35 Kickass Women in O.C.

Kickass: adj.
Having a strong effect on someone or something; powerful

2. Exceptionally good; spectacular; impressive

No matter which definition you pick, every woman on this list lives up to the description and beyond. You’ll likely be aware of some, and the rest you’ll want to know. All of them make us happy and proud that they’re part of our community.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Anne Shih
Chairwoman of the Board at Bowers Museum
Bona fides: A board member at Bowers since 1996, Shih has been responsible for dozens of the most prominent exhibits at the Santa Ana museum, including Terra Cotta Warriors twice and last year’s “Guo Pei: Couture Beyond”—the exhibit’s West Coast premiere. Shih is a force of energy: Her relationships and drive have led to more than $20 million for Bowers. Her glamour is unsurpassed, no matter the event: A Minnie Mouse-accented ensemble for the launch of “Inside the Walt Disney Archives” (through Oct. 18) displayed the perfect blend of style and whimsy. She started the Junior Ambassadors program for O.C. students to learn at Bowers, then spend time as docents at the Shanghai Museum. As one O.C. nonprofit president said of Shih, “She’s the kind of person everyone wants to lead their board.”
In Her Words: “I like to think that I had a significant role in establishing important relationships with major museums around the world, which in turn have led to a steady stream of high-profile exhibits that the Bowers is so well known for. I would hope the seeds that I helped plant with cultures around the world would take root and grow as the years go by, establishing much greater cultural understanding between our many diverse cultures—here in the county and beyond. I hope that our impact is much broader than just Orange County.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Kinsale Hueston
Award-winning poet
Bona fides: Hueston of Corona del Mar won the National Student Poet award at the age of 17 and was honored by Time magazine and director Ava DuVernay as one of “34 People Changing the Way We See the World.” The Yale student and member of the Navajo Nation focuses on many issues of cultural identity in her art and is a three-time Scholastic national gold medalist who also serves on the board at Yale Literary Magazine. As if all of that weren’t enough, last fall she launched Changing Womxn Collective, an online magazine and digital space “for womxn, especially womxn of color, and their allies” that also offers direction for workshops in the community.
In Her Words: “I want to keep spreading awareness—I want people to know that Native Americans are not just a part of history; they still occupy space and have real issues that shouldn’t be ignored.”

Susan Samueli
Co-founder of the Samueli Foundation
Bona fides:
After her own health concerns led her to holistic and integrative medicine in the early 1980s, Samueli went on to get a Ph.D. in nutrition, a diploma in homeopathy, and had her own practice. A chiropractor’s advice for a path to wellness and a nutrition book in a library “changed my life and changed how I felt completely.” Three years ago, she and her husband gave $200 million to UC Irvine to establish the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, which brings integrative health to all of its schools and programs, one of the only places to do so.
In Her Words: “I think the institute is already taking steps toward my goal, which is that everyone will be able to experience integrative medicine. (Executive director) Shaista Malik really is amazing in her ability to combine the financial parts and also understanding integrative medicine and the kind of doctors we need to push this forward. … When you go to the doctor and someone sits down with you and looks at the kind of food you’re eating and the kind of exercise you’re doing—that’s something you don’t experience at the conventional doctor. We don’t want this just to be for wealthy people. We want this for everybody.”

