100 Ways: Health


Published May 13, 2019 1:34 PM

Serving Those Who Served


UCLA’s commitment to veterans started when the University of California’s “Southern Branch” opened in 1919 with a student population that included disabled veterans. That commitment continued to grow as thousands of veterans attended UCLA in the post-World War II era and beyond.

Today, veterans can avail themselves of services at the Student Veterans Resource Center, the Brain Injury Research Center and Operation Mend, a program established to treat the wounds of war. Faculty members at the David Geffen School of Medicine train doctors at the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center; university health professionals treat thousands of veterans every year; and UCLA social work, nursing and public health students train and conduct research with the goal of serving veterans.

In the last 18 months, the partnership between the university and the veterans community has expanded significantly. UCLA has committed $16.5 million over 10 years to fund a series of programs designed to address a unique set of needs. The UCLA VA Veteran Family Wellness Center opened in August 2017, and in its first year it served more than 7,000 veterans and their families through coaching and programs on topics such as communication, goal setting and resilience training. Some of the clients described the services as “lifesaving.”

UCLA surgeons Reza Jarrahy (right) and Christopher Crisera with Operation Mend patient Jason March.

The UCLA School of Law Veterans Clinic opened on the West L.A. VA campus at the same time, assisting more than 230 veterans in its first year with a variety of legal issues. The clients, says co-director Will Watts, understand that “there is someone in the trenches with them.” And UCLA is developing a third center to address homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues.

The partnership is a win-win for local veterans and hundreds of UCLA students, researchers and health-care providers who are gaining clinical experience and acquiring new areas of expertise, along with a greater understanding that “service” addresses issues of mind, body and spirit.

Changing the Cityscape

Public Art

UCLA faculty and alumni artists have changed the cityscape. Consider Urban Light: The iconic sculpture at LACMA is the work of Chris Burden, a professor of art at UCLA from 1986 until his retirement in 2004. Burden found the first street lamps for the assemblage in 2000. Urban Light has appeared in films, on television and in innumerable social media postings. Few would dispute its status as the most popular piece of public art in Los Angeles.

Urban Light in front of LACMA.

The most ubiquitous public art in L.A. is Metro station art, and dozens of UCLA alumni have contributed to it. Union Station offers a stunning mural showcasing the diversity of Los Angeles: City of Dreams/River of History. A pair of Bruins, Richard Wyatt ’78 and May Sun ’76, collaborated on the mural. Wyatt, who grew up in Compton, met the Shanghai-born Sun when both were UCLA art students.

But art isn’t the only department with work on display. The radiant Inner Child mural at the Robert F. Kennedy Community School was created by a design media arts graduate, Allison Torneros ’08. She calls herself “Hueman”: Working on large-scale artwork outdoors restored her humanity, she explains.

On the same community school campus are inspiring murals by Judy Baca. Perhaps best known for her epic portrayal of California history in the San Fernando Valley’s Great Wall of Los Angeles, Baca is a tenured professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies as well as in the Department of World Arts and Cultures. Her work has consistently embraced collaboration, community empowerment and engagement with young people.

Refik Anadol M.F.A. ’14’s data sculptures, though not on permanent display, etched themselves into public memory when Anadol created stunning motion graphics on the exterior of downtown’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. The weeklong WDCH Dreams installation, projected onto the building’s skin from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, 2018, was part of the kickoff to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s centennial celebration.

City of Dreams/River of History at Union Station, by Richard Wyatt in collaboration with May Sun.