As a little girl, Jane Ratto loved everything Italian. Both of her parents’ families hailed from an area near Genoa, Italy, and she studied Italian in school. When she met Vincenzo Traversa, an Italian and humanities professor, he called her by her Italian name, Gina—and that is the only name she has used ever since.
We are forever indebted to PAMF and Eden.
In more than 30 years of marriage, Gina and Vincenzo, who passed away in August 2019, spent just one night apart. When Vincenzo fractured his left wrist in 2003, his primary care physician, retired Palo Alto Medical Foundation internist Cal Brenneman, M.D., referred him to PAMF orthopedist James Hartford, M.D. Dr. Hartford placed four pins in his wrist, requiring Vincenzo to spend one night in the hospital.
“That was the only night we were apart in our entire marriage,” Gina says. “I remember him pacing the hallways the next morning ready to come home, but we did grow fond of the orthopedist and looked forward to follow-up visits.”
The healthcare Gina and Vincenzo received from Sutter Health throughout their lives spanned the Bay Area from Castro Valley to the Silicon Valley. During times of critical care needs for Gina’s mother, Vincenzo and also Vincenzo’s first wife, Sandra, PAMF and Eden Medical Center were pillars of excellence.
“All of the compassionate doctors and staff have been the best we could have had,” Gina says. “We are forever indebted to PAMF and Eden. Vincenzo and I decided long ago to leave a great part of our estate to PAMF to honor a lifetime of care.”
Vincenzo first forged a connection with PAMF while teaching at Stanford University in the 1960s. Renowned PAMF leader Robert Jamplis, M.D., was Sandra’s doctor as she faced melanoma. In fact, even after Vincenzo joined the French and Italian department at the University of Kansas, the couple returned to PAMF for Sandra’s cancer care. She ultimately lost her battle with the disease, but the two families formed a very tight bond, and for years afterward, Vincenzo and second wife Gina traveled regularly from the East Bay to Palo Alto for their care.
“Bob Jamplis was like a brother to Vincenzo,” Gina recalls. "Vincenzo credits him for giving him an additional 12 years with Sandra, and it is because of those early connections that we have had a continuous connection with PAMF and Eden.”
Committed to His Craft
Vincenzo had a distinguished academic career in humanities, modern languages and literatures, starting in 1957 at the University of California, Los Angeles and culminating in 40 years at California State University, East Bay. Gina graduated from Cal State East Bay and worked at the university for 44 years, many of them as an administrator in the Office of Academic Affairs, before retiring in October 2019. The couple commuted to and from work together every single day.
Vincenzo was a prolific author of more than 20 books, including three editions of a textbook used for first-year Italian studies,Parola e Pensiero: Introduzione alla Lingua Italiana Moderna. He also appeared regularly on an Italian-language television program in San Francisco. And in 1986, the president of Italy presented Vincenzo with the honor of Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Cavaliere nell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana) for his longstanding service and achievements in the academic world and broader community.
In 2010, a bout with wet macular degeneration—a chronic eye disorder that causes blurred vision or a blind spot—could have ended Vincenzo’s writing career. His PAMF Fremont ophthalmologist, Timothy Scott, M.D., who had performed a successful cataract surgery on Vincenzo in 2004, diagnosed the condition and referred him to Tanya Ghosh, M.D., at the PAMF Munnerlyn Eye Institute in Mountain View.
“First, Dr. Ghosh commented on the excellent cataract surgery Vincenzo had already had,” Gina recalls. “She lifted his spirits not only by fixing his eyesight but also by becoming a true friend.”
The treatment Vincenzo received was actually a cancer medication that had been found effective for wet macular degeneration, and it improved his vision dramatically. He went on to publish two more scholarly books and was working on two more when he passed away.
Honoring Exceptional Care
Although Vincenzo introduced Gina to PAMF, her connection to the Sutter Health network is equally strong. When her primary care doctor retired, she began receiving care in Palo Alto from Austin Clark, M.D. Eventually, the couple joined the PAMF Encina practice.
“Palo Alto was like our second home,” Gina says. “Vincenzo loved the area so much that we traveled there most weekends. I know we are not alone in our commitment and the gratitude we feel toward the healthcare we have received.”
Gina is also thankful for the care her mother received at Eden Medical Center while suffering from severe lung disease. And more recently, at the end of Vincenzo’s life, Gina spent several days by his side in the Eden intensive care unit.
“We were privileged to have such wonderful care at the Eden ICU,” she says. “Throughout 2020, I reflected that if his illness had come a little later, staying by his bedside in the middle of a pandemic would not have been possible. That has helped comfort me a bit with his loss.”
Gina can also take comfort in the fact that her and Vincenzo’s generosity will ensure that community members have access to the same exceptional care.
“We are grateful for our decades-long relationship with the Traversa family and honored that they chose to include a gift to Sutter Health in their estate plan,” says Ryan Lee, director of gift planning for Sutter Health Bay Area. “Their generosity will impact our cancer and research programs for decades to come.”