Shaista Malik
Executive director of Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute
Bona fides: A cardiologist, researcher, and Anaheim native, Malik created the preventive cardiology program a decade ago at what was then the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Health. She figured out how to quantify and address stress, then sent patients to mindfulness classes that led to changes in brain activity after eight weeks. Now she leads a team focused on preventing disease by looking at all health factors—nutrition, mind-body connection, and mitigating stress—and bringing those services under one roof. The mission is also to educate new providers on holistic health and shrink out-of-pocket costs—acupuncture and nutrition are covered by insurance in many cases. The institute offers 65 hours of weekly programming to the community on ways to reduce stress.
In Her Words: “Our hope is that this kind of care becomes regular care. Integrative medicine is an innovation. No one else is doing integrative health like this. Part of the Samueli gift is to bring in 15 endowed chairs over the next five to 10 years to do the research in this kind of care and provide evidence. There’s no other place in the world that’s combining the education, patient care, and research to make this happen.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Isabel Delgado
2020 High School Big of the Year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire
Bona fides: A recent graduate of Western High School in Anaheim, Delgado was one of two recipients of the High School Big of the Year award from BBBS of Orange County and the Inland Empire. She spent three years volunteering to mentor elementary school students. “Isabel has gone above and beyond what is expected of her as a mentor in our program,” said Cristal Ochoa, associate director of site-based programs for BBBS. “She is engaged and passionate about helping her Little Sister Vivian rise above self-doubt just as she did growing up.” Delgado also participated in the City of Anaheim’s Project S.A.Y (Support Anaheim’s Youth) and worked in the city’s S.T.A.R.S (Study-Time, Arts, Recreation, and Sports) program. She will major in human services at Cal State Fullerton this fall.
In Her Words: “I decided to become a Big because when I was younger, I didn’t really have a mentor. So knowing that there was an organization (that would allow me to) help the younger generation succeed in life encouraged me to volunteer for them. I also gained experience working with children, and it turns out I really want to do something like this in the future.”

Samuelson photograph courtesy of NBAE

Katie Lou Samuelson
WNBA player for the Dallas Wings
Bona fides: Hailing from a family of basketball players in Huntington Beach, Samuelson began her illustrious career playing for Mater Dei High School and winning Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 2015. Since then, she has received numerous accolades including Youth Olympics gold medals, a national championship at the University of Connecticut, and being the fourth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA draft. This fall, she will play in Spain with her teammate and sister, Karlie. With nearly 150,000 social media followers, Samuelson uses her platform to be a role model for young female athletes and to speak out on issues such as mental health and social justice.
In Her Words: “I wanted (my social media presence) to be authentic, and I wanted people to know what I believe in and what I stand for. A big thing for me is mental health and coming out and letting young athletes—specifically young girls—know that it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, everyone’s going through something and you don’t have to be alone in that sense. It was great being part of the (Black Lives Matter protests) in Huntington Beach. I was only home for a limited time, and that was something I really wanted to make sure that I did. Just being able to get out and see that there were protests going on in my hometown, show up, and be a part of that as much as I could.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Rachel Johnson
Captain of the Laguna Beach Police Department
Bona fides: A former Marine, Orange County Sheriff’s deputy, and lieutenant at the Newport Beach Police Department, Johnson joined the Laguna Beach Police Department in February. She knows this is a challenging time for law enforcement and contends that departments need to be more transparent. The public has demonstrated that they want change, Johnson says, and she believes it is important for those in leadership roles to show a willingness to listen. Still, she says she believes in her profession and intends to work with community members to improve their perception of the police.
In Her Words: “I have some built-in credibility because of some things that I’ve seen and experienced. I can talk to the public as an African-American, a woman, a mother, and a police officer. That can create an instant bond. People can see that I’m not just giving them the party line, but I genuinely want things to improve.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Gina Osborn
Retired FBI agent
Bona fides:
Osborn, who grew up in Tustin and still lives in Orange County, spent 22 years with the FBI. Her first assignment was in the Santa Ana office, and when she retired in 2018, she was a special agent in charge of cyber and computer forensics in the Los Angeles office. She now hosts a true crime podcast “Behind the Crime Scene,” mentors girls and young women while serving on the board of directors for Girl Scouts of Orange County, and gives motivational talks and presentations—now online—focusing on how to survive the pandemic, using the lessons she learned investigating terrorism cases and working through crisis and chaos as an agent.
In Her Words: “I emphasize that when dealing with chaos, you need to get your thoughts in order and create daily routines; identify your priorities so you can feel you’re making progress every day; limit negative thinking; and establish some personal boundaries when you’re at home living with other people. If we focus on these things and try to help each other, we can get through this.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Julie Hill
Director at Anthem Inc. and Lord Abbet, and Chair of UC Irvine Board of Trustees
Bona fides:
Hill’s impressive résumé includes being the first female Chair of the Board Trustees of UC Irvine and receiving the Amelia Earhart Award from the UCI Women’s Opportunities Center and the Glass Ceiling Award from the American Red Cross. Soon she will be able to add space travel to her list of accomplishments, as she plans to board Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft and become one of the first thousand private citizens to venture into space. But she says her proudest accomplishment is raising her son as both a single mother and CEO of the U.S. division of Costain Homes.
In Her Words: “I am pushing every organization I know to focus on social equity—which includes wearing masks for other peoples health. Anything I touch. I’m bored with another agenda because this is the agenda now. What I believe is that a culture of an organization drives the possibility and opens the door for diversity. And that diversity opens the door for innovation, and that’s true for any organization that we’re in. There are so many people that are waking up, starting to read, starting to understand, and listen in a way that we haven’t before. In every way I can, I want to educate myself so I can be an ally and I can help facilitate this change.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Maria Hernandez
Orange County Superior Court Judge

