Angel of mercy for health care

Glendale man dedicates himself to getting coverage for those who need it most.

July 07, 2010|By Ruth Sowby
(Raul Roa )

Commutes to Northern California three days a week may seem excessive to the average Glendale resident, but for Robert Issai it's a simple duty.

Issai was elected to the Catholic Health Assn. of the U.S. Board of Trustees June 15. Although his work as president and chief executive of Daughters of Charity Health System is in Los Altos, he commutes to and from the Northern California city to Glendale, where he and his family have lived for 31 years.

Issai will now be responsible for overseeing more than 600 U.S. hospitals under the Catholic Health Assn. of the United States, one of the largest groups of nonprofit hospitals in the country.

Issai and his wife, Alice, moved to Glendale as some of the "first pioneer Armenians" 31 years ago, he said. Now, he wouldn't consider leaving the jewel city.

"When I moved to Glendale in 1979, we had one relative, and we fell in love with the city," he said. " We never wanted to move. Glendale is home. I care about Glendale. I love the city."


Daughters of Charity Health System comprises six hospitals from San Francisco to Los Angeles that serve the poor and sick.

"The position I have has really become a calling for me instead of a career or job," Robert Issai said.

His job with the Daughters of Charity Health System began 18 years ago and is a mission he has devoted himself to.

"Catholic health care, to me, is the best health care in the country," he said. "Daughters of Charity Health System are the best of the best when taking care of disenfranchised and the poor."

Southern California inner-city hospitals that belong to the health system are St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles and St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

"It's not an accident that we're not in suburbia, but we are in inner cities taking care of the poor," Robert Issai said. "We bring quality health care and access to health care, which is a problem in our country for the most vulnerable in our society."

Issai will now take on a different role overseeing more than 600 of the Catholic hospitals with his new board of trustees position.

"I'm very privileged and honored that they have bestowed this position to me," he said. "We are in the transformation phase of health care in this country, and Catholic Health Assn. took a very strong position helping Congress through the reform. Health-care reform would not have happened without the Catholic Health Assn. support for reform."

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