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20 Women to Watch

These highly successful women are making a positive impact on the Orange County business community.

By Kelly St. John, Tina Borgatta, Susan Belknapp, Kristen Schott and Craig ReemPublished: March 13, 2008

Orange County is a community that’s chock-full of talented and dynamic women. There’s Mahtab Jafari, the UC Irvine researcher who may very well discover the secret to eternal youth. And there’s Hilda Pacheco-Taylor, whose own experiences growing up in a Mexican orphanage compelled her to found Corazon de Vida, a nonprofit aimed at helping youngsters who are living the same type of existence she did as a child. We found their stories so moving, so captivating and so inspirational, we just had to share them.


Sue Klug

Albertsons
President of the Southern California Division, and the first female president of a major grocery chain in Southern California

Age: 48
Words to live by: “Do the right thing.”
Role model: Bill Davila, former president of Vons
Last book read: “Pillars of the Earth,” by Ken Follett

In an industry where the customer demographic is overwhelmingly female, upper-level management has always been overwhelmingly male – until now.

Sue Klug started her grocery career 30 years ago in, essentially, the corporate mailroom for Vons. She continued working while earning her bachelor’s degree in food industry management and a master’s in advertising and promotion strategies. She was named president of Albertsons Southern California Division just a few months ago.

“Southern California is one of the most competitive grocery markets in the country, possibly the world,” says Klug. “I am excited and committed to making our stores the best in the nation.”

When not dropping in on stores or exploring the latest industry technologies and innovations, Klug is giving back to her community. She has been involved with City of Hope for 15 years and – as the mother of a daughter with cystic fibrosis – she and her husband are committed to helping find a cure for the genetic disease.

“In addition, I’m very passionate about working with Western Association of Food Chains,” says Klug. “This organization helps develop educational programs for young people in our industry so that they realize the amazing opportunities available to them at Albertsons.”


Barbara Niksch
Visiogen, Inc.
Vice president of regulatory, quality & clinical affairs for the Irvine-based medical devices company

Age: 42 
Words to live by: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Role model: “I admire people like Oprah who are very successful, but are also sharing with others and are giving.”
CD in her car: “I’m stuck in the ‘80s, so it’s Duran Duran.”

With 18 years of experience working in the medical devices industry in Orange County, Niksch is a well-respected leader in the field. In the spring of 2006, she accepted an appointment from the United States Department of Health & Human Services to serve as the industry representative on the FDA’s Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, a position she holds through October 2009.

At Visiogen, Niksch is responsible for the company’s worldwide regulatory, quality, and clinical research strategies and implementation, and she developed the Synchrony AIOL, a dual-optic accommodating intraocular lens and pre-loaded injector intended for use in cataract and refractive patients. 

She also teaches a course for the UC Irvine Extension Program that focuses on conducting clinical trials in an ethical manner. And, in her spare time, she plays tennis, enjoys scrapbooking and helps many charitable causes, including Kathy’s House in San Juan Capistrano, a shelter for women and children, and Operation Christmas Child, assembling gift boxes for underprivileged children around the world. She also sponsors a little girl in Ethiopia through Compassion International.

“Balance is the key,” says Niksch, who lives in Mission Viejo with her husband, Robert Ott, and their two cats.


Kirsten Mangers
WebVisible
CEO and co-founder of the software and services company, which creates opportunities for large-scale business communication

Age: 43
Words to live by: “Always make it a better place, and come to the party with solutions.”
Role model: Her mom and dad
Hamburgers or hot dogs: Hamburgers, medium-rare

Mangers is an innovative and inspiring leader. She took her 20 years of experience working with GTE, Pacific Bell, SBC, Go2 Systems and Engage Technologies, and molded it to fit with the modern reliance on the Internet for communication and marketing needs.

She wants every one of her employees to enjoy the work they do at WebVisible, emphasizing “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities” for her staff. She is a small-business advocate, and she does her best for the underdog through her position as vice chairwoman of the Southern California Technology Political Action Committee, which finds ways to better represent small businesses.