Bona fides: A former public defender and presiding judge of the juvenile court, Hernandez created Young Adult Court with UC Irvine professor Elizabeth Cauffman in 2018. The innovative program is a pilot project for felony offenders between the ages of 18 and 25 intended to reduce recidivism rates. For those who successfully complete the multiagency program, their felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor or the charge can be dismissed. The 18-month program includes mental health therapy; employment and educational counseling; substance abuse treatment, if needed; regular meetings with probation officers and case managers; and mandatory attendance at court hearings.
In Her Words: “When I was a public defender, I saw that the story often ended in a horrible way for young offenders and their victims, so I realized we needed to do something different. Black and Latino men are overrepresented in court. This program can address some of those issues, and the preliminary data is looking good. We are making an impact; we are making a difference.”

The school is a gold mine when it comes to empowered women—from its leaders to its students.

Executive Board of UCI Law Review Volume 11
Courtney Lem, Emily Horak, Brooke Bolender, Sarah Sakr, Catherine Rosoff, and Tatum Wheeler
Bona fides: These six women have made history as the first all-female executive board at UC Irvine Law. It is one of the few top law schools nationwide to have a woman-led review. These students were some of the first to work on the review once it added a diversity statement, which started with Volume 10. The review is student-run and student-edited, and those in their second year can join. Staff elects the leaders each year. Editor-in-Chief Lem says UC Irvine Law feels unique because there’s a large sense of camaraderie and teamwork and not much competition. About the board, she says “We do a great job of listening to each other’s concerns. It feels very collaborative.”
In Her Words: “I think something we’re working hard on right now is taking extra steps to increase the diversity and inclusion,” Lem says. “My hope is that improvements don’t end with our board. I hope future boards and future staffs keep improving.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

L. Song Richardson
Dean of UC Irvine Law School

Bona fides: Richardson’s pedigree astounds: She graduated cum laude from Harvard, got her law degree from Yale, and went on to be a public defender and defense attorney before teaching law. A nationally respected expert in implicit bias, her authenticity and natural storytelling ability make the most complex and charged topics seem relatable to all kinds of people. She has been committed to UC Irvine Law’s core values—public service, teaching students to be leaders, diversity, equity, and inclusion—since she arrived in 2014 and has continued to elevate the school’s reputation since becoming its second dean in 2017: UC Irvine Law is the No. 3 school in the country in community hours per student and the top public school for faculty academic impact.
In Her Words: “I think it’s more important than ever that we graduate students who will be leaders in the community and help us to address the structural, institutional, and systemic issues like anti-Blackness and racism that are receiving so much necessary attention today. Our students come here because they care very much about the issues that impact our society. And we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t facilitate their ability to make a difference when they enter the legal profession.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Mehrsa Baradaran
Professor of law at UC Irvine Law School

