On an ordinary working day at the Los Angeles Downtown Medical Center (West Temple Street, Los Angeles, California), Vicki Palaña Rollins, a registered nurse, puts on her nursing uniform and goes about with her daily nursing chore – attending to patients, helping move beds, communicating with doctors, administering medicine and checking vital signs.
For the moment, there’s nothing quite exceptional for Vicki on such a day. It’s but going about the run-of-the-mill duties being a nurse.
But, curiously, it’s not. There’s something extraordinary with Vicki: she’s the President/CEO and co-owner of the LA Downtown Medical Center, a position she has held since 2019 when she and her business partner, William Nelson, purchased the hospital system (with its two campuses in Los Angeles County, the Downtown Campus and the Ingleside Campus).
But, how come, with her executive position, Vicki isn’t yet dropping the “hammers and saws” of nursing work?
Well, it’s the template of her hard-earned success, accentuating thus her philosophy of leadership by example and teamwork: personalized attention and care for employees as much as they do for their residents and patients.
“What Vicki brought here to LADMC was a ‘can-do’ spirit. It’s all about teamwork. The days of ivory towers where people are too important to do things, everything’s delegated, don’t communicate together – all that we eliminated,” Nelson, Vicki’s business partner, said as quoted from LA Asian Journal’s “From Registered Nurse to First Fil-Am Co-owner of a US Hospital” (March 2020). “We created a spirit of ‘work together’. We set an example that we pick up the litter and we expect our managers to do everything to work together.”
LA Downtown Medical Center is a 36,000-square-foot hospital which holds 219 in-patient beds and has a 24/7 urgent care center with over 1,600 staff members to deliver quality and culturally sensitive health care to various patients of diverse cultural origins. Its Ingleside campus, which has 118 psychiatric beds, provides an optional setting for treatment and opportunities for therapeutic outdoor activities.
Vicki’s leadership philosophy of “caring for employees as much they do for their patients and residents” is evident in that she implemented free lunches for the staff every Tuesday and Thursday, a small investment she said would contribute to team building within departments. “Personalized care is the philosophy and culture that we’ve been promoting. It takes all of the people in the hospital to unify and look at the mission and vision of the hospital and really work towards that goal,” she said (LA Asian Journal, March 2020).
Under her no-nonsense brand of leadership, Vicki effected a complete transformation for LADMC, that led to its earning a CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) 5-star rating two years in a row after taking over the hospital. The CMS uses a five-star quality system, with 57 quality measures across seven categories from the effectiveness of care to mortality, to evaluate the experiences Medicare beneficiaries have with their health plan and health care system.
But, up close and personal, who is Vicki Palaña Rollins? How did she trek the long way from her hometown in Tolosa, Leyte, to being co-owner of a U.S. hospital system as well as being an honest-to-goodness philanthropist.
Vicki is a lifetime credentialed psychiatric nurse, clinical instructor, a licensed RCFE and ARF administrator, SNF licensed administrator and an acute care hospital operator. She has over 32 years of experience in health care operations, from skilled nursing facilities to assisted living facilities, ambulatory clinics, and acute care hospitals.
A native of Tolosa, 25 kilometers from Tacloban City, in Leyte, Vicki spent her elementary education in her hometown and obtained her BS in Nursing from Velez College, Cebu City.
In the early ‘80s, she began her career as a registered nurse as she migrated to the United States and worked her way to becoming a psychiatric nursing and clinical instructor as well as a licensed nursing home administrator.
“At the time I migrated, if you wanted to be a manager, it was tough because as a woman and a minority, you had to do your homework four, six times more than your counterparts,” she said (LA Asian Journal, March 2020).
Prior to their acquisition of the LA Downtown Medical Center in 2019, Vicki and her business partner, William Nelson, have been operating, since 1998, several skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities and acute care hospitals across Southern California in cities like Long Beach, Torrance, Glendora and Perris.
But Vicki’s panoramic story doesn’t stop with her big success in the professional and business fields. Even more inspiring, it inevitably leads to her “big heart.”
“The reward in life is when you give back,” she said (LA Asian Journal, March 2020).
Sometime in 2012, serendipitously just a year before Super Typhoon Yolanda grossly devastated Leyte, Vicki founded the Corporal Works of Mercy Foundation, Inc. (CWMFI) based in her hometown in Tolosa, Leyte.
The Foundation established the Institute of Technical Skills Enhancement (ITSE), a technical-vocational training center in Tolosa, which has accommodated – since 2012 to 2019 – a few thousands of out-of-school youth for a free training on food & beverage, housekeeping, and other TESDA-accredited courses and modules. The youth trainees or students receive 100% free tuition plus allowance from Vicki’s California-based Rollins-Nelson Group. Many of its graduates are now gainfully employed in Tacloban, Metro Manila, and even overseas.
It also sponsored a farming community in Brgy. Camire, Tanauan, Leyte, which supported a good number of families for hog raising, high-value crops development, vermiculture, and others more.
The Foundation has likewise put up day care centers for poor families and has undertaken medical missions, feeding programs, and livelihood opportunities in various municipalities in Leyte.
During the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda’s onslaught, Vicki’s Foundation became active in various “corporal works of mercy”: conducted relief operations and gave out cash to thousands of typhoon victims; installed water purifiers and solar-powered cellphone chargers; built temporary shelters; helped rebuild some churches; and partnered with international NGOs in providing transportation assistance and services to Leytenos.
Indeed, Vicki has come a long way – from her rather laidback hometown of Tolosa, to becoming a big success in healthcare profession and business abroad, and to sharing her big heart to the least and unfortunate ones.
Asked what’s her advice to starting success chasers, Vicki readily quipped:
“Find your niche, your passion, and find where your heart is.”
Such is Vicki Palaña Rollins, the overpowering Leyteña with “big success and a big heart.”