She “wants to be a voice” for other women like her, so she strives to be a role model, providing a base for other aspiring female professionals in the field of technology.
She truly does try to make the world a better place, locally and globally. That’s why she serves as the co-chairwoman of the Visionary Women’s Circle of the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a personal cause for Mangers – she’s watched family members suffer from this debilitating disease, and she wants to be a part of the effort to find a cure.

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In a league of their own
These five Anaheim city employees hold top posts in fields typically dominated by men

We couldn’t help but notice this quintet from the city of Anaheim among the Women to Watch nominees. You could say they are women working in a man’s world: Marcie Edwards, public utilities general manager; Natalie Meeks, public works director; Lisa Stipkovich, community development director; Sheri Vander Dussen, planning director; and Kristine Ridge, human resources director.

These five  community leaders join Anaheim City Clerk Linda Andal to form a team of talented women who contribute to the city of Anaheim’s executive management team.
As the head of public utilities for the past 7 years, Edwards is responsible for the operations of the county’s only customer-owned, not-for-profit electric and water utility.

Meeks assumed her post in June, after serving 19 years as a city engineer, overseeing administrative developments relating to the Platinum Triangle and Disney Resort areas, and Anaheim’s capital improvement program, which included construction on library facilities and a new fire station.

Anaheim’s Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency, as well as its Job Training, Affordable Housing, Neighborhood Preservation and Economic Development programs all fall under Stipkovich’s watchful eye.

All of the development planned for the city of Anaheim – the largest city in OC – keeps Vander Dussen busy. There’s the Platinum Triangle, the GardenWalk entertainment region and, perhaps the most significant, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, which will serve as the gateway to high-speed and conventional rail, bus and automobile travelers.


Marcia Manker
Orange Coast Medical Center
CEO of the only nonprofit hospital in Fountain Valley and its neighboring areas

Age: 47
Words to live by: “Lead by example.”
Role model: “Everyone I work with – they are the ones who are so inspiring...and my husband, my family.”
Favorite TV show: “The Biggest Loser”

Manker believes in everything she takes on. “I am here to serve,” she says.
And serve she does. Manker is responsible for running the daily operations at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center – and planning for its future. The Orange Coast Patient Care Pavilion, set to open in the summer of 2009, is her “big deliverable,” and will feature state-of-the-art services and an outpatient center.

With help from her team, Manker won City Council approval to expand, and with what she calls the “best marketing department around,” the hospital launched campaigns to inform the community of the great work the medical center does – and will continue to do once the pavilion opens.

Manker credits her 1,500 staff members and 750 physicians for the hospital’s success: “I’m so fortunate to have the most exceptional people that I have the privilege to work with.”
Her family provides her with support outside of work, and they’re an active bunch. For her husband’s 50th birthday, the couple and their twin daughters (16 at the time) climbed Mount Kilimanjaro summit – a 7-day hike, up 9,000 feet. “I had a sense of relief at the top,” Manker says. “It felt like the top of the world.”

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Hilda Pacheco-Taylor
Corazon De Vida
Founder of the Irvine-based charity that assists orphanages in Baja, Mexico

Age: 45
Words to live by: “One child at a time.”
Role model: Her mother
Mexican food or Italian? “Both! Our blended family is half and half, and we eat both all the time.”

After her father abandoned them, Pacheco-Taylor’s mother struggled to support her children in Mexico, then made the heart-wrenching decision to place them in an orphanage so she could move to the United States and work as a laundress.

“It could have been the most devastating experience of my life, but it was a blessing,” says Pacheco-Taylor, who is the vice president of operations for L5 Performance Systems in Irvine. The orphanage, she says, gave her an opportunity for education, something she has never taken for granted.