Bona fides: Baradaran’s expertise on financial inequity led to a busy summer: She testified before a House committee in June, wrote a piece for The New York Times in July, and learned that her book—“The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap”—inspired Netflix to allocate $100 million to banks and lenders that support Black communities. “I’ve tried to ring the bell on these issues for the past 10 years,” she says in a discussion that highlights her mastery and energy. She came to UC Irvine last fall and aims to simplify the complex language of financial law and demystify it for students. She advocates for post office banks, more access to free debit cards, and checks in the system for people who need help most.
In Her Words: “I love teaching. I’m interested in issues of equality. I don’t buy some of the myths that people tell about the poor. Growing up without some stuff and seeing how hard the people around me worked, and seeing the way very wealthy people thought of poor people—that’s the stuff that makes me angry. When people make assumptions to justify bad policy. … I don’t think we can wait on corporations to lead social change. We need to create policies.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Michele Goodwin
Chancellor’s professor at UC Irvine Law
Bona fides:
Goodwin’s expertise in race relations and gender issues draws other superstars of their fields to join her for forums because her brilliance and commitment are irresistible. It’s powerful to hear the author of five books discuss her research, her experience, and her aspirations for women and civil rights. The winner of numerous national awards for scholarship and teaching, Goodwin is the founding director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy; she also serves on the executive committee for the American Civil Liberties Union. She has been at UC Irvine for more than six years, and last year won the Be The Change Award.
In Her Words: “I look forward to women playing more dynamic roles in our society—in its judiciary, in its legislative bodies, in congress, and at the state level. And I look forward to a time in which young girls don’t have to question what their potential will be. (When) women are able to achieve the highest heights without having to modify their light. … That’s a future that guarantees greater equality and helps us to fulfill the promise of the Constitution. … That reality has to include women being at the forefront and center.”

Daniels photograph by Carla Rhea

Sandy Segerstrom Daniels
Founder/executive director of Festival of Children Foundation; managing partner of South Coast Plaza and C.J. Segerstrom & Sons

Bona fides: Daniels has been involved in philanthropy from a young age. “I go way back—my mom and dad got me into charities all the way back to Girl Scouts,” she says. It was 2003 when she came up with the idea for Festival of Children Foundation, a nonprofit that helps strengthen hundreds of children’s charities across the country. Daniels has received approval from the U.S. Senate each year since 2008 to designate September as National Child Awareness Month, which is also when the Festival of Children event is held at South Coast Plaza.
In Her Words:Out of the 482 organizations that we have across the country, 12 have gone out of business. Right now, we just need to help (them) survive. … Listening to our organizations and helping them do what they do better, making them stronger—I think that’s probably what I love most.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Melissa Martinez-Booth
Founder of 4SOCIETEE and PELT
Bona fides: Martinez-Booth, who founded design and trend forecasting agency PELT, has consulted for action sports industry staples Quiksilver and Volcom as well as global fashion brands such as Lee Cooper. Her newest project, 4SOCIETEE, blends fashion and philanthropy. Martinez-Booth partners with charitable organizations, designs a custom T-shirt, assumes all costs for production and handling, then donates 15 to 33 percent of sales—double the usual amount for such ventures. So far, 4SOCIETEE’s bicoastal efforts have benefited small businesses and food pantries hit hard by COVID-19 and international humanitarian organizations Waves 4 Water and the Italian Red Cross.
In Her Words: “Although well-intentioned, the quality of cause T-shirts is typically low, the graphics too literal. They’re worn once and tossed. We’re changing that by raising funds and awareness. We offer people a way to support causes important to them by wearing a quality shirt that they like. Being charitable has nothing to do with trend. It should be the fashion industry standard.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Megan Klink
Executive director of Komen Orange County
Bona fides: It’s an understatement to say that Klink has a personal connection with breast cancer: Both her grandmothers are survivors, and her mother was diagnosed a month after Klink assumed leadership of the nation’s second largest Susan G. Komen affiliate in 2018. Klink has worked in nonprofits since 2004, including roles at Working Wardrobes and StoryCorps, and describes an addictive quality to the work. But it’s certainly a challenge, particularly this year. COVID-19 has sidelined Komen OC’s mobile mammography unit—which provides free screenings to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women—and has forced the group to reimagine its fundraising walk as a virtual event Sept. 26. Komen has set a bold goal to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.
In Her Words: “What makes me hopeful (we can meet the goal) is the work we are doing on every front: significant investments in research, in particular for metastatic breast cancer; the fact that we are working to change public policy to ensure that women are able to get treatment, stay in treatment, reduce or eliminate time barriers to treatment; as well as the local, on-the-ground community work to make sure that women understand how important it is starting at age 40, (even) if you have no history of breast cancer, to go ahead and get screened. The combination of all that is going to make a dent in that number.”

