Caring for Body, Mind and Spirit

UCLA Health expands integrative oncology care throughout Southern California to empower patients and their families with the support they need to face the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
Senior woman meditating in lotus position at home.

Medical practitioners historically have viewed patients primarily through the lens of their disease, focusing their attention almost exclusively on the physical symptoms that are plaguing their patients. Fortunately, at UCLA Health, the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology applies a holistic model, where the focus of the physicians, nurses and the entire health care team is on the whole person, caring not just for their body, but also their mind and spirit. While holistic care has its roots in ancient times, it truly came to the fore in the 19th century, when Florence Nightingale, considered to be the founder of modern nursing, promoted a comprehensive approach to care by considering the totality of the patient’s needs: biological, social, psychological and spiritual.

The Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology embodies Nightingale’s ideal. Founded more than 25 years ago within the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, it was the first center of its kind in the nation to establish a model of integrative and holistic care for patients and their families touched by cancer. Now we are proud to share that, with the support of the Simms/Mann Family Foundation, we have expanded this model to 20 UCLA Health community cancer clinics throughout Southern California.

The Simms/Mann Center provides a unique resource to patients and their families, offering free — with some exceptions — psychosocial services that include individual and family counseling, psychiatry, spiritual care, nutrition and supplement guidance, and other integrative modalities that support and empower patients and their loved ones through the trajectory of their cancer care.

The number of patients served by the Simms/ Mann team continues to grow; it now averages close to 600 patients per month. In addition to treating those patients, the center also trains the next generations of medical practitioners. Predoctoral students, social work students and chaplaincy trainees develop skills such as leading individual and group patient and family sessions, patient advocacy and identifying and providing resources to improve patient wellbeing. Trainees also gain essential insights into the experience of patients with cancer and their families, which ultimately helps them become compassionate and effective caregivers.

All of this is made possible because of the vision and generous support of psychotherapist Dr. Victoria Mann Simms and her husband, Ronald Simms. Dr. Simms learned from her training in infant psychiatry, and her work with families and children, the importance of understanding the mind-body connection and how they influence each other and affect one’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. When Dr. Simms’ father, producer and movie-theater entrepreneur Ted Mann, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the 1990s, Dr. and Mr. Simms introduced supportive and complementary therapies into his treatment and witnessed firsthand the positive impact that this integrative and holistic care had on his quality of life.

Based on this experience, Dr. and Mr. Simms committed to funding a whole-person team approach to patient- and family-centered cancer care at UCLA.

In 2020, the Simms/Mann Family Foundation pledged $18 million to UCLA Health toward creating a $50 million endowment to ensure the center’s vital care would endure in perpetuity. To inspire other philanthropists to support the center, the Simms/ Mann Family Foundation’s commitment includes a gift-matching fund of $6 million. Combined with its generous previous gifts, the foundation now has given more than $33 million to UCLA.

The endowment from the foundation not only helped expand the center’s psychosocial and integrative services into UCLA Health’s community cancer clinics, the funding also enhanced the training program, strengthened patient care at UCLA Health facilities in Westwood and Santa Monica, endowed a chaplaincy and created the Simms/Mann Family Foundation Chair in Integrative Oncology, which was bestowed on Dr. John A. Glaspy (MD ’79, RES ’82, FEL ’83), the center’s medical director and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a member of the Founders Board, I am grateful to the Simms/Mann family, the center’s board members, Dr. Glaspy and Barbara Jagels, RN, MHA, interim director of the Simms/Mann Center, for their leadership. I especially praise the center’s dedicated team who provide this tremendous care every day throughout our community. My thanks as well to the more than 80 oncologists on staff and the entire clinical and support staff who commit themselves to our patients and their families.

I am immensely proud when I hear from our patients and their families how the holistic approach provided by the Simms/Mann Center has helped them through their cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. We are honored to care for them in body, mind and spirit.

Johnese Spisso, MPA
President, UCLA Health
CEO, UCLA Hospital System
Associate Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 edition of U Magazine.