Category Archives: News and Notes

Heroes amongst us

Emily Benson, MD (VCMC), Hoc Nguyen Van, MD (Vietnam Duc Hospital), Serge Kaska, MD (San Diego), Aubree Goodman (premed student), Ngo Van Toan, MD (Vietnam Duc Hospital), Petros Frousiakis ,MD (CMH ortho resident), Damayea Hargett ,MD (VCMC) and Mary Ragsdale,MD (VCMC).

by Jennifer Tipton

For one week, this past March five orthopedic surgeons voluntarily traveled to Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam to assist the Vietnamese surgeons there.

Damayea Hargett MD and Emily Benson MD specializing in trauma along with Mary Ragsdale MD specializing in joint replacement surgeries such as hips and knees are all orthopedic surgeons at VCMC.  Emily went last year to accompany Dr. Serge Kaska another orthopedic surgeon based in San Diego who has contacts in Hanoi. These big-hearted doctors not only paid their own way but also sponsored Petros Frousiakis an orthopedic surgical resident at CMH knowing it would be a great experience for him as well.

The docs landed at the largest surgical center in Vietnam performing an average of 5 surgeries a day along with seeing clinic patients lined up to evaluate and determine if they were even a candidate for surgery, some returning from the previous year after having already been turned away.

Vietnam with a population of about 92,700,00 has mopeds and motorbikes as the primary form of transportation with very few speed limits and stop signs; this would certainly explain why there are so many traumatic injuries. Our docs walked 1 ½ miles each way to the surgical center and “D” (Damayea) tells me this was the scariest part of the trip because the drivers don’t yield to anyone or anything!

Dr. Damayea Hargett is examining a young patient.

Perhaps due to all the trauma, it is a cultural expectation that if you get hurt you may have some disability, they saw more pathology in one  week than what they see at VCMC in an entire year.

Vietnam has socialized medicine so funding for treatment is limited however, they also do elective cases if you have the cash to pay for it.

The ortho ward was equipped for 50 but had an average of 80 patients, summertime being the worst with literally two  patients in each bed. Along with the trauma were the nonunion surgeries (fractures that did not heal), the congenital deformities that had never been corrected and those that had but never healed correctly. Many of the patients they saw were children, lots of children…

Instrumentation was minimal as well as orthopedic hardware such as a simple clamp or plate, and the closed procedures our docs perform at home with the assistance of radiology were a luxury not afforded. And yet another challenge was that often the surgical technicians assisting them did not speak any English. With these challenges our docs found themselves out of their comfort zone and stayed up many nights doing research to strengthen their skills. Damayea stated, “Unfortunately, we had to turn a lot away, it was heartbreaking.”

The surgeons there so appreciated our docs coming, working together with them and the many discussions that prompted learning on both sides so in addition to plans to return next year and annually, our docs are currently in the process of sponsoring 2 of the surgeons that hosted them to come here and spend a week at VCMC to continue the sharing of knowledge.

If you are interested in sponsoring future trips or a physician that might like to join them, email:





“Spring Bloom” Photo Contest

Cacti can also bloom. Photo by Bernie Goldstein

Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) is now accepting entries for its first-ever “Spring Bloom” photo competition. Photographers of all ages and levels are invited to submit their best images of the Gardens (taken this year) for a chance to win. The deadline for submitting photos is Friday, April 28.

“This contest is an opportunity to engage the entire community in the beauty of the Gardens,” said Barbara Brown, Board President. “With this year’s rains, we’re hoping that there are lots of flowers to shoot, but even if there isn’t, there are always the spectacular vistas of the coastline and agriculture.”

“Planners Nancy Kettner and Terri Strober have done a wonderful job pulling this together,” says Joe Cahill, Executive Director, “we hope this will become a community tradition.”

Participants must send a Facebook message to the VBG Facebook page (2 entries max) with their photos using the hashtag #VBGinBloom. There are two ways to win–the first category is People’s Choice. Winners in that category will win by getting the most “likes” on Facebook. The Ventura Botanical Gardens will showcase the images on their Facebook page during the “Like” voting period between May 1- May 5.

