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Cook Well - Live Better
Hospital President and CEO, Beth Zachary presents Philip R.
Doss, MD with an orchid arrangement at the kick-off of the Cook
Well-Live Better Program.
R. Philip Doss, MD, member of WMMC's Medical Staff is one of a
growing number of physician's interested in helping to stem the
tide obesity in our community, and of its damaging effects on
people's health. In 2012, Dr. Doss sponsored the initiation of a
new nutritional education program called Cook Well -- Live
Better. Through a series of highly structured classes and hands
on demonstrations, students are taught how to select healthy
alternatives to more traditional choices; how to prepare
traditional recipes in more healthful ways; and how small changes
in diet and lifestyle can reduce weight and better enable them to
manage diabetes and the many other chronic conditions that often
Healthy Foods Build Strong
It's no secret that lack of access to exercise and fresh produce
is contributing to a diabetes and obesity epidemic in Los
Angeles. Almost half of all adults admitted to White Memorial
have diabetes, including 80 percent of cardiac surgery patients.
White Memorial is working to change that by providing space and
support for a unique community garden in Boyle Heights. Proyecto
Jardin, located behind the Plaza I medical office building on
land owned by the hospital, is an oasis in the local food desert.
It's a space where families can grow their own food - organically
and free of cost - and participate im healthy gardening and
exercise classes funded by White Memorial.
Young gardeners display their fresh harvest at Proyecto
Jardin - Nutrition Healthy Eating White Memorial Medical Center
Compost is used instead of chemical fertilizers, and there's an
emphasis on water conservation. The garden contains 60 fruit
trees, a wealth of vegetables and a medicinal herb garden.
Mosaics and other art by local artists is scattered throughout.
The garden was created in 2000 through the vision of WMMC Family
Practice resident Robert Krochmal, MD and is now operated by the
nonprofit Proyecto Jardin. Garden volunteers include two interns
from White Memorial's Workforce Development and Volunteer
Program. This program, supported by a generous grant from Bank of
America, teaches local youths vital job skills. They gain
experience by volunteering.
The garden is an important source of free or low-cost fresh
produce for community residents. The hospital's goal for the
garden is to encourage physical activity, provide relief from
stress, promote a sense of stewardship for the land and teach
participants about sustainable environmental practices like
composting and recycling.
"It's very, very important, especially in areas like Boyle
Heights," said WMMC Bank of America Intern Jocelyn Hernandez. "If
you create a healthy community you have a better environment for
The Fitness Path at White
Sara Rubalcava-Beck, Manager, Communications &
Marketing; Sharon McCoy, Vice President, Clinical Services;
Ruth Pupo, RD, CDE; John Raffoul, Executive Vice President
& CFO; Zuska Polishook, Hospital President & CEO, Beth
Zachary, David Miranda, former Field Deputy for Los Angeles
City Councilman, Jose Huisar, and Al Deininger, former WMMC
Vice President for Facilities
Born and raised in Slovakia, successful businesswoman and
philanthropist Zuzka Polishook has always been passionate about
fitness, food and nutrition. So it was only natural that when
she was introduced to White Memorial last year, she immediately
connected with the hospital's Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program
(HELP), which teaches healthy eating and activity habits for
children with or at risk for diabetes.
Zuzka's generous donation made possible the White Memorial
Fitness Path, a half-mile walking path that is open to the
Zuzka got started in her career in Prague, the Czech Republic.
She moved to New York in 1993 and then to Los Angeles three
Zuzka provided marketing for Fortune 500 companies, including
Unilever, Disney and Avery Dennison. In 1999, she began
consulting for a variety of internet and e-commerce clients.
She and her husband Phil have also been involved in numerous
nonprofit organizations, including the St. Joseph Center, a
homeless and family center in Venice, CA; Community Services
Unlimited in Los Angeles, which teaches urban farming and
promotes the local sale of fresh produce; and the SCORE fund in
Los Angeles, which helps youths who have sustained spinal cord
injuries while participating in sports or athletics.
"I'm a huge believer in making opportunities available to
people," Zuzka said.
Zuzka and Phil live in Pacific Palisades and are dedicated to
their two daughters, Mira, 11 and Nina, 8.
Her dream is to see the White Memorial Fitness Path become a
gateway to fitness for the community.
"Nothing would make me happier than to see people walking and
doing something healthy for their bodies."
The Healthy Eating a Lifestyle Program
The Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Program (HELP) Is a pediatric
obesity management project designed to help children and their
families adopt a new, healthier eating style and increase
physical activity habits. HELP emphasizes long-term lifestyle
changes, rather than short-term diets. As a result of these
lifestyle changes, participants are expected to make healthier
food choices, integrate exercise Into their everyday activities,
watch less television and reduce their weight and percentage body
fat. Clinical data is collected and reported to monitor
The program consists of six weekly, two hour classes and a
follow-up session. Included in the class work is a visit to the
supermarket for hands-on experience making health selections,
learning how to read ingredient labels and understand the
elements of good nutrition and good health.
WMMC nutritionists and diabetes educators conduct HELP class
in the produce section of a local supermarket.
The HELP Program is currently being offered at WMMC free of
charge for families with one or more children ages 5-12 years who
are overweight or obese.
Click here for information about registration for HELP
Down the Path To Fitness
Crystal Rengifo, a treatment authorization request coordinator at
White Memorial, is terrified of diabetes, which runs in her
family. So when she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a year ago,
she knew she had to take action.
"The day I had dreaded so much had come," Crystal said. "I've
seen what diabetes does. My mother, my two sisters and my brother
all had strokes because of this disease. I felt I owed it to my
husband and my daughter to make changes."
Crystal lost 20 pounds by improving her eating habits, but she
didn't exercise regularly even though she belonged to a gym. That
all changed with the opening of the White Memorial Fitness Path
in January. Crystal walks the path after work four days a week,
for three miles each day. She's stronger, sleeps better and her
doctor is thrilled with her progress.
The half-mile path, which winds around and through the hospital
campus, was made possible by a generous gift from Zuzka
Polishook, a local businesswoman and philanthropist who wanted to
make a difference. Her vision to provide a safe and accessible
way for the children in the hospital's Healthy Eating Lifestyle
Program (HELP) to exercise was broadened to include patients,
family members, employees and the entire local community.
"The fitness path is there and available to everyone," Zuzka
said. "People who come to White Memorial don't always have a
place to exercise outdoors in their immediate neighborhood. Many
of them are already coming to the hospital so now we've given
them a way to exercise. And they can do it without being an
athlete or needing a gym membership."
Zuzka spoke passionately at the path's dedication and became
Crystal's inspiration. "She motivated me!" Crystal said. "I
thought her gift to the hospital and the community was such a