Nancy Reagan's Legacy
Nancy Reagan Breast Center dedication
The most widely recognized name associated with Adventist Health Simi Valley is that of former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose name graces the hospital's breast center. But until July 1994, the facility was known simply as Aspen Breast Center. The story of how that change took place is an interesting nugget of AHSV history.
Fred Gaschen, the administrator of the Aspen Center in the early 1990s, was grappling with a marketing challenge. AHSV was the only facility in Ventura County with a stereotactic breast biopsy machine, and Gaschen was looking for a way to draw patients toward this exciting, life-saving technology.
One morning as he read a newspaper article about the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Gaschen hit upon the perfect solution for his challenge to draw attention to the Aspen Breast Center. It was widely known that the Reagans were fond of the city of Simi Valley and the beautiful land surrounding the city; it was, in fact, their rationale for choosing Simi Valley as the site of the Reagan Library.
Gaschen put a call into Nancy Reagan's staff, and after many meetings between hospital executives and people who managed the Reagans' interests, the commitment to the name change was set. As a breast cancer survivor herself, Nancy Reagan was more than happy to lend her name to the center.
The Guest of Honor Arrives
July 7, 1994, was an exciting day at AHSV. Nancy Reagan had enthusiastically embraced the hospital's request to rename the Aspen Breast Center in her honor, and the day had come for the formal dedication. Reagan was escorted by the Secret Service up a back stairway and into a second-floor room, which is now the Aspen Center's education room.
Local VIPs were also on hand to greet the former first lady, as were hospital leadership. Reagan received a private tour of the newly redecorated breast center and complimented its feminine touches, including the curtains, comforters and flowers that she felt made the breast center inviting and warm.
Making it Official
Nancy Reagan spoke at the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, relating her experiences as a breast cancer survivor and giving her blessing to the center. She also presented the hospital with a signed plaque, which still hangs in the Aspen Center, urging women to get regular breast health exams.
The former first lady's support for the hospital's efforts to help women prevent and treat breast cancer remains an honorable moment in our hospital’s history, and her legacy will live on in the years ahead.