Women's health care at Hoag gets $5 million 'pot of gold' from Ueberroth family

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Dr. Allyson Brooks has big ideas for improving women’s health care at Hoag Hospital. Until recently, she just wasn’t sure how she’d pay for the path to make them a reality.

“I’ve always been envious watching what others can do,” she said Monday. “Now, I’ll have my little pot of gold.”

That “little pot of gold” is arriving by way of a $5 million endowment given to Brooks by philanthropists Peter and Ginny Ueberroth, who announced the gift Monday.

The grant, awarded by the Laguna Beach couple through the Peter and Virginia Ueberroth Family Foundation, was inspired by Brooks’ compassion for women’s care and her leadership – first as a practicing OB-GYN and recently as executive medical director of Hoag’s Women’s Health Institute.

The Ueberroth gift will advance the health institute in areas of research, education and program development. That includes recruiting new physicians, increasing patient navigation resources and piloting innovative women’s health projects.

The endowment is the first of its kind in Orange County to benefit women’s health and wellness.

“Allyson Brooks is changing things and she’s putting women’s services in areas accessible to women everywhere,” Ginny Ueberroth said. “She is a very much loved OB-GYN. She’s out in the community and understands the whole meaning of what we’re doing. We will be the first to be looking at the whole community.”

Brooks has a detailed list of what she’d like to achieve.

First, she wants to plug gaps in women’s care at the hospital and through its outreach centers in Orange County. To do that, she will create a women’s health and wellness center that will be a sort of one-stop shop for preventative care, wellness resources and health services.

The center will be a place where women feel taken care of and where they can get the information and support they need, she said.

Brooks already has her eye on a mental health expert to work in reproductive psychiatrics – an area presently underserved throughout the community.

“Some of the most troublesome times for women are hormone-related,” she said. “These include the teen years, pregnancy, post-partum and perimenopause.

“It’s huge. Right now to have access to psychiatrists who have a special passion for women’s mental health is few and far between.”

She also hopes to retain a guitarist – now on the pastoral staff – who has had a tranquil and calming effect on patients throughout the hospital.

Also, she plans to launch a center for robotic surgery that provides services to gynecology, colorectal, thoracic, and head and neck surgeons.

And she wants acupuncturists, therapists, pre- and post-natal consultants and nutritionists who will work alongside doctors and nurse practitioners dedicated to women’s care in a spa-like center.

Brooks and the Ueberroths share a belief that not enough focus and attention has been given to specifics in women’s care. The new center will be a way to expand that not only to patients at Hoag but to many outlying centers – including women who are currently underserved.

“I think many issues are seen as the garden variety of what happens in life,” Brooks said. “There’s been lots of focus on trauma and sickness. Women are different in how we think, what we worry about and what our responses are.”

Ultimately, Brooks and the Ueberroths see the center integrating into a countywide women’s health and domestic violence health system.

“I’d like to see a point where every woman in our community has good health care and good health,” Ginny Ueberroth said.

Peter Ueberroth said he is proud of his wife for “being dedicated to this and seeing it through.”

“We don’t have major wealth but it’s an important commitment that we’ve made,” he said.

To view the original Orange County Register article, please click here.