In a 1930 letter to his son, Albert Einstein wrote, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” These are not merely words written to a young man by his father — albeit a brilliant father. The words express a prescription for a healthy civilization and a vibrant city. In such a manner described by the great physicist, Rancho Mirage is moving forward, with fiscal, physical, and social balance, into the next decade of the 21st century.
The city of Rancho Mirage may well be considered a poster city for dynamic, civic wellness. As a city on the cutting edge of the medical industry, with a burgeoning corridor of healthcare services, technology, and professionals, coupled with a rich diversity of cultural and recreational institutions located amid a breathtaking natural landscape, Rancho Mirage exemplifies the current concept of a contemporary “best city” for a thriving and meaningful life.
“Rancho Mirage has evolved from being a city primarily known as the “Playground of Presidents” to now also being recognized as a city with some of the best-quality healthcare in the nation,” says Rancho Mirage Mayor Richard W. Kite. “Our city leaders are constantly striving to improve Rancho Mirage’s quality of life and build on our burgeoning reputation as a major center of health and wellness.”
Rancho Mirage, a city with a population of 17,008, has always been fiscally responsible and provides the highest level of services to its residents. The city enjoys a $66 million reserve and has never ended a fiscal year with a deficit. Like most cities, it’s a place that’s only as vibrant as its inhabitants.
“Balance to me is ‘presence,’” says Dr. Brian Herman, an international pioneer in endovascular neurosurgery and acute stroke intervention and chairman of the department of radiology at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. “If I focus on the moments as they come, and they can come fast and furious, even seemingly difficult or negative experiences can be pleasurable. So, imagine how pleasurable and rich the great events of life can be.”
Established in 2004, the Eisenhower Imaging Center offers state-of-the-art technology with compassionate care and service. The original Imaging Center, located in a 15,000-square-foot facility at Eisenhower, has expanded to meet the growing demand of patients and currently provides much-needed services in new facilities across the desert communities.
Dr. Herman, known locally and affectionately as Dr. McDreamy, exemplifies the kind of well-rounded, world-class physicians who are drawn to Eisenhower Medical Center. His interest in medicine was solidified years ago, when a high school friend accidentally ran through a plate-glass window and lacerated several arteries.
“Despite the life-threatening situation and the hysteria of others in the group, time seemed to slow down for me, and I was able to manage the situation,” Dr. Herman recalls. “The intensity resonated with me.”
Since then he has saved and improved a great number of lives and established himself as a maverick, a boy genius in his field. Outside the hospital he’s a Renaissance man: avid cyclist, photographer, world traveler, and artist, devoted husband and father. The broader his interests and experience, it seems, the deeper his commitment to his work and to the people around him.
“What drives me has been a moving and often invisible target,” he says. “Many of the thoughts that have worked to get me ‘where I am today,’ no longer play a role in my passions and career. It seems that many of my subconscious drives melt away in the face of compassion and love. I have a very strong sense of commitment to the people in my life, my patients, and colleagues. As I learn to focus on the important things in life, I am much happier and my motives are more true.”
Dr. Herman could live and work anywhere in the world, but he chooses to pursue his practice and raise his children in Rancho Mirage.
“Rancho Mirage is a great place because it is small enough to have a sense of community. … I also love the high energy of the desert and the fabulous adventures it offers just minutes from my home. Even when it’s 110 degrees in August, I can drive 15 minutes and be mountain biking in the mountains or watching the stars in Joshua Tree.”
Not far from the Imaging Center on Eisenhower’s lush, sprawling, 130-acre campus lies the Tamkin Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation facility. Located in the Renker Wellness Center, the Rehabilitation Program offers heart patients the most comprehensive cardiac treatment and counseling in the region. With state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a full range of exercise classes, and cutting-edge diagnostic and screening tools, the Tamkin facility combines the precision of technology and the less tangible but equally vital benefits of the human touch to its visitors. One of very few such facilities in the nation, Tamkin customizes every treatment plan to individual patients, who come from across the country to avail themselves of these services.
“Wellness is individual to each of us,” explains Carl Enzor, a nurse who has dedicated more than two decades to pulmonary treatment and rehabilitation and who helped design the Tamkin program and facility. “For some, wellness means learning to live with certain health issues. We help people to find peace with themselves and to live a dignified, optimal life.”
For Enzor and his staff, authentic personal care and attention defines every day in the Renker Wellness Center. Not only do staff members develop health plans, monitor progress, and encourage their clients to persist, but also they continually remind patients that they are important, that their families love and depend upon them, and that even the staff care deeply about the patients’ lives.
The new Greg and Stacey Renker Pavilion at Eisenhower Medical Center anticipates the future of individualized, personal patient care in which medical expertise and the healing environment reach unprecedented levels. Somehow the Renker Pavilion manages to exude an ambiance of positive energy and profound serenity at the same time. From the moment of entrance, across a red carpet, through glass doors quiet as angels’ wings, and into the pavilion’s lobby with sitting room and library, visitors experience a new world of healthcare and hospitality. Twenty-two suites in the Renker Pavilion provide a Four Seasons-style home-away-from-home for patients and their families. The rooms feature flat-screen televisions, soft music, breakfast bars, fruit bowls and meal service, Internet access, and top-of-the-line bedding and healthcare facilities for patients.
Lynda Sakai, an RN and the director of the pavilion, has been on site since the beginning. The Renker Pavilion demonstrates the healing power of “a room of one’s own,” she says. “As a nurse, I think about giving care, and nothing is too great. There’s nothing we won’t do for our patients. We’ve developed a team of unsurpassed nurses, clinicians, housekeeping and concierge staff, all of whom are dedicated to the whole patient and the patient’s family.”