Linda Rose
Recently retired president of Santa Ana College
Bona fides: Rose spent about seven years total in leadership at the college, helping to bring the Guided Pathways program to campus, which focused on providing a framework to reach all students and, in her words, “show them how to go to college.” Rose served on the boards for Workforce Development and the Santa Ana Chamber, giving her access to businesspeople as she sought to improve the stature of the school. As an adult student herself—she attained three degrees in six years after going to college at age 34—she has a deep understanding of adult students and the ability to reach them with a unique voice. She is adamant about doing as much as possible to teach students about voting, the census, and their potential as citizens.
In Her Words: “I hope to continue consulting and help people maximize their potential. I study strengths. I can help people look at their strengths and focus on that, instead of what we can’t do. Recognize people’s potential and give them direction; they can do the most fabulous things.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Cathy Thomas
Food Writer
Bona fides: For more than three decades, Thomas has shared her passion for all things cooking with foodies in Orange County and beyond in her columns, videos, and cookbooks. She huddles in her kitchen with local chefs as well as internationally known restaurateurs and authors to make how-to videos of specialty dishes. The Association of Food Journalists named her the best food columnist in the nation, and her joy and fervor are infectious. Ask any longtime Orange County chef about her, and their eyes light up. She vacations all over the world with chefs, and she embraces new flavors and techniques. In a room filled with 300 folks from the food industry, she’s a beloved presence to one and all.
In Her Words: “Chefs and their kitchen staffs, as well as all the restaurant workers who make it work, are an important part of our community. Without them, our futures would be dreary. They deserve all the help we can give them. But I have to add that the lockdown fueled a lot of home cooking for folks who have never really found comfort in cooking before. Why, I have one friend who is baking brioche daily who prior to this never did more than scramble an egg once in a while. It tickles me!”

Wilford photograph by Ralph Palumbo

Audra D. Wilford
Co-founder of MaxLove Project

Bona fides: When her son was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 4, Wilford learned everything she could and shared her knowledge immediately with the community. Her experience as a line cook, a culinary student, and an educator led her to focus on nutrition. “Someday, it’s going to make sense—why you have all these interests,” her husband said. “It’s going to come together.” Prophetic indeed. They started the nonprofit to support families affected by childhood cancer; nine years later, Wilford’s intense drive and passion has helped MaxLove support more than 25,000 children in five countries and raised more than $2.4 million. During the pandemic this year, the group has partnered with local businesses to donate meals to health care workers at CHOC, continues its Fierce Foods Academy classes virtually, and will host a live virtual event Sept. 26 as a finale to its #forkchildhoodcancer campaign.
In Her Words: “Every kid universally should have access to every tool … there should be no barriers. We can step up and help provide that access. That’s one of the reasons we want to see culinary medicine put into the hospital. If the child and caregiver have to be there anyway, and we have the opportunity to nourish them and educate them while they have to be there, then we’re winning.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Kelly Lam
Founder of The Whole Purpose
Bona fides: When Lam found herself craving two yoga classes every day to feel at peace, she knew it was time to leave the real estate career she’d built for a decade to find more balance. In 2013, she created The Whole Purpose to build customized and wide-ranging wellness plans for companies and individual people. Lam is a connector: She expertly blends the right people together to make powerful ideas come to life. The launch of an events division—including Women with Purpose and Talks with Purpose—to host themed discussions live and virtually for the community with leaders in various fields was a natural extension of her zeal.
In Her Words: “I really hope that COVID is bringing humanity back together. Having our son home for months was such a blessing in that it brought me back to realizing the importance of the small things—like cooking and making granola together. Having true conversations and not being in such a rush is so important. I think now employers need to be aware of their employees as human beings and not numbers. Our goal has always been to bring health and wellness to employees. I hope companies will embrace people as individuals.”

