Ninety years ago the Torrance family’s vision was realized when the
doors opened to the 32-bed Jared Sydney Torrance Memorial Hospital. This
was due to the foresight of Torrance founder Jared Sidney Torrance. In
his effort to make Torrance a completely modern city, before his death
he made a will leaving $100,000 to the Torrance Hospital Association (created in 1920).
However, after his passing, the bequest in the will was declared invalid
because of a technicality in the laws of the state. His wife, Helena Childs
Torrance, and his family honored his bequest by purchasing land on Engracia
Avenue in Old Torrance, constructing the building and deeding it to the
Torrance Hospital Association.
The hospital admitted its first patients on May 17, 1925. Mrs. Torrance
went on to serve as a major benefactor and was largely responsible for
sustaining the hospital through its first decade. Like her husband, she
also remembered the hospital in her will with a generous bequest.
The independent, nonprofit hospital survived the Great Depression and other
hardships throughout the years to become nationally recognized as a leading
multi-faceted health care system. Its evolution included a move across
town, two name changes and the building of a state-of-the-art medical
campus outfitted with the latest technology. The ultra-modern Lundquist
Tower is a far cry from the quaint, Spanish-style architecture of the
original hospital on Engracia Avenue.
Torrance Memorial’s success is historically credited to forward-thinking
leadership, a passionate and highly educated staff, and a steadfast commitment
to providing medical care excellence for the South Bay community. In celebration
of the hospital’s journey, esteemed members of its team share glimpses
GEORGE GRAHAM, FORMER CEO
Righting the ship and charting a 30-year course of success
George Graham joined what was then known as Torrance Memorial Hospital
as a financial consultant in 1974. During that time it was suffering tremendous
economic hardship. Impressed with his management style, within just a
short time the chairman of the board asked him to take over management
of the hospital for “a couple of years.”
He earnestly accepted the challenge in 1975. Thirty years later when he
retired as president and chief executive officer, he left behind a legacy
that has distinctly set the medical center apart from other hospitals
and ensured its continued success.
“I saw a future for the hospital when most people had written it
off,” Graham says. “Indicators that predict a hospital’s
doom are having poor (economic) demographics, being land-bound and unable
to expand, residing in decaying communities where people are moving away,
and employing an aging medical staff that keeps the young lions out. We
had none of that.”
To the contrary, the hospital had a growing, youthful medical staff, was
surrounded by vacant property and the population was growing. Graham went
to work to right the ship, instructing his team to “bite the bullet”
(a favorite expression from George’s U.S. Navy days). Profits were
reinvested back into the organization.
With George at the helm, the hospital was selected as one of the top 100
hospitals in the United States and continued to earn recognition as a
technically advanced medical center. He attributes this success to the
“It didn’t take much to get the hospital into a growth pattern,”
Graham says. “There was so much going for it. There was no reason
that it could not be successful. We were bringing in quality doctors,
and we had an incredibly trained medical staff. Dick Hoffman (Richard
B. Hoffman, MD, radiologist, in whose memory the Lundquist Tower is dedicated)
in particular, greatly influenced my decisions regarding technology. We
would not have the hospital we have today without his good judgment and
In addition to Graham’s ability to attract an exceptional staff,
build an excellent medical campus and stay on the cutting edge of technological
advancement, he also created and implemented organizational procedures
that fostered collaboration between the administration and the medical
staff. The competition for resources and an “us vs. them”
culture commonly seen at other hospitals gave way to a collaborative team
spirit that is still at the core of Torrance Memorial’s culture today.
Where does Graham see the hospital going in the future? “We have
all of the credentials necessary to continue to grow and thrive. We have
leading technology, a highly qualified medical staff, a wonderful facility
and we offer exceptional care. There is no end in sight in Torrance Memorial
Medical Center’s future,” he says.
CRAIG LEACH, PRESIDENT AND CEO
Staying the course of growth and independence
Craig Leach began working for Torrance Memorial 31 years ago. He became
George Graham’s successor on January 1, 2005.
As a lifelong resident of the South Bay, it resonates with Leach to stay
true to Mr. & Mrs. Torrance’s founding vision for an independent
hospital that serves this community. Today the Torrance Memorial Medical
Center service area includes approximately 900,000 people who live in
a geographic area that extends beyond Torrance, the Beach Cities and the
Palos Verdes Peninsula to include San Pedro, El Segundo, Carson and Hawthorne.
“It is unique for Torrance Memorial to still be an independent hospital
system in the state of California, of which we are very proud,”
Leach says. “With about 150 hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange
County combined, only about a half-dozen remain independent. We feel that
a local board making decisions for the community we serve continues to
be the best approach.”
The staff ’s commitment and passion for the community has been generously
returned in kind over the years. When planning for the Lundquist Tower
began in 2007, the fundraising target was $50 million to $75 million.
Upon opening the Lundquist Tower in 2014, that goal was far exceeded with
a total of $130 million in cash and pledges—a testament to the magnitude
of the local philanthropic support, which has become a substantial component
of the medical center’s income for future long-term growth and development.
With their sights set on the future, Leach and his dynamic team recently
envisioned and established the Torrance Memorial Health System to better
facilitate and improve the health of South Bay residents. Part of that
vision included the purchase of THIPA (a local independent practice association)
and the creation of Torrance Memorial Integrated Physicians (an accountable
care organization), with close to 400 physicians participating in each
organization. The focus of both organizations is to better coordinate
It also established the Torrance Memorial Physician Network, a multispecialty
practice that provides comprehensive care in primary, pediatric and medical
specialty care, including endocrinology, rheumatology, OB/GYN, cardiology
and oncology. The network is equipped with a state-of-the-art electronic
medical record system and a patient portal, which provides patients direct
and confidential access to all of their medical information. Staying a
step ahead of its historical campus growth, Leach was also instrumental
in facilitating the purchase of 16 acres of land across Lomita Boulevard,
which will be incredibly valuable in the future.
For the third straight year, Torrance Memorial was ranked as one of the
best hospitals for 2014–2015 in California and the Los Angeles metro area by
U.S. News & World Report. As one of the largest health care facilities in Los Angeles (based upon
the number of admissions and patient days), Torrance Memorial Medical
Center is an industry frontrunner that continues to attract top physicians
through technological capabilities for on-campus advanced medical procedures,
including high-end, complex cardio, neurological and orthopedic surgeries.
“From a value standpoint, we deliver high quality at an appropriate
cost level. We add to that a culture of service with a high level of passion
and compassion for how we do what we do. This is a great hospital,” he says.