Additionally, a panel of visual art professionals will judge the photos and award the Judges’ Choice. Winning photos will be announced on the Facebook page and published on the VBG website and in the summer newsletter. For more information, please visit

This public benefit nonprofit organization is dedicated to creating a world-class botanical garden for the preservation, education, cultural contribution and enhancement of the community. The gardens, when complete, will celebrate the five Mediterranean climate regions. The locale boasts spectacular 180-degree views of the California coast and the Channel Islands. The Ventura Botanical Gardens is located at 398 Ferro Drive in Ventura, California.

The first trail is a popular hiking destination. While still in its rustic state, the seedlings of the Chilean Gardens are beginning to thrive. VBG planning includes outdoor opportunities like community gathering spaces, training and research opportunities, and educational programs ranging from horticulture and botany to sustainability. To find out more, visit and join us on Facebook.

Community Crime Alert – Tool Thefts

During the last several weeks the Ventura Police Department has responded to over 27 crimes involving the theft of tools from tool boxes affixed to vehicles or from storage containers of businesses. The majority of the crimes have occurred in the industrial area south of the 101 Freeway between Arundell Ave. and Knoll Drive. These crimes are occurring during late night or early morning hours. The suspects are using pry tools or cutting tools to gain entry into the locations.

The Ventura Police Department has increased patrols in this area and we are asking the public to report suspicious activity to our Command Center by calling 650-8010 or 911 in the event of an emergency.

Retired Ventura County Superior Court judge kills girlfriend and himself

Herbert Curtis was appointed to the Superior Court in 1998.

On Feb. 5, at 11PM, the Ventura Police Department Command Center received a call from a resident in the 5500 block of Dorsey St. reporting that her neighbors were involved in a very loud and contentious verbal domestic argument.

When officers arrived on the scene they attempted to make contact with the individuals inside the residence. When they heard multiple gunshots they moved to a safer location and set up a perimeter around the residence.

In the residence was former Ventura County Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis III, 69, and Patricia Payne, 54. Herbert Curtis was the nephew of boxing promoter Don King and was Ventura County Superior Court’s first black judge.

Hostage negotiators made contact by phone with Curtis, who indicated he was armed with a gun, but he refused to surrender. Payne’s condition was not known at this time. Ventura SWAT officers were notified and arrived a short time later.

Negotiations continued for about two hours until the SWAT team deployed a listening device into the residence and heard Payne indicating she had been shot. When additional gunshots were heard, SWAT team members immediately entered the residence to try to rescue Payne.

As they made entry, Curtis shot and killed himself. Payne was brought to a waiting ambulance and was transported to VCMC for treatment of multiple gunshot wounds where she later died.

Ventura Police Commander Sam Arroyo said police had been called to the residence several times previously and that Payne had been arrested for misdemeanor public intoxication and other infractions. She was scheduled to be arraigned on March 17.

At the time of his death, Curtis was a partner at the Oxnard law firm of Gutierrez, Curtis and Gutierrez.


Ventura City firefighters respond to boat fire

On Jan.31, at 1:45am, Ventura City firefighters responded to a report of a boat fire in the Ventura Harbor. Upon arrival responding crews found a 50 foot commercial fishing boat 6 feet off the ground in dry-dock fully involved in. Fire suppression efforts initially concentrated on protecting an adjacent building and boat from the flames. The boat was a complete loss.

Three additional small fires were discovered in the same boat yard at varying intervals throughout the firefighting operations: A fire involving a propane tank of a fork lift, a debris fire in a workshop area and a smoldering rag on the stern of another boat in dry-dock.  An additional fire involving a vehicle occurred in the 1300 block of Spinnaker Dr. just prior to the aforementioned fires. All the fires are suspicious in nature and are suspected to be connected.

The cause of the fires remains under investigation by both Ventura Police and Fire Arson investigators.