Mercedes Kerr
President of Belmont Village Senior Living

Bona fides: With more than 20 years of experience in the senior housing sector, Kerr is one of the industry’s most sought-after experts based on her vision and tenacious nature. A longtime resident of Irvine, she’s responsible for the expansion of Belmont Village’s premier communities. Kerr has held senior leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies and seats on the boards of national and state organizations dedicated to setting policy and standards for senior housing and care. She also was tapped by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve on the state’s Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee to develop a blueprint to build environments for an age-friendly California.
In Her Words: “Our founder and CEO, Patricia Will, has created a culture of unrelenting dedication to the quality of life of our residents. We are equally proud of our commitment to the growth and opportunity of our employees who are responsible for the care and well-being of the residents we serve. We place a high value on a diverse workforce and strive to provide opportunities to people who share our passion.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Molly Jolly
Senior vice president for Anaheim Angels, Girl Scouts OC board chair
Bona fides: As the highest-ranking woman in the Angels organization, Jolly is a sought-after speaker at community events. During a Q&A session a few years ago, she was asked about the factors that had shaped her character and set her on the path to success. At first, she mentioned the obvious influences of family and education. Then, she recalled how her years as a Girl Scout—even earning the Gold Award, the organization’s highest achievement—had given her the confidence to believe she could take on any challenge. “A member of the Girl Scout board happened to be in the audience. Literally within a week, I got a call, ‘Why aren’t you on the Girl Scout board?’ ” Jolly is now the board chair of Girl Scouts OC.
In Her Words: “I really believe that the program teaches girls positive values and a positive sense of self so they do have the courage to know who they are and what they’re capable of, and to go out and use that to make a difference in the world. I believe our program helps shape that in young women, and I feel like we need that. We need to lift people up to be their best selves, and the Girl Scouts are the way we make that happen.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Isabella Madrigal
2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout
Bona fides: A member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Madrigal centered her Gold Award project on Native representation in the arts. In an effort to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, she wrote, directed, and performed in a play called “Menil and Her Heart.” The recent Orange County School of the Arts grad earned the National Gold Award for her Native Storytelling Project sponsored by the Dragon Kim Foundation. Madrigal was also chosen to speak at the United Nations’ Girls Speak Out event last year, and she will attend Harvard this fall.
In Her Words: “Native people have been subjected to historical trauma, and cultural revitalization is key to our healing. We have performed the play now for more than 1,000 people. My younger sister has also joined me in running the Native Storytelling Project, and we just got more funding to continue that. The play is now being adapted into a screenplay.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Megan Loh
2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout
Bona fides: A recent graduate of Troy High School in Fullerton, Loh was one of 10 exceptional Girl Scouts across the U.S. who earned the National Gold Award. Her project included years of developing a nonprofit, GearUp4Youth, focused on supporting girls’ interests in STEM through free workshops, presentations, and family events involving science, technology, engineering, and math. The nonprofit has partnered with more than 200 other organizations and reached 13,500 girls so far. Loh also authored the book “Easy STEM Activities You Can Do at Home!” and spoke on a panel at the United Nations. She plans to study physics at Stanford this fall.
In Her Words: “Only 25 percent of the technology workforce is female, and only 15 percent is made up of minorities and people from underprivileged backgrounds. If we can show these girls and their families that STEM is for everyone, those values will last a lifetime. My goal is to continue expanding our reach. We have five international chapters. By 2025, I’d love to have 50.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Holly Morrell
Founder and executive director of Heartfelt

Bona fides: For 20-plus years, Morrell has been screening Southern Californians for cardiac arrest risk factors. She and her team of medical professionals have tested 55,000 people and saved more than 1,000 lives by detecting potentially life-threatening heart conditions. As her nonprofit matures, the hereditary heart disease survivor maintains a steady cadence of collaborations and connections. She will be featured in an Amazon Prime Video reality docuseries “The Social Movement,” set for release next summer. Heartfelt recently inked a deal as the exclusive U.S. partner in a technology platform powered by artificial intelligence for prescreening patients for COVID-19.
In Her Words: “I’m blessed to have found my purpose in life. I’m also privileged to have saved many lives through my Heartfelt efforts. The COVID-19 crisis is horrific—yet cardiac arrest is still killing someone in the United States every 90 seconds. My team and I are eager to return to conducting community cardiac screenings.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Allyson Brooks
Executive medical director of Hoag Women’s Health Institute
Bona fides: After 21 years in practice as an OB-GYN, Brooks extended her commitment to excellent health care for women by developing programs for maternal child health, maternal mental health, breast health, integrated wellness, and any other programs to fit women’s needs that aren’t being served. Funny, warm, and relatable, she expertly hosts and moderates an annual women’s health brunch and discussion in front of 300-plus attendees in which a roomful of women quickly become allies and friends. This year, she has spent much of her time focused on maternity services at Hoag’s Irvine campus, where the Fudge Family Birth Suites will open by the end of this year, and doing innovative work with a virtual reality company to offer programs to expectant and postpartum mothers.
In Her Words: “The pandemic has created a significant strain on our community, especially for women planning to start or expand their family. We have attempted to address concerns with enhanced technologies such as live-streaming of baby care, CPR, childbirth education, daddy’s boot camp along with development of a birthing suite mobile application as part of the Hoag Healthy Together app and our virtual reality product, Nurture VR, due to launch this fall.”