Corazon de Vida support staff and countless volunteers make trips to Baja 1 Saturday a month, just to visit with the children. Even more, the nonprofit sustains 14 orphanages through corporate sponsorships and donor funds. “We have a program for employees to adopt an orphanage,” says Pacheco-Taylor. “And we would like that to expand.” She has seen the exponential benefit for the children – and volunteers, many of whom are Orange County students.

“It is life-changing when you begin doing something so basic as spending time with a child,” says Pacheco-Taylor. “People are often just waiting for an opportunity to help, and they come away completely transformed.”


Corinne Lyle
Edwards Lifesciences
Corporate vice president and president of global operations for the company, a leader in products and technologies that treat advanced cardiovascular disease and the No. 1 heart-valve company in the world

Age: 48
Words to live by: “Did you ever hear a 30-second commercial that was too short?
Role model: Michelle Obama
Favorite wine: Provenance Cabernet Sauvignon

Lyle oversees thousands of employees worldwide, and she’s known for a job well done. 
With the company since 2003, she’s responsible for Edwards’ global, information technology, quality and supply chain operations. She previously served as CFO, treasurer and a board member. Headquartered in Irvine, Edwards produces and sells products in nearly 100 countries, with sales of $1.091 billion in 2007.

In mid-2006, Lyle spearheaded a LEAN initiative that last year resulted in operational efficiency gains of more than 50% and a cost savings of nearly $4 million.
    
She led a $20 million companywide effort to replace an information technology system with a global integrated system that supports Edwards’ long-term growth plans.

She also makes time for charitable work, having served on the executive committee for Edwards’ $20 million charitable fund. And she has contributed to Bridges to Higher Education, an Orangewood Children’s Home program that helps foster-care youth attend college or trade school.

Lyle lives in Newport Coast and says raising her 2 sons, Konrad, 11, and William, 13, rates among her greatest accomplishments. She holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University, where she was captain of the tennis team, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Mahtab Jafari
UC Irvine

Age: 40
Words to live by: “Purpose in life: You have to get up in the morning and have a purpose.”
Role model: Dr. Marianne Koda-Kimble, dean at UC San Francisco School of Pharmaceuticals – and anyone who gives back to society
Milk or O.J.: “Coffee! With lots of cream, and not nonfat.”

Jafari might soon replace diamonds as a girl’s best friend – she could be holding a gem that’s even more precious. The secret to anti-aging.

Jafari discovered the herbal extracts Rhodiola rosea and Rosa damascena increase the lifespan of fruit flies, and she’s expanding that research to determine whether it has the same effect on mice.

If her research stays true, testing on humans could follow.

“We focus so much on superficial aging,” says Jafari, who was born in Iran, attended high school in France and then moved to the U.S. with her family to attend college. “But the truth is, the aging pathways are all very internal. I hope that what I’m doing will modulate those pathways…My goal is to really slow down the aging process.”

Jafari is considered a leading researcher on the anti-aging properties of pharmaceuticals and botanicals. She speaks at national symposiums, and has been published in numerous journals and textbooks.

She designed and directs UC Irvine’s pharmaceutical sciences undergraduate program. She recently was presented with the university’s 2007-08 Distinguished Assistant Professor Award for Teaching.

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Lynne Matallana
National Fibromyalgia Association
President and co-founder of the Anaheim-based organization;  fibromyalgia affects about 10 million Americans

Age: 52
Words to live by: “You have to be flexible.”
Role model: “Any woman who embraces the opportunities that perhaps were not there 100 years ago.”
What she has a lot of: Shoes

Matallana of Orange is living proof that she followed her pain into an international cause. Her nonprofit is a reflection of her desire to raise the efforts of diagnosis, which took too long when she was afflicted by the chronic pain disorder in 1995; the profile of the disease, which some still question; and the therapies to help those sufferers. There is good news on that last front: The FDA has approved Lyrica, a drug that helps ease their pain. As the New York Times reported this year: “Lyrica may…legitimize fibromyalgia, just as Prozac brought depression into the mainstream.”

