These five individuals recently completed an extraordinary record of service to their community. From a broad mix of educations, backgrounds and experience, all five generously contributed their perspective and knowledge as members of the Cottage Health System board of directors—for a cumulative total of 60 years.
When they stepped down from their voluntary posts in January of this year, it seemed fitting, given their years of commitment and involvement, to ask them to share reflections of what they had learned from their experience, to identify highlights that stand out to them, to tell us what the community should— but might not—know about Cottage, and to explain why they chose to volunteer their time.
From left: Edward Birch, PhD, Jeffrey Kupperman, MD, Frederick Gluck, J. Robert Andrews, and Angel Iscovich, MD
Internationally renowned strategic visionary Fred Gluck shares his belief that working in a hospital is a calling whether you’re the head of a medical department, a nurse in the emergency room, or one of the many other employees who “make it tick.” After 10 years of service on the Cottage board, he is more than aware that “it’s literally a 24/7 collection of activities that can mean life or death, health or sickness for hundreds of people, and in many cases there are no second chances.” Others agree, stressing their admiration and respect for the healthcare providers at Cottage, all of whom in their own way have dedicated their lives to caring for others in our community.
Dr. Jeff Kupperman, a well-regarded pulmonologist and critical care specialist, served as chief of staff at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital before joining the CHS board for a nine-year term. He warns about taking for granted the “wonderful, world-class health system we rely on in this community, the physicians and other healthcare providers that we turn to for advice and counsel, care and hand-holding,” reminding us that each of us will be a patient in need of good—“no, great”—health care at some time in our lives, and we should all hope that it’s from Cottage Health System. “CHS is the center of my health world here in Santa Barbara,” he claims. “It has been my nucleus for the 30+ years I have been practicing medicine, and I must admit, I take its excellence for granted.”
What strikes long-time local attorney Bob Andrews is having seen firsthand the importance and necessity of a truly independent board of directors composed of volunteers who have absolutely nothing but the community’s best interests at heart. “Only then can decisions be made that might not always stand the test of other analysis,” he says. “Only with the overall community’s interest at heart are we able to reach out and help other institutions that provide essential services and might not be able to survive without help.” He also stresses his realization and understanding that “great community institutions like Cottage do not just happen but instead need the active participation and leadership of community-minded citizens in order not only to survive but to thrive.” First elected to the Cottage board in 1976, Andrews was twice elected its chair during his total 28 years of service.
Dr. Angel Iscovich reflects on his learning that when the board’s focus is on what is best for patient care, everyone benefits. A leader at the former St. Francis Medical Center, his broad regional experience in emergency medicine management qualifies him to evaluate the effectiveness of Cottage’s vision and to gauge its performance record. After nine years on the Cottage board and through his involvement in clinical and practice management consulting throughout the Western states, Dr. Iscovich remains impressed by Cottage’s “incredibly committed nursing and clinical teams—the best I have encountered across the nation,” adding that with his opportunity to view the delivery of health care across broad geographic regions, he believes that Cottage’s performance is “a cut above” what he sees in other communities.
“I’m not always sure that our community fully realizes how fortunate we are to have the best of the best medical staff and the best of the best facilities right here in our community,” states Ed Birch after completing a nine-year term on the Cottage board. “We are a teaching hospital as well [at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital] and our residents are attracted from all over the country to be with us. It’s another indication of the significance of our hospitals, and the community should be more aware of that.” An experienced education and banking leader with involvement in an array of local not-for-profit organizations, Dr. Birch has brought valuable perspective to Cottage through his broad community
Looking back at significant highlights of their terms, each of the board members recalls special moments. On one end, for Bob Andrews there is the Alice Keck Park bequest which formed the initial financial core of the SBCH Foundation more than 30 years ago, while more recently, there’s the positive use and transformation of the former St. Francis Hospital property into the Bella Riviera workforce homes for Cottage staff. And in between, there are dozens of others, such as the affiliations with Goleta Valley, Santa Ynez, and Rehabilitation hospitals, the successful $110.8 million capital campaign for rebuilding SBCH, along with recruitment and retention of “the finest professional staff any community could hope for.” As to why these busy professionals chose to volunteer on the Cottage board—a heavy commitment of time, with significant preparation for and participation in monthly meetings, numerous assignments, and ongoing discussion of controversial and challenging topics—Dr. Birch affirmed that “we are all careful with the way we choose to use our time…Wanting to be of service in the health sector and knowing that Cottage is the premier healthcare facility in our region, I knew that I would be working with the best and serving with the best…and as such, making the greatest impact on those in our community who needed quality medical care.”
Gluck was both energized and inspired by the time spent deliberating difficult issues, by the openness and candor of all board members, and impressed by doctors’ constructive and objective help in resolving issues that impinged on their personal interests. “Our executive management team, too, is world class. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed both the serious debate and the accompanying banter,” he says with a smile.
“What makes the Ritz, the Ritz?” asks Dr. Kupperman. “It’s the people—and how we all benefit from their treatment and attention…. It’s the people who make this place so special, so unusual, so outstanding.”
Being able to contribute to developing the best hospital environment for our patients, physicians, nursing and support staff was the primary inspiration for Dr. Iscovich, a reflection echoed by all. So, too, was the privilege of doing so. Bob Andrews summarizes: “The deep personal satisfaction that has come from being involved in the making and implementing of decisions for the benefit of our community is something I will always cherish.”
BY JANET O’NEILL | PHOTO BY GLENN DUBOCK