MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach unites in solidarity with those affected by HIV on World AIDS Day

MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach celebrates World AIDS Day by commemorating the achievements and breakthroughs accomplished in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Each year, Miller Children’s lights the outside of its hospital red in solidary in those affected by HIV/AIDS display an oversized red awareness ribbon at its main entrance. In addition, there is an annual educational event for physicians and community members to learn about the latest breakthroughs and therapies.

However, this pales in comparison to what the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center at MillerChildren’s & Women’s have done to fight HIV/AIDS over its 30 year history in Long Beach. The Bickerstaff Center team – who cares for infants, children, adolescents and pregnant women who are at risk for, or infected with, HIV/AIDS, acute community-acquired illnesses, chronic infections and other immunological disorders – have celebrated more than 26 years of zero mother to baby HIV transmissions.

In addition, in 2014, fast action on an HIV-positive baby – administering therapeutic drugs within hours of birth – worked to put the virus in remission for one of the babies in Long Beach. Dr. Deveikis, along with Dr. Jagmohan Batra, Dr. Tempe Chen and Dr. David Michalik were actively involved in the care and treatment of this baby. They were very concerned for the high risk of HIV infection in this baby as the mother did not seek prenatal care and was known to have HIV. For this reason, aggressive drug treatment was started immediately even before blood and spinal fluid tests confirmed that she was infected with the virus. The early treatment by the doctors at Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center with antiretroviral drugs led to the disappearance of the virus after just 11 days.

None of this would have even been possible if it wasn’t for the work of Glenn and Debbie Bickerstaff, whose philanthropic contributions have kept these key services available to the Long Beach Community.

“We’re so proud of the work our center has done over several decades not only to offer the best outcomes for mothers and their children, but to further educate, support and advance medical care for those in our community affected by this complex disease,” says Tempe Chen, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist, Bickerstaff Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “We are so grateful for Glenn and Debbie. Not only did their endowment allow us to operate aclinic that doesn’t necessarily hit profit margins, but they are just genuinely kind and generous people, who care deeply for these mothers and children. Debbie often is found volunteering her time here and always gives back. We adore them.”

Glen and Debbie Bickerstaff always cared for their communities, but they leaned into healthcare after Debbie Bickerstaff was hospitalized and required a blood transfusion in the early 80’s. Back then blood transfusions weren’t guaranteed to not infect you with another illness. They made a promise together no matter what, that if and when they could since she came away with her good health intact, they would help others do the same. To honor their promise, they created the Bickerstaff Family Foundation to help others by volunteering and helping patients with HIV. Debbie Bickerstaff called the MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach HIV clinic, who were eager to have her volunteer. Debbie easily engaged with the patients and developed a genuine rapport with those she helped.

Debbie began asking the medical team of the HIV clinic what they needed most and routinely cut checks to support their services for patients and their families. Several years after starting their volunteering efforts, Debbie and Glen Bickerstaff provided a $4.5 million donation to the foundation in support of the HIV Clinic, which had appropriately been re-named the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center.

Each year, the Bickerstaff Pediatric and Family Center hosts an event to celebrate World AIDS Day and spread awareness for the disease. This year, to help increase awareness and education, the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center teamed up with the City of Long Beach for a special online presentation, open to healthcare professionals as well as the public to educate about AIDS, HIV, and other STIs.

“World AIDS Day is an important reminder that this disease hasn’t gone away,” says David Michalik D.O., pediatric infectious disease specialist, Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center, MillerChildren’s & Women’s. “There is still a vital need to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.”

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