Homicide suspect arrested in Texas

A memorial was set up on Alessandro to celebrate the life of Spencer Turner.

As previously reported on December 4 an on-duty California Highway Patrol sergeant was in the area of Seaward Ave. and Highway 101, when he heard multiple gunshots in the area.  The sergeant began checking the area and found a 27-year-old male suffering from gunshot wounds to his upper body, lying in the roadway on Alessandro off of   S. Seaward Ave.  He began rendering aid to the victim, but when Ventura City Fire personnel arrived on scene, he was pronounced deceased.  Another shooting victim was able to get to the hospital and survived the shooting.

The deceased has been identified as Spencer Turner, 27 of Ventura. The men were involved in some kind of confrontation at a local restaurant that led to the shooting. At the time it was suspected that all of those involved in the shootings knew each other.

Ventura Police Major Crimes’ detectives have identified Sadiki Shakur, 23 from Ventura as the suspect in the double shooting. They developed information that the suspect was in the area of Amarillo, Texas.  Detectives working with the local authorities there and the FBI were able to locate the suspect  and he was taken into custody by the local authorities  on December 15.

Four vehicle collision near Ventura College

On Dec.12 a four vehicle collision was reported just before 8am adjacent to Ventura College at the intersection of Telegraph and Day Road. A four wheel drive truck struck the passenger side of a large 4 door suburban, resulting in the entrapment of a young woman. Two additional vehicles collided resulting in a minor collision.

The suburban sustained heavy damage to the passenger side of the vehicle. Fire crews used the jaws-of-life to pry apart the wreckage and cut the doors away, freeing the patient in 9 minutes. She was transported to VCMC with moderate injuries. A total of 2 additional patients were assessed by fire paramedics but were not transported.

Ventura Police and Ventura Campus Police closed the roadway of traffic and investigated the accident. It is expected that the busy intersection will be fully open by 11am.

Betsy Blanchard Chess elected to board of directors

Betsy Chess has received a number of awards.

The Limoneira Company has announced that Betsy Blanchard Chess has been elected to the Company’s Board of Directors.

Chess is currently the Director of Development, Museum of Ventura County. Prior to this, she was the Editor and Publisher of Central Coast Farm and Ranch Magazine and the Executive Director of the New West Symphony.

She has received a number of awards including the 2014 Volunteer of the Year for Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the 2014 Ventura County Star 25 over 50, and an Art Star in Education award from the Ventura County Arts Council. She is a decedent of Nathan Blanchard, one of Limoneira’s founders.

She received her Master’s Degree in European History from The University of Southern California.

“We are honored to have Betsy join the Limoneira Board of Directors” said Gordon Kimball, Chairman. “She has strong core values and a real passion for Limoneira, its history and its culture. She brings a fresh new perspective to the board, and I am looking forward to working with her in the coming years.”

“This storied Company has become an agricultural powerhouse, and I’m thrilled to join the board” said Chess. “Limoneira has an exciting future, and I look forward to making a contribution”.

Limoneira Company, a 124-year-old international agribusiness headquartered in Santa Paula.

The Company is a leading producer of lemons, avocados, oranges, specialty citrus and other crops. For more about Limoneira Company, visit

Media Contact: Limoneira Company John Chamberlain 805-525-5541 x1056 or
Investor Contact:
John Mills Partner

Mike Evans selected as new Facilities and Risk Manager for Channel Islands YMCA

stuff-ymcaChannel Islands YMCA Association has announced Mike Evans as their new Facilities and Risk Manager. Evans has been certified as a YMCA Team Leader, and was recognized as the Channel Islands YMCA Rookie Director of the Year in 2013.

In 2011, he joined the Channel Islands YMCA as the Director of Facilities at the Ventura Family YMCA.  Evans lives in Ventura with his wife, Denise. Evans attended Ventura College, Oxnard College and Allan Hancock College and studied Fire Science. He is California Firefighter 1 Certified.