Matallana, whose ongoing regimen includes a fitness plan built around her business trips, has helped with the educational part. “It takes a long time for people to come to understand a disease,” she says.

Educating health-care providers is a growing part of Matallana’s life: “The scientists are doing wonderful work, but without the perspective of the patient, they can’t make sense of all of the findings they are coming up with. So, when a patient and a health-care provider team up…we can be more successful in dealing with that illness.”

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. “What the association does is provide hope. I know that when I was lying in bed, if I had known that there were scientists researching it, and an organization…fighting every single day to find ways to help improve my quality of life, that would have given me strength. It will get better.”


Susan Hori

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP
Partner, specializing in land-use entitlement and environmental matters

AGE: 52
Words to live by: “Whenever a door closes, a window opens.”
Role model: Her dad
Last book she finished: “Condor: To the Brink and Back – the Life and Times of One Giant Bird,” by John Nielsen, son of Tom Nielsen (former president and chairman of The Irvine Co.)

Hori takes her words to live by seriously. She uses the window as an analogy, saying people need to “look for an opportunity in another place. It may not be the place you were looking, but you will find the answer.”

She does this every day by helping her clients come up with strategies for solving land-use development problems, such as easing community concerns and planning for parks, public amenities and parking in project areas. It is often necessary for Hori to work with the California Coastal Commission, as well as other environmental companies, representing her clients in the approval, planning and building process.
   
Hori is a leader in her field, and in other ways, as well. She mentors younger associates, helping them grow in their profession and learn from
her example.

Outside of her profession, Hori serves on the board of directors for Arts OC, a nonprofit group that promotes public awareness and education in the arts. She has a passion for the arts and wants children to be able to experience the types of artistic learning needed to foster creativity. She pursues her passions, and she is driven to furthering that enthusiasm in others.


Jennifer Black
Local.com
Vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based Internet search engine

Age: 37
Words to live by: “You can do anything you wish to do, have anything you wish to have, be anything you wish to be.” – Robert Collier
Role model: “My father. He was an amazing man with an incredible work ethic.”
CD in her player right now: “Graduation,” by Kanye West

Black is the highest-ranking female executive at Local.com, which is now one of the 100 most-visited websites in the U.S.

She has played a pivotal role in bringing eyes to the site. In 2006, she successfully re-branded the company from Interchange to Local.com. She has repositioned the company as a full-featured local search authority, with new services such as Local Mobile, which sends search results directly to cell phones and handheld devices, and Local Promote, a subscription-advertising product for local businesses.

She was also the brains behind the company’s Apple-a-Day Giveaway, in which the company gave away an Apple iPhone daily to promote its Local Mobile service.

Black – a mother of two sons, ages 18 and 8 – credits her children with inspiring her in work and life.

“It is important to me that they succeed and learn that hard work will really pay off in personal satisfaction,” she says. “I have been lucky enough to find what I love doing for a career. When that happens, inspiration comes easy.”

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Cheryl Osborn
Casco Contractors
President and CEO of the company, which specializes in commercial tenant improvement

Age: 38
Words to live by: “I only surround myself with people who can do the impossible.” –Elizabeth Arden
Role model: Her father. “He was always the guy who told me that I could be successful in construction, whether I was a man or a woman.”
Favorite movie: “The Family Man”

Forget for a moment that this mother of two young daughters runs a successful business in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. The growth of Osborn’s company is incredible. She started her business with 1 employee in 2001, and that year did $600,000 in construction work. Osborn now has 26 employees, a large office in Irvine and completed almost $25 million in construction during 2007.

Three years ago, she added an architectural department to provide design/build services to clients, setting her apart from other construction firms. This year, Osborn projects she will take in $30 million in revenue and expand her business to become the largest woman-owned contractor in Southern California.

“Being a successful woman in construction has made me an anomaly in a male-dominated industry,” says Osborn. “I am passionate about changing that stereotype in the interest of
opening doors for future women who wish to pursue careers that don’t typically have a female influence.”
    
