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Symbol of HOPE Award

Ms. Friendly, a health care executive, administrator, and public health professional, has devoted her career to advocating on behalf of low-income, uninsured families of diverse cultural backgrounds. Ms. Friendly is committed to community health, development, and empowerment.


Ms. Friendly completed her undergraduate studies in child psychology at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She then went to Los Angeles on a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) scholarship to complete her Masters degree in Public Health (MPH) at the University of California, Los Angeles. After her graduate work, she helped develop an integrated service model using psychomotor stimulation for severely malnourished children at Costa Rica’s Institute for Health Nutrition.


Ms. Friendly settled in Los Angeles where she led community assessment, program development, and other fundraising and administrative activities as the Administrator of Clínica Oscar Romero. The Clínica focused on health and social services for refugees and other immigrants from Central America. Her achievements at Clínica Romero in the late 1980’s included creating a dental education training program for community members through a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and developing one of the earliest community health promotion programs in Los Angeles utilizing lay health promoters or promotoras, with support from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. Through the promotoras program the Clínica was able to offer community members training and future careers in community health, while also extending their reach to benefit more needy families in the downtown Pico Union neighborhoods of Los Angeles. With support from the United Way, Ms. Friendly’s promotoras worked with school nurses and went door-to-door in an education and vaccination program to combat measles. The approach was modeled on successful immunization programs that had been implemented in Costa Rica, highlighting its success in reducing infant mortality rates through investments in basic education, vaccinations and hygiene.


In 1990, Ms. Friendly created the Clinic for the Americas (Clínica para las Americas). The Clinic was established to respond to the need for more health services for low-income Latinos as well as African-Americans and Asian Americans in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles. She walked the neighborhoods with her promotoras and learned about the economic, social, cultural and health needs of a diverse cross-section of men, women and children living in poverty. Many were recent immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America.


In 1998, after ten years of experience in management of free and community clinics, Ms. Friendly joined the staff of the Venice Family Clinic (VFC) and is currently Associate Director. The Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the nation serving 20,000 patients who make 100,000 visits yearly to seven sites in Los Angeles County.


Ms. Friendly has a key role on the Senior Management team of VFC, overseeing several departments that provide direct services. Children First is a home based, child development program incorporating Early Head Start and child care programs benefiting the most needy families. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Clinic’s Department of Health Education, Promotion and Community Outreach in 2001. The Department includes health promoters who do outreach and education in the community, health educators who provide instruction and counseling in maternal and child health, as well as the management of chronic disease and lifestyle improvements related to weight loss and nutrition. She was instrumental in developing a health empowerment initiative that has trained staff and providers to improve the health literacy and self-efficacy of patients, while strengthening patient-provider communication. She led the development of the clinic’s Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment Program in 1999, which has since that time enrolled about 4,000 people into public health insurance programs.


She has inspired and strengthened partnerships with government, community and academic organizations and programs. The most recent include: Early Head Start, the Westside Children’s Center, Mar Vista Family Resource Center, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Santa Monica College, Parents Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), St. Joseph’s Center, Westside Family Health Center, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, including the Division of Maternal and Child Health, the Early Intervention and Identification Group and the Los Angeles Children’s Planning Council, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, First 5 LA, Santa Monica’s Lifelong Learning Initiative, the Atlas Family Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.