Remembering Dr. Paul Torrens

A Message from Dean Ron Brookmeyer to the UCLA Fielding Community...

It is with deep sadness that I share the news that Dr. Paul Torrens, professor emeritus in the Department of Health Policy and Management, passed away on December 22.

A remarkable teacher, mentor, advocate, connector, and leader, Dr. Torrens’ passing is profoundly felt by members of our community. He had an extraordinary ability to inspire and guide his students, and was unwaveringly dedicated to seeing them thrive.

Dr. Torrens joined UCLA in 1972 and in just two years earned the School of Public Health Alumni Association’s award for distinguished service to teaching. He continued to receive recognition in this area throughout his career, including a 1997 Public Health Students Association Teaching Award. Students who were taught and mentored by Dr. Torrens have shared over the years that his interest, guidance, and care were pivotal to their success. I didn’t have the good fortune to know Dr. Torrens personally, but have long admired his impact on the many UCLA Fielding students who are now among Southern California’s foremost healthcare and health policy leaders. Dr. Torrens’ many mentees carry on his tradition of ensuring that the next generation of changemakers have the support, challenges, and opportunities needed to make meaningful public health contributions. This is a profound legacy and one that will only continue to increase over time.

Although a physician by initial training — Dr. Torrens earned his medical degree from Georgetown University and his master of public health degree from Harvard University — he went on to hold numerous management positions in hospitals and health organizations. Dr. Torrens, also a health policy expert, was an advisor and consultant to governmental and non-governmental organizations over the years, here in the United States and abroad in eighteen countries. Dr. Torrens’ considerable service over the years included the Board of Directors of Blue Shield of California as well as the Board of PacificCare Behavioral Health of California. He was also a member of the Financial Solvency Standards Board, Department of Managed Care, State of California, and the Attorneys General Task Force on Charity Care.

During his tenure here at UCLA Fielding, Dr. Torrens held numerous leadership and service positions, in addition to his role as professor, including division head of Health Services and Hospital Administration, director of the MPH for Health Professionals degree program, and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee. Dr. Torrens also served for two years as a consultant to the Office of Health Affairs in the UC Office of the President.

Creating a space for dialogue and advancing ideas among the healthcare, health management, and health policy community — both academic and practice-based — was a priority for Dr. Torrens. He founded a forum for this purpose which was renamed in his honor in 2016, The Paul Torrens Health Forum at UCLA FSPH. In 2019, the Paul Torrens Chair in Healthcare Management was established at UCLA Fielding, based in the Center for Healthcare Management and the Department of Health Policy and Management. The chair honors Dr. Torrens and supports the teaching and research activities of a faculty member with healthcare management expertise, in perpetuity.

Over the course of Dr. Torrens’ distinguished career he received numerous honors and awards, including an Award of Merit from UCLA FSPH’s Health Policy and Management Alumni Association and an Alumni Award of Merit from the Harvard School of Public Health. He was recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Executives in Health Care in Los Angeles” and the fourth edition of the book he co-edited, Introduction to Health Services, was noted in 1993 as one the 100 Best Health Sciences Books. Dr. Torrens received two awards of Lifetime Achievement, one from the Partners in Care Foundation and, separately, from the Health Care Executives of Southern California.

We extend our sincere condolences to Dr. Torrens’ family. Dr. Torrens’ dear friend and colleague Dr. Leah Vriesman has written a personal remembrance (see below) in which she has kindly shared, “There will be a moment of silence in remembrance of Dr. Torrens at the Paul Torrens’ Health Forum in February. We also look forward to giving him a substantial tribute at the HPMAA Leaders of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow dinner in May 2023.”

A guiding light, leader, and trusted colleague, friend, and mentor to so many community members for more than 50 years, the loss of Dr. Paul Torrens is deeply felt, yet we know that his extraordinary legacy will continue to shine brightly in the work and care of the students and scholars who are indefatigable in their pursuit of a healthier tomorrow, and lifting up others along the way.