To that end, she supports the American Association of University Women and mentors 7th- and 8th-grade girls.

Osborn lives in North Tustin with her husband, Jeff, and daughters Cassidy, 10, and Riley, 7. Her hobbies include water and snow skiing, cooking and enjoying fine wines.


Dana Bledsoe
CHOC
Chief nursing officer, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and head of the patient care staff at the acclaimed center

Age: 43
Words to live by: “Vision and making a sustainable difference.”
Role model: A mosaic of her family; Karen Miller, former CNO of Children’s Hospital in Denver; and  two other hospital executives, John Callanan and Mark Wallace
Favorite TV show: “CSI” (loves crime procedurals)

This native of Montana spearheaded one of the most comprehensive electronic medical record and computerized physician order systems currently being used in the country. “In the entire U.S., the number of hospitals that actually have electronic medical records is maybe 10 percent,” says Bledsoe. “This is a tremendous detriment to safety, and checks and balances.”

The CHOC system was developed over a 5-year period, through a comprehensive coordination effort that included all departments. A front-line team – including doctors, nurses and other vital staff – was involved in every phase of creation.

“We needed to ensure 100% participation from the staff and curb any resistance,” says Bledsoe. “We did this by implementing the tagline, ‘It’s about the safety of the patients.’ And it is – first, last and always.”

CHOC now serves as a model for other hospitals. Packer Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto recently sent a scout team to study the system, and CHOC staff members have been asked to present at national forums.

The campus is further expanding its state-of-the art facilities, adding beds for neonatal intensive care and teen oncology, among other units.


Carolyn Cavecche
OCTA
Mayor, city of Orange, and a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority's Board of Directors

Age: 47
Words to live by: “‘It’s not about me.’ As a Christian, my faith is the most important part of my life. I know that God has a larger purpose for everything in my life. As an elected official, I also try to remember that my job is about service to others.”
Role model: Beverly Nestande, community activist. “She cared so much about the community – she really dedicated her life to service to the community.”
Coke or Pepsi: “Coke! I’ve been known to have a Coke as early as 5 a.m.”

Cavecche remembers the day she became a community activist – she even can tell you what she was looking at the moment she was called to action: “I saw something at the little store around the corner from my house that really bothered me. There were adult magazines displayed at my little girl’s eye level.”

So the mother of 3 complained to City Hall, and the next thing she knew, she was helping draft an ordinance restricting the display of such materials. That led to a few advisory board appointments, then election to the City Council, then election to the mayor’s post and a seat on the OCTA board – even a 2-year stint as chairwoman.

She’s loved every minute of it, especially the last 2 years. In Orange, her energies have been focused on bolstering public safety (violent crimes are down 8%) and neighborhood improvement programs. Her efforts with the OCTA have been focused on front-loading funding for improvements covered by Measure M sales tax money, which won’t be disbursed until 2011. Now, up to $370 million in freeway improvements, mass transit programs and road projects can be tackled sooner.

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Maria Feng
UC Irvine
Professor of engineering, and director of the Center for Advanced Monitoring and Damage Inspection

AGE: 46
Words to live by: “If there is a will, there is a way.”
Role model: Her father
What motivates her: “My 9-year-old son, Kenneth, who inspires me to work harder, learn more and take better care of myself.”

Feng wants to do more than just build bridges – she wants to make them strong enough to withstand just about any natural disaster. She even developed sensor technology to signal when aging structures begin to crack. And now, the U.S. Army has contracted her, hoping she can adapt the sensors to detect damage in the body armor and helmets worn by soldiers.

“We’re also trying to develop some high-performance, lightweight materials,” says Feng. “I think that’s very important. Currently, the material that is used for body armor is very heavy.”

Feng’s interest in engineering spawned when she was still a teenager, living in her native China: “There was an earthquake in 1976 that killed a quarter of a million people. Our bridges collapsed, and I remember thinking, ‘We ought to have some kind of technology to protect our building environment.’”

