AFTER A $1 MILLION GIFT from Tom and Edna Gordon and the Don S. Levin Trust established the Paul Torrens Chair in Healthcare Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Tom Gordon vowed that he was just getting started. Determined to find others to join him in honoring Dr. Paul Torrens — a professor emeritus who has been a member of the school’s faculty since 1972 — Gordon began reaching out to senior healthcare executives, many of them FSPH graduates.
He didn’t have to twist any arms. “Everyone just started writing checks,” Gordon says, smiling. “It was the easiest ask of my life.”
The outpouring of support reflects Torrens’ influence in the healthcare field, particularly in Southern California. Trained as a physician, Torrens went on to a long and distinguished career in healthcare management and health policy. But arguably his greatest impact has come from the teaching and mentorship he has provided in the 50 years since he joined the UCLA Fielding School faculty.
Among those Torrens inspired was Gordon, who served as executive vice president of Cedars-Sinai Health System for more than two decades. After Torrens invited Gordon to deliver a guest lecture to his students in 1995, the pair forged a close friendship and Gordon began an active and continuing role at the school as a preceptor, mentor, and guest lecturer. He currently teaches a course on leadership in the executive MPH program within FSPH’s Department of Health Policy and Management.
“This helps to ensure that Paul Torrens’ legacy at UCLA will be remembered for generations to come — and that the culture of collegiality and leadership he imparted to so many of us, which we then brought to our own organizations, is passed on to future generations of students at the UCLA Fielding School,” Gordon says of the Torrens chair, which is housed in the school’s Department of Health Policy and Management and its Center for Healthcare Management — home to the Paul Torrens Health Forum, a monthly series of public programs in which health leaders discuss timely industry topics.
Gordon’s “easy ask” has led to donations of nearly $1.7 million, with the largest contributions following the initial gift coming from Dr. Arthur (Artie) Southam (MPH ’84), a member of Kaiser Permanente’s national executive team; and Cedars-Sinai, whose president and CEO, Thomas Priselac, teaches in the school’s executive MPH program. When the fund reaches $2 million, it will become the school’s second permanent endowed chair.
Dr. Xi Zhu, the FSPH associate professor appointed as the first Torrens chair holder, will further the culture Torrens cultivated. An expert in organizational behavior and theory, Zhu is dedicated to both real-world impact and mentoring master’s and PhD students. “The Paul Torrens Chair is an incredible honor for me because it recognizes the importance of healthcare management in contributing to the public good,” Zhu says.
“Endowed chairs are invaluable to our school’s ability to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and an ideal way for generous donors to support research and training while either affixing their legacy to UCLA or honoring another’s,” says Dr. Ron Brookmeyer, dean of the UCLA Fielding School and distinguished professor of biostatistics. “Dr. Paul Torrens’ incredible impact is reflected in the accomplished graduates who have come together to establish this chair in his name.”