floundered, thereby severely limiting access to health insurance for Venice Family Clinic’s patients.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee is the first executive director for Covered California, overseeing the planning, development, administration, and evaluation of the health benefit exchange. His leadership ensures that California’s neediest residents have access to critical health care coverage.

Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer helped to pioneer community-based treatment protocols to deliver high-quality health care to people living in poverty in the U.S. and other countries. He has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality.  His work has been often cited within the Clinic while designing our health approach to social equity.