She went to college in Japan on a government scholarship and studied engineering, then moved to the United States in 1990 to work as a researcher at Princeton University. She joined the faculty at UC Irvine two years later.

“UC Irvine’s School of Engineering encourages interdisciplinary research,” she says. “It’s a great environment for a researcher.”


Susan Samueli
Samueli Foundation
Co-founder of the foundation and co-owner of the Anaheim Ducks

Age: 57
Words to live by: Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.”
Role model: Her grandmother
First song loaded in her iPod: “Probably a Nine Inch Nails song.”

With great wealth comes great responsibility, and for Samueli, that includes an obligation to give. It’s not a responsibility she takes lightly: Through the Samueli Foundation, she and her husband, Broadcom founder Henry Samueli, have given more than $200 million to philanthropic causes in education, health, youth services and human security, as well as programs supporting Jewish culture.

“It doesn’t make sense to live as good a life as we do without helping other people,” she says. “And I don’t want to just give someone a handout – I want to do something that will make a difference. And, hopefully, others will emulate us.”

In the field of health, she’s arguably the region’s most influential advocate for teaming Western medicine with alternative remedies, such as acupuncture and the use of herbs – a practice that’s at the heart of the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UC Irvine. The program is set to expand this year with the opening of a clinic.

And for fun, Samueli heads to the Honda Center to watch the Anaheim Ducks, winner of last year’s Stanley Cup. The Samuelis are the team’s owners: “It’s been probably more fun than we could have ever imagined.”


Norma García Guillén
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Attorney, specializing in business litigation

Age: 33
Words to live by: “Stay true to yourself. Do what’s right, even if it’s not popular.”
Role model: Her parents. “They are working-class immigrants from Mexico who came here with nothing and left everything they knew behind. They have built up their own empire and sent their kids off to college. That’s what I admire – people with very little who succeed and stand by their principals.”
Favorite movie: “La Ley de Herodes” (“Herod’s Law”), a fable about a janitor-turned-mayor in a little Mexican town who realizes how far his new power and corruption can get him.

Guillén is a leader in her profession. In addition to being a successful litigator, she serves as president of the Orange County Hispanic Bar Association – one of only six women to serve as president, and the first who was also an HBA scholarship recipient.

Guillén has successfully prosecuted and defended cases in state and federal court, including winning an open-ended jail sentence for contempt against a defendant who refused to turn over documents relating to a large Ponzi scheme.

While attending the University of Southern California, where she earned her law degree, Guillén was a member of the Jessup International Moot Court program, the Immigration Clinic and president of La Raza Law Students Association.        

Through her work with the Immigration Clinic, she helped undocumented women who were victims of domestic violence become legal permanent residents.

And in 2002, USC Law School awarded Guillén the prestigious Shattuck Award
for her leadership, dedication and service to the law school community and profession. She remains committed to pro bono work and serves on the board of many organizations, including the Santa Ana Education Foundation and KidWorks. Guillén lives in Santa Ana with her husband, José, and their 3-year-old daughter.

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Nina Smith
Sage Software
President of the company’s business management division, which serves two million customers

Age: 51
Words to live by: “Think twice and speak once.”
Role model: Her mother
Last book she finished: “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini

In just seven years, Smith has risen from a business unit marketing head to division president for the largest software company in Orange County. She oversees 2,000 employees and works with more than 2 million customers in North America.

During her tenure, Smith has led brand awareness campaigns that boosted Sage Software’s corporate image, and the company acquired 21 companies, growing from a $100 million operation to one with revenues of more than $1 billion.

Smith was born in Chicago – the oldest of 6 children in a single-parent household. The first person in her family to go to college, Smith credits a high school guidance counselor with helping her pick the right college, an important first step in her eventual success. Now, Smith gives back to other women in business through formal mentorship programs, speaking engagements and writing.

