A native of a rather laidback hometown of Tolosa, the success of this Filipino nurse in the healthcare profession and business in the United States all the more moved her to pay it forward and share her big heart to the least fortunate ones from her homeprovince.
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, just the run-of-the-mill duties of being a nurse.
But, there’s something extraordinary about Vicki: she’s the President/CEO and co-owner of the LA Downtown Medical Center, a position she 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, even with her executive position, Vicki isn’t yet dropping the “hammers and saws” of nursing work.
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, a 36,000-square-foot hospital, 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, with 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 her free lunches for the staff every Tuesday and Thursday, a small investment that 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.
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.
Who is Vicki?
But, who is Vicki Palaña Rollins? How did she trek from her hometown in Tolosa, Leyte to being co-owner of a U.S. hospital system and being an honest-to-goodness philanthropist.
Vicki is a life-time 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, Leyte, 25 kilometers from Tacloban City, Vicki spent her primary 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 upon migrating to the United States and worked her way to becoming a psychiatric nursing and clinical instructor and 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 as quoted by LA Asian Journal, March 2020.
Paying it forward
Prior to their acquiring 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 led 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 trained – since 2012 to 2019 – a few thousands of out-of-school youth on Food & Beverage, Housekeeping, and other TESDA-accredited courses and modules. The youth trainees or students receive 100 percent 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 the training of a good number of families on 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.
After Typhoon Yolanda’s onslaught, Vicki’s Foundation became active in various “corporal works of mercy:” conducting relief operations and giving out cash to thousands of typhoon victims; installing water purifiers and solar-powered cellphone chargers; building temporary shelters; helping rebuild some churches; and partnering with international NGOs in providing transportation assistance and services to Leytenos.
Where the heart is
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 the unfortunate.
Her advice to those chasing success is:
“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.”