NEWS | May 20, 2020

Expert crew brightens the grounds and the day for everyone at UC Davis Health


Sometimes it’s the seemingly small things that can make a big impact on patients and their experience at UC Davis Health.

UC Davis Health groundskeeping team.
UC Davis Health groundskeeping team. Larger photo here.

For instance, the well-kept greenery and healthy trees in front of the UC Davis Medical Center can make an important impression on patients.

“Those are the little things that patients see,” said Brad Simmons, interim medical center CEO. “It makes them comfortable. They instinctively think, “if they’re taking great care of the grounds, they’re taking great care of the hospital.’”

Simmons gave a special thank you to the groundskeeping team during a recent virtual town hall and talked about how their efforts were part of the important work being done as UC Davis Health continues to restore service.

All the members of the groundskeeping team understand their role in the patient experience, said Dennis Elliott, superintendent of grounds and move crew operations.

“This is a group of real pros,” Elliott said. “They take a lot of pride in the way all the grounds look. We want our patients to know that we feel this way about our grounds and about them.”

But it’s not just for patients. Elliott and his team believe a well-groomed campus is also important for providers and staff, especially in these jumbled times.

“I think it’s important to see our greenery and our grounds in great condition. It’s comforting right now for patients and for our own people,” Elliot said. “People walking from the parking lots see beautiful flowers and well-maintained tress and it helps set the condition for everyone to do the best job possible.”

The groundskeeping crew includes Ray Flores, Ceaser Vasquez, Louis Rojas, Boni Aguilar, Keith Williamson, Alejandro Espinosa, Roland Rosella, Arturo Nunez, Richard Bealer, Mariano Molina, Louie Hernandez, John Rodrigues and Ralph Escobar. Many of them have a decade or two of experience. Elliott said this allows them to make judgements on the timing of some maintenance work. Crew members have daily work orders, but they also have responsibility for specific zones and use their experience to assess when to trim and handle other upkeep to be most effective.

“They have the flexibility if they see a branch that needs trimming to get it done,” Elliott said. “They’re out there every day. They know what is most important to do and when.”

The COVID-19 crisis has affected his crew as it’s affected everyone, but in many cases, they’ve been able to adapt. They all work a bit more individually now, for instance. And they were looking forward to Earth Day and Arbor Day and hoping to plant possibly 20 trees alongside community volunteers. The trees will eventually get planted, but with less fanfare.

One thing they all miss is the monthly barbecue Elliott normally throws for his team.

“We really are a tight knit work family, especially now,” Elliott said. “I believe we have the best job in the world. We’re outdoors every day and people always let my team know they’re doing a great job. Now, we’re looking forward to when we can have another barbecue.”