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Making the Connections

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THE 175 INDIVIDUALS IN ATTENDANCE at the Health Forum at UCLA FSPH in March 2016 included some of the most powerful health care professionals in the region. They were drawn to the UCLA campus both for the monthly gathering of public health leaders, faculty, staff, and students engaging on a key topic of the day, and for the renaming of the forum after Dr. Paul Torrens, the longtime Fielding School faculty member who, as part of his commitment to bridging the academic and practice worlds, had launched the forum years earlier.

During the event, a speaker made a request.

“If you were mentored by Paul Torrens and then went on to mentor someone else as a result, please stand up.”

Almost no one remained seated.

In September, the Fielding School announced the establishment of the Paul Torrens Chair in Healthcare Management, based within the school’s newly launched Center for Healthcare Management and the Department of Health Policy and Management. The chair, which will support the teaching and research activities of a faculty member with health care management expertise, was made possible by a gift of more than $1 million from the Don S. Levin Trust and Edna and Tom Gordon.

“Paul Torrens has made a tremendous impact on health care management and policy in California — the state recognized as a national leader in transforming the U.S. health care system,” says Tom Gordon, who served as executive vice president of the Cedars-Sinai Health System and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Medical Network Services for 22 years and continues in an advisory role as consultant to the president. “It is my honor to play a role in furthering his legacy through the Paul Torrens Chair.”

Initially trained as a physician, Torrens has had a long career in both health care management and health policy. But arguably his greatest impact has been as an FSPH faculty member, where his passion for teaching and ability to inspire have made a difference in the careers of countless health professionals, particularly in Southern California.

“For decades, Paul Torrens has connected class after class with the health care community,” says Leah Vriesman, co-director of the Center for Healthcare Management and herself a beneficiary of Torrens’ mentoring when she was an FSPH doctoral student. “He has launched so many careers by saying, ‘Let me make a quick phone call,’ or ‘Let me have you talk to somebody.’ He was LinkedIn before there ever was a LinkedIn.”