Louis Graziadio vividly recalls attending a meeting as a young boy in the
early 1960s, with his dad, noted philanthropist and longtime Palos Verdes
Peninsula resident the late George L. Graziadio, Jr. The gathering was
inside a trailer on the construction site of Torrance Memorial’s
soon-to-be-built new patient tower.
The discussion, led that day by George, a co-founder of the Torrance Memorial
Healthcare Foundation (now named the Torrance Memorial Foundation), centered
on raising funds for the project that would move the hospital across town
from its original Engracia Avenue location. In April of 1971, the new
Torrance Memorial Hospital opened at 3330 Lomita Blvd.
“My dad had a very outgoing personality and he could talk anyone
into supporting something,” says Louis. “The vision he described
that day has pretty much come to fruition. He rounded up a lot of local
businessmen to get them involved. Karl McMillen called my dad before he
decided to make a significant donation to the hospital.”
George and his wife Reva understood the importance of strong local health
care and were avid supporters of Torrance Memorial. In 1987, George would
establish one of the medical center’s longest-standing fundraisers,
the Torrance Memorial Golf Tournament. In 2001, George and Reva made a
$1 million donation for the acquisition of cutting-edge radiology equipment
and to name the Graziadio Radiology Center.
Even as George’s health began to fail in his early 80s, the medical
center continued to be one of his favorite charitable endeavors, according to Louis.
“My father succumbed to cancer and our mom had a tough route too.
It affected all of us and pushed us to expand our views on health and
our desire to help families and support the community,” Louis says,
speaking for himself and his sisters Mary Lou Area and Alida Calvillo.
That desire has led the siblings to work with Torrance Memorial’s
Health Education Department to steer the community in the direction of
“My sisters, especially Alida, have been into the holistic health
approach for decades. After our parents died, we wanted to continue to
support the hospital,” says Louis. Alida adds, “We realized
integrative medicine was the new trend in health care. Then my brother
had an idea. Instead of just cutting a check, he said, ‘Why don’t
we support the hospital and community through a lecture series?’”
With an initial seed gift of $100,000, the family established the Graziadio
Wellness Center in 2011 to offer a series of free lectures for the public
and medical staff, centered on integrative medicine and mind-body wellness.
The program would add weight to the hospital’s existing offerings
in mind-body healing techniques that included massage therapy, yoga, Pilates,
Tai Chi, Reiki, meditation, stress management, and proper diet and nutrition.
While their target audience was the community as a whole, an added objective
was to open the minds of doctors and nurses who have direct influence
over their patients.
Following her introduction to the family, Vickie Hershberger, a health
education instructor at Torrance Memorial with a master’s degree
in clinical holistic health education, was challenged to contain her excitement.
“Many of the doctors and personnel at Torrance Memorial don’t
have a great depth of knowledge on the movement health care is making
toward integrative medicine, and I’m not really in a position to
educate them. So when I found out the Graziadio family had an interest
in helping to inform the community about options in their healing, I was
ecstatic,” says Hershberger. “I love Alida. We share a passion
for empowering people in their decision-making.”
She continues, “Working with the family gives me an opportunity to
really use my skills and training. I get to investigate speakers they
are interested in, and it has given me the opportunity to meet and work
with leaders in the field.”
The practice of holistic medicine is often associated with eastern approaches
that include acupuncture, herbs, supplements and meditation. Many western
trained physicians are now using the term integrative medicine as the
marriage of allopathic (western, evidence- based medicine) with holistic/complementary
alternative medicine (CAM). As Stanley Tobias, MD, a retired Torrance
rheumatologist who serves on the series’ planning committee explains,
allopathic medicine, which utilizes organ system diagnosis and emphasizes
treatment with surgery and/or medications when indicated, has been the
medical science norm. However the challenge, he says, is nothing is absolute.
Dr. Tobias first began exploring eastern methods back in the 1960s, which
led him to a 15-week course on acupuncture at UCLA.
“When you treat complex chronic disease, the goal is to manage pain,
increase function and allow for the best quality of life,” Dr. Tobias
says. “The best approach may be to employ all modalities that allow
for the best life possible for the patient. Integrative medicine encourages
a personalized and multidisciplinary, multi-modal approach.”
To develop topics and select speakers for the series, the family worked
with Hershberger to create an advisory committee that includes Torrance
Memorial doctors, staff and community members.
Erin Hoffman, MSW, MHA, a retired licensed clinical social worker who specialized
in the medical/public health arena, was invited to join the committee
after sharing her own personal experience with Hershberger.
Hoffman was diagnosed at age 40 with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an
autoimmune disease that requires lifetime medication to control. She witnessed
her father grapple with this same condition, along with a host of other
“I saw my dad suffer the last 30 years of his life and I didn’t
want to follow that path,” Hoffman says. “I decided I needed
to change course. Our genes are not our destiny. You can turn them off
and on based on your lifestyle.”
Hoffman became a vegan five years ago but says she was not a “healthy
vegan” at first. “I thought I could eat everything I wanted
to within a plant-based diet, including sweet potato French fries,”
she says. “So I very quickly gained 15 pounds and my arthritic symptoms
After attending the Graziadio Wellness Center speaker series lectures and
hearing speakers such as Chef AJ in 2014 on the topic “Food Is Medicine,”
and John Pierre on “The Pillars of Health,” she switched to
a “super clean, whole food, plant-based diet” and now, at
age 52, is symptom free.
“I will always have to take thyroid medicine, but every other lab
value has been pristine,” Hoffman says. “We have the ability
to make the greatest impact on our health three times a day by what we
choose to eat. By contributing in this way [through the Wellness Advisory
Committee and her group] I can be more impactful than anything I did in
my career.” Hoffman now leads a monthly group to help community
members learn to live a plant- based lifestyle.
Lecture titles and topics to date have included “Being an Urban Monk,”
“Power Foods for the Brain,” “Prevention: Nutrition
& Supplements for A Healthy Lifestyle,” “Goodbye Diabetes,
Heart Disease, & Cancer Risk: Preventing and Reversing Disease the
Natural Way” and “Memory Rescue.”
The next challenge the committee is grappling with is trying to resonate
with 20- to 30-somethings who don’t typically attend health lectures.
“How do we get that message across?” Alida ponders. “We
don’t want them to wait until something goes wrong.”
Louis continues, “Diseases don’t just show up. They have been
percolating for a long time. We’re coming to a place where it’s
not just about popping pills and having operations; it’s about prevention
through healthy living.”
The success of the live lectures is evident through its standing room only
crowds of nearly 500 attendees with an overflow viewing area. The family
is currently working with the advisory committee to choose speakers for
2018. In the meantime, the series is reaching new audiences through the
Graziadio Wellness Center’s library of past lectures that lives
on the Torrance Memorial website.
For more information about the Graziadio Wellness Center and the lecture
series, please call 310-517-4711. To view past lectures, visit TorranceMemorial.org/IntegrativeHealthLectures