As the Coachella Valley’s only not-for-profit hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center has been providing world-class service and medical care for nearly 40 years. In addition to the Renker Pavilion, the Tamkin rehabilitation facility, the extraordinary imaging and radiology center; state-of-the-art diagnostic, treatment, and emergency facilities, the center benefits from a community of faithful volunteers and impassioned physicians and staff. Also located in and around the Eisenhower complex: the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, the Barbara Sinatra’s Children’s Center, and the renowned Betty Ford Center, which offers alcohol- and drug-addiction treatment to addicts and their loved ones.
“We’re going in a new and progressive healthcare direction,” says G. Aubrey Serfling, President and CEO, Eisenhower Medical Center, suggesting that an effective medical facility doesn’t simply attend to disease and catastrophe. “We’re focused on wellness and prevention. We’re focused on a system in which patients are empowered to be a part of their own medical team and which draws young doctors and students who ask questions, bring new knowledge, and invigorate the community. Our goal is to promote the best healthcare facilities for our community and beyond.”
Residents and business leaders of Rancho Mirage are as likely to give back to their community and to the world as they are to reap the rewards of living and working here.
Pat and Joe Manhart own and operate Advanced Hearing Systems in Rancho Mirage. But their efforts range far beyond the Coachella Valley. Because of their partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation and their joyful mission to fit underprivileged children with hearing devices, “Children all around the world are smiling, laughing, singing, reading, learning, growing — sharing life more completely because of better hearing.”
Pat and Joe have visited 14 countries in their quest to give children ears to hear. Joe says, “You go once, and you’re hooked. It never gets old. … Some of these kids have never heard a spoken word or heard their parents’ voices.” Because of the Manharts’ commitment, children from Ecuador to India to Puerto Rico, Anaheim, and here in the Coachella Valley can respond with love to the sounds around them.
Dr. Raul Ruiz has confronted the obstacles in his life with a determined purposefulness and a sharp focus on helping people. Dr. Ruiz grew up in Coachella, the son of farmworkers, and graduated from Coachella Valley High School. After earning his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from UCLA, he completed a medical doctorate at Harvard Medical School, a master’s in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a master’s in public health at Harvard School of Public Health.
“I always wanted to be a doctor,” recounts Dr. Ruiz. “And I was always interested in issues of social justice. I knew — that’s how I can directly help a person. I can save his life. That was my dream. I remember lying in bed, dreaming about opening clinics in Coachella.”
Dr. Ruiz currently works as an emergency physician at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He also works to improve public health policy and access for vulnerable populations from the Coachella Valley to the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. Here in the valley, Dr. Ruiz has started a mentorship program for local graduating high school students who want to be physicians, particularly those students in underserved communities.
“The hospital gown is the great equalizer,” says Dr. Ruiz. “We see the same pain, the same anxiety among rich and poor. It’s such a humbling perspective, and that’s what drives us. We see people suffer, and being human, we want to help.”
As an early humanitarian responder for the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Dr. Ruiz served as medical director for the Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization. He was awarded the Commander’s Award for Public Service by the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne for his efforts. But what he remembers most vividly about the Haitian experience isn’t receiving a medal. He remembers the tremendous team effort of his colleagues, the suffering of the Haitians, and the message that he carried to the stricken country.
“I said I would go represent the Coachella Valley,” says Dr. Ruiz. “And we wrote on all the boxes: ‘To the people of Haiti, from the people of the Coachella Valley, with love.’”
In Southern California we sometimes mistake aesthetic value for intrinsic value — and yet, there are occasions when both physical beauty and a higher purpose convene. The present Rancho Mirage Public Library, for example, at first glance looks like an architectural masterpiece. But beyond the library doors lies a world of literature, technology, community, and an astonishing repertoire of programs that includes concerts, films, lectures and interviews, author visits, storytelling and theater, magicians and jugglers, exotic animals and puppetry, and a staff that answers 89,000 research questions per year, while signing out more than 220 items per hour of operation (which translates to more than 640,000 check-outs every year).
The original library opened in 1996 and has occupied its present location since January of 2006. “It’s a simple, noble history,” says David Bryant, library director. While at least 64 percent of Rancho Mirage residents own library cards, the library attracts visitors from all over the valley because of its tremendous programs and resources, making the library a center of life long learning, sharing, and creating.
“The potential here is unlimited,” Bryant claims. And the same may be claimed for all of Rancho Mirage.
In addition to the public library, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert offers a vast wonderland of learning activities, exploration and programs for exuberant youth. Very soon, learning and exploration, will once again flourish at Sunnylands, the former home and getaway of Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg. Here, Leonore and Walter were visited by United States presidents, heads of state, business icons, and Hollywood celebrities. Scheduled to open to the public in November 2011, the 215-acre estate and new Annenberg Center at Sunnylands will host retreats and summits. Sunnylands will also provide educational programs and public tours that will expose visitors to the historic estate, important works of art, and a spectacular desert garden and solar farm.
With its flourishing economy and a dynamic, purposeful spirit among its citizens, Rancho Mirage may not be Shangri-La, but it’s close. Centrally located among the Palm Springs desert resort communities, Rancho Mirage resembles a modern-day paradise on earth. A vibrant future lies ahead for this unique city, one which balances the needs of its residents with its significant place in the world.
Mayor: Richard W. Kite
Mayor Pro Tem: G. Dana Hobart
Council Members: Scott Hines, Ron Meepos, Gordon Moller
Year Incorporated: 1973
Median Household Income: $76,242