“I’m inspired by people and unleashing the potential of people,” Smith says, noting that her biggest challenge is ensuring that all of her employees are working toward a common mission. But that makes it sweeter when they succeed, she notes. “It’s so inspirational when you see them working toward a common goal.”


Linda Trinh Vo
UC Irvine
Associate professor of Asian Studies, and author of “Mobilizing an Asian American Community”

Age: 43
Words to live by: “Your mind is like a parachute. You have to open it for it to work.”
Role model: Her mother and grandmother, who helped raise her
French fries or fresh veggies: Fresh veggies

She spent the first 5 years of her life living in Vietnam, but it was Vo’s experiences living abroad (in Japan, India, Belgium) and, ultimately, establishing roots in Southern California that awoke her passion for Asian culture. Today, virtually all of her efforts are aimed at educating and mobilizing the Asian community – she’s even written a book on the topic.

At UC Irvine, she serves as a board member for the Southeast Asian Archive, an effort to document the experiences of refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and she’s an advisor for the Vietnamese American Coalition student organization. She also serves on the board of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, and is involved with the Project MotiVATe mentoring program.

“I feel that as educators, we really should give back,” she says. “There’s incredible diversity, and an incredible need in the Asian community to give back. And I encourage my students to do so.”

Ironically, Vo’s childhood wasn’t steeped in Asian culture. Her stepfather is Irish and Czech, and because he worked for the U.S. government, the family moved around a lot. “It was a wonderful experience,” she says. “It’s probably the reason I became an academic.”


Dr. Daphne Wong
CHOC
Medical director of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program at Children’s Hospital of Orange County

Age: 45
Words to live by: “Focus on the journey, not the destination,” and “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.”
Role model: Her parents
Favorite TV show: “24”

Child abuse kills more children in America than accidental falls, choking on food, suffocation or fires in the home. In Orange County, Wong is on the front lines, protecting the region’s children from abuse.

As the medical director of CHOC’s Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program, Wong is called to the bedsides of young patients with unusual injuries or medical conditions. If abuse is confirmed, her team works with law enforcement and social services to protect the child.

Wong’s first experience working with an abused child was as a resident at UCLA. A mother brought in her toddler because of a rash, but doctors noticed bruises. Later, they found healing fractures, and they were able to get the child out of an abusive situation.

She’s also on the front lines training future pediatricians through CHOC’s Pediatric Residency Program, which enrolled its largest class in 2007. An amateur photographer who loves to travel and play tennis, Wong is first and foremost committed to children.

“The reward is seeing the kids and their smiles,” she says. “I’ve been very fortunate to find a field I feel passionate about and that I find interesting. It’s a true blessing.”


Vanessa O'Neill
Cedar Spring, Inc.
Founder and CEO of the company, which specializes in emergency planning and response, and health-related crises

Age: 35
Motto: “Leverage, leadership and love”
Role model: Mother Teresa
Her teen idol: Cindy Lauper

When O’Neill founded Cedar Spring three years ago, she wanted to do more than earn an income – she wanted to make a difference.

And she does – in a big way. Her company supplies mobile shelters in disaster situations, hygiene solutions for use in pandemics and groundbreaking diagnostic equipment to detect diabetes. Her clients include state and federal government agencies, as well as nonprofits.
Her big push this year is in the area of health, hygiene and infection control. Cedar Spring negotiated an exclusive contract with a medical doctor who manufactures a solution that disinfects all surfaces, even if soiled (most only disinfect clean surfaces).

“There’s a huge conversation going on right now at the federal level about being prepared for a flu pandemic,” she says. “Most agencies aren’t, so we’ve been working with the Department of Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to help them create a preparedness program.”

For O’Neill, it’s all about the greater good: “Whatever I do day-to-day has to affect people positively.”

Call it karma, but that mantra has brought her success. O’Neill expects to do $7 million in business this year, up from $500,000 last year.

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Readers Feedback:

Wonderful! I am looking forward to meeting some of these women at the upcoming tea at UCI Extension Women's Opportunity Center
Comment at 4/1/2009