A Look Back: 50 Years of Compassionate Care

January 19, 2024

Watergate and Secretariat grabbed the headlines in 1973. Bell bottoms were oh so cool, and All in the Family was halfway through its five-year reign as the top TV show.

And in the burgeoning West San Fernando Valley, Tarzana Hospital opened its doors, quickly becoming an integral part of the community. Today, as Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, it proudly celebrates its 50th anniversary, embodying a legacy of exceptional and compassionate health care.

Through the eyes of longtime caregivers, we can get a glimpse at the hospital’s incredible evolution. Lisa Markell-Irani, a respiratory care practitioner, has spent nearly 45 years at Tarzana, drawn by the convenience of a job close to home and by the rewarding work.

“Our department has a long history of longevity of service, and there’s a reason why we stay—it's been my second home since I started. It becomes a part of you,” she says. Markell-Irani met her husband, Shahab Irani, at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, where he also worked as a respiratory therapist for 38 years before retiring. “Everyone knows him and knows me—now we’re just ‘Ma and Pa,’ ” she says. “I feel Tarzana is a great family. We created our own family here.”

Markell-Irani explains that longtime caregivers like her have seen a multitude of changes over the years, thanks to the fast-paced evolution of modern medicine, which once called for charting to be done on paper and for syringes to be washed by hand.

“Technology has changed everything,” she says, noting that charting is now done electronically and syringes are now disposable.

“Yet we still survived,” she points out. “Medicine is a second language—you have to understand it to appreciate it and to act upon it, and you have to like what you do.”

Joyce Le Gault, an acute charge care registered nurse in the Mother/Baby unit, loves what she has done since beginning her extraordinary journey at the hospital. Starting as a lab dishwasher at 17 years old, she was able to work her way up thanks to the hospital’s willingness to train and teach.

Left: A groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2013 for the new administrative office building. 

Right: At a blessing of the original chapel in 2011, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson (center) stands alongside Providence Ministry Sponsors, former Chief Executive Dale Surowitz, Chief Mission Integration of the Region Sister Colleen Settles, OP, and chaplains from the spiritual care department.

“Tarzana has always been good to me in that way. They took a chance on me, and I’ve learned so much,” Le Gault says. “As much as you’re willing to learn, they’re willing to teach.”

Over the years, the hospital has undergone a few ownership changes, from Hyatt Corporation to American Medical International, which later became Tenet. In 2008, Providence Health & Services acquired the hospital, and it became Providence Tarzana Medical Center, embracing the Providence mission of compassionate care and outreach to the poor and vulnerable. In 2019, Providence and Cedars-Sinai partnered to jointly operate Tarzana Medical Center. This partnership brings together two worldclass health care institutions to provide a comprehensive suite of medical services in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.

Le Gault recalls that when Providence acquired the hospital, “they had a lot to do to get us caught up to the modern-day world. They’ve brought in their own culture, and they upgraded us. We got newer equipment to work with.”

The women’s and children’s services in particular, Le Gault says, have always been “above and beyond,” and people come from all over the world to have their babies here.

“We really do our best to teach and support them, from helping them with breastfeeding to supporting their wishes for how they want their delivery to go,” she says. “We want to give them the best experience possible.”

Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center has continuously evolved to meet the community’s needs, establishing itself as a leader in various medical specialties. Its heart center, pediatrics program and women’s center have all received high recognition, and its commitment to quality patient care has earned it a spot among California’s top 33 hospitals in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Judith Crown, the health unit coordinator in the NICU, has spent more than 32 years at Tarzana, starting when it was “a small community hospital where everybody knew everybody” and witnessing the evolution to meet that growing community’s needs.

"How have I lasted here for over 32 years? It’s the people I work with … I think about them and that’s what makes me get up in the morning,” Crown reveals. “The job itself I could do anywhere, but the fact that these people are such a family to me is a big asset. It’s a melting pot of all cultures, and they’re just wonderful people. We have excellent nurses who truly care—what more could you want?”

The dedication of caregivers like Markell-Irani, Le Gault and Crown has played a pivotal role in the hospital’s success and reputation as one of the region’s finest medical centers. The commitment to patients, continuous learning and genuine care has been instrumental in making Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center a trusted and essential part of the San Fernando Valley.

Throughout its history, the hospital has been a beacon of hope and healing for the community. The future looks even brighter for the hospital as it celebrates its golden anniversary while embarking on the final stages of the Tarzana Reimagined renovation and expansion. The compassionate legacy of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center will undoubtedly continue for generations to come, a testament to the unwavering dedication of its caregivers and the enduring support of the community it serves.

Previously published in the Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center’s Health Matters Fall 2023 Issue.

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