December 6, 12 noon EST
Neery Velazquez & Arwyn Wild
By Gary Gunderson
Loma Linda University is famous as one of the “Blue Zones” marked by sharply higher average longevity. The Adventists like to brag about how in this zone it is common for 90-year-old men to die from wounds inflicted by their loves’ jealous husbands. Not a lot of data on that for obvious reasons.
Less funny is that across the highway from the Blue Zone is a red one, frequently illuminated by the flashing ambulance lights. And gun fire, coldly mundane and chillingly famous. The Inland Regional Center is less than two miles, so when the public health staff holiday party became a carnage house two years ago today, most of the dead and wounded came to Loma Linda hospital. The steady stream of quietly deadly chronic conditions follows the same route, just as dispiriting for the staff of a hospital built for prevention and wellness.
You’d think the long-lived Adventists on the hill would look the other way, lock that gate and turn toward the rich in the suburbs to the west and south.
Instead, they are heading right into the red and bitterly bruised streets of San Bernardino to build a gateway into the future so that the children and youth can not only be healed, but even more profoundly become the healers.
If you can learn about the San Manuel Gateway College and not feel your heart breaking open with hope, you’re just not paying attention. It is just a 10 minute drive on the other side of the Inland Regional Center on land nobody would call beautiful. But even from the parking lot, it vibrates with hopeful energy. It is a community health center, among the more fully equipped you’ll find anywhere. But the beauty is the students drawn from the neighborhoods usually left long behind and forgotten. Every hue and language you’d imagine finding in Southern California, including children of the First People. Some are women becoming prometores, the very front lines of prevention and health promotion. Others are medical residents learning the arts of humility along with medicine. Some are high school students finding their passion for healing with a clear line of sight to becoming a nurse, a doctor or other professional.
It’s called Gateway, but its more like an on-ramp, maybe launching pad.
Loma Linda University is driven by mission and led by a CEO, Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, who practiced in the community health center now at the heart of Gateway when he was in medical school himself. He will tell you this is not a story of what the University is giving away; but how it is investing in ways that are illuminated by the long term intelligence about health and wellness, spirit and justice. Who do you think is hiring all those many-hued, richly diverse graduates? When you act with intelligence and humility, it’s amazing who invests along with you: the First People here happen to own a cansio which made it is possible for them to co-invest in Gateway. Other major funds came from Oklahoma from a non-Adventists business man who recognized brilliance from afar.
Adventists are too humble for their own good sometimes, keeping their light to themselves. Anything going on at Gateway College could be happening in hundreds of other communities with a hospital smart and brave enough to, follow the ambulances back its surrounding neighborhoods and declare them home.
Images: Loma Linda University Health