Newswise — An $18 million commitment from the Simms/Mann Family Foundation, led by Dr. Victoria Mann Simms and Ronald Simms, will support UCLA’s expansion of integrative psychosocial care for people with cancer and their families into communities throughout Southern California.

The gift to UCLA Health will fund an endowment to sustain and expand the Simms/Mann–UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, which provides psychosocial care — usually free of charge — to patients and families dealing with the emotional, psychological and physical burdens of cancer and its treatment. It is the lead gift in a new campaign by UCLA Health to create a $50 million endowment for the center.

Psychosocial treatment at the center involves a wide range of individual, family and group therapy — not only psychiatric care, but also educational programs in nutrition, spiritual care, qi gong and meditation; and workshops such as healing through art and preparing for surgery. The center’s mission is to empower patients and families with support that enhances their overall well-being as they go through the many challenges of a cancer diagnosis.

The center’s whole-person approach to care is embedded throughout the medical care provided by UCLA Health oncologists and nurses.

Vicki and Ron Simms learned firsthand about the struggles that face cancer patients and their families when Vicki’s father, Ted Mann, suffered from cancer and was treated at UCLA. The Simms family have long been passionate about advancing integrative medicine, an approach that cares for the patient as a whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Their 20-plus years of national experience on the topic was the catalyst for funding the Simms/Mann–UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, as well as creating the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center at Venice Family Clinic, the first-ever integrative medicine center at a free clinic.

In the years since its inception, the center has grown to become a nationally recognized model for integrative oncology care. Among its offerings is an acclaimed training program that prepares providers from around the U.S. in integrative psychosocial care.

The endowment will enhance that training program; as well as strengthening patient care at UCLA Health facilities at the main UCLA campus and in Santa Monica; and expand the center’s psychosocial and integrative services into UCLA’s community oncology clinics, which currently number 16 and are expected to expand to 20 by 2021.

The commitment will also create the Simms/Mann Family Foundation Chair in Integrative Oncology, which — once approved by the UCLA Academic Senate — will be held by the center’s medical director.

“The center’s invaluable work relies on public–private partnership,” said Ron Simms, a California real estate developer. “UCLA has the clinical footprint and the expertise to deliver counseling alongside its best-in-class cancer care. We are grateful for UCLA’S commitment to expand access to care, enabling patients and families to receive services close to home from a truly integrated team of professionals.” 

Vicki Simms said, “This is truly an exciting and timely opportunity to inspire and train patient-centered leaders and professionals to work together to transform the delivery of cancer care to our communities. This partnership with UCLA reflects our mutual belief: Everyone should have access to excellent health care services that focus on the whole person.”

Johnese Spisso, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System and president of UCLA Health, said, “For decades, the Simms–Mann family have been tireless advocates for a team approach to patient and family-centered care. Vicki’s and Ron’s pledge is further evidence of their commitment to world-class cancer care by addressing the psychological, social and physical well-being of patients and their loved ones during intense treatment. We are so grateful to have their visionary partnership in our impactful work.”

To inspire other philanthropists to support the center — particularly its efforts across the diverse geographic communities it will now serve — the foundation’s commitment includes a gift-matching fund of $6 million. Combined with its generous previous gifts, the foundation has now given more than $33 million to UCLA. In addition to their longstanding funding of the center, the Simms have supported other UCLA entities, including the Jules Stein Eye Institute, and they are founding supporters and board members of the Geffen Playhouse.

“Ron and Vicki are such tremendous partners,” said Dr. John Glaspy, the center’s medical director and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The family envisioned this center a quarter century ago, and ever since, they have played a vital role in ensuring families facing cancer have the psychological resources they need.”

The gift also endows a chaplaincy in Glaspy’s honor.

“I am humbled and grateful for Vicki’s and Ron’s gift,” he said. “It embodies their longstanding commitment — and UCLA’s — to caring for patients and families, not just treating the symptoms of disease.”

Since its inception, the center has provided care for more than 50,000 patients; held more than 310 lectures with more than 30,000 attendees and online viewers from around the world; and, since 2004, trained more than 100 fellows for oncology-based psychosocial care around the U.S.

“Our patients join us in being immensely grateful to the Simms family for their profound dedication to patient care,” said Kauser Ahmed, the center’s director. “This incredible gift ensures that more patients and families will have the tools to maintain a sense of wellness while receiving the best medical care possible for their cancer.”