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Gloria Jetter Crockett
CEO and president of Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire
Bona fides: Crockett started her career with the American Cancer Society and has since spent 26 years in the nonprofit world, saying that she has “grown up in nonprofit.” After a stint on the East Coast, she came to UC Irvine School of Medicine, where she was responsible for $10 million in annual fundraising. As chief development officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, she loved the revenue-generating aspect and helped with recruitment. She was drawn to Make-A-Wish a year ago by the effect that hope has on a child’s health. The group grants wishes for children ages 2 ½ to 18 who are battling critical illness, and all the money raised here stays to help local kids.
In Her Words: “For me it’s about being purposeful. I was looking at the number of children in the pipeline. Kids waiting for their wish … what can we do in generating more funds? (Some donors) don’t know that we’re here. We need to tell that story. Since COVID, we’ve had to postpone 80 wishes that were scheduled. We’re trying to look at how to provide hope for the children who are waiting. The power of hope is so moving.”

Reshma Block and Shelley Hoss; Photograph © Kait McKay Photography

Reshma Block
Board chair for Orange County Community Foundation, technology consultant
Bona fides:
The first woman of color to chair the organization, Block is used to excelling beyond biases because of her time as a woman in the technology world. After leadership positions in Fortune 100 companies and startups, she launched her own consulting firm at the height of the Great Recession. Her first client told her colleague to “get rid of the guy on this project and put Reshma in charge.” At the same time, Block launched a family charitable foundation to give more of what she wants to receive and to leave the community better than she found it.
In Her Words: “How do I use my platform to engage more diverse populations in philanthropy? I would love to flip the script a bit to get more diverse donors, younger donors, more people of color, and to expand our board. I hope what we end up accomplishing is that we leave the foundation more diverse—not just how we represent our donors, but that the work we’re doing helps solve some of these systemic issues over time. If we can get a board of (foundation) members who come from all walks of life, who are from all different parts of Orange County, who are engaged and committed to this, that would be a huge win.”

Shelley Hoss
President and CEO of Orange County Community Foundation
Bona fides:
The ultimate connector, Hoss seems to know all the right people and has a deep desire to strengthen the community, making everyone she meets feel comfortable and brilliant in their own space. The foundation aims to inspire a passion for giving and to be a resource for donors. Early in the pandemic, it launched the OC Community Resilience Fund and raised $4 million in eight weeks, capitalizing on its role between the community and donors. Hoss, who was raised in Orange County and did her graduate work at UC Irvine, took the reins at OCCF in 2000, when the cumulative grants and scholarships awarded were about $20 million. Two decades later, the group has given out more than $700 million and increased its assets tenfold.
In Her Words: “I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support as I have in the initial stages of the pandemic. There are opportunities to move the needle. It’s not business as usual. It’s a new window opening into how we can work together to dig into deeper issues. Specifically, we are launching work with our board to focus on issues of racism and inequality. That is what is fueling me now. In the context of all we have been through, how do we tackle the deeper issues that are holding the community back? How do we change the system, not just ameliorate the effects of the system?”

Written by Miles Corwin, Gaby Garcia, Alan Gibbons, Astgik Khatchatryan, Barbara McMurray, Grace Murray, Michelle Pagaran, Chelsea Raineri, and Valerie Takahama Photographs by Emily J. Davis

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