Jaw set, legs bent and torso twisted in full swing, Anaheim Angels third baseman Troy Glaus adorns the cover of Sports Illustrated's special issue commemorating the team's World Series victory. On the back is another familiar name in Orange County.
"The Best hospital congratulates the Best team," the full-page color ad says. "UCI Medical Center is as unique to Orange County as the Angels are."
The $15,000 ad is the latest sign of UCI Medical Center's revved-up campaign to transform its image as the county's hospital for the poor into that of an innovative health-care center rivaling the best in the nation.
UCI is not just fighting for patients with the best hospitals in Orange County, like Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, but with top-flight Los Angeles-area medical centers such as UCLA and Cedars-Sinai, and even the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
At the same time, the medical center is cutting back on care for the poor, and those beds are being filled by paying patients lured by the ads in newspapers, magazines and radio highlighting the hospital's specialists and state-of-the-art equipment.
The ad campaign also has a deeper purpose: to help attract the attention of potential donors. To meet state earthquake safety requirements, UCI is planning a $370-million hospital, which officials there hope will cap its image turnaround. Bonds and other sources are expected to pay for most of the construction, but UCI expects to have to raise about $50 million.
"We want to let the community know about the facility, and the visibility [from advertising] can't hurt," said Dr. Ralph Cygan, the center's chief executive. "We're also trying to tell the philanthropic community in Orange County it's not a project that benefits just the university but is a unique resource for the entire community."
Advertising is not new to the medical center. But this campaign, which began in May, marks the hospital's most concerted effort with themed advertising spotlighting UCI's excellence.
One ad touted UCI for having the county's only robotic-assisted surgery machine. Another announced, "We're making cancer more treatable." Still another bragged that the medical center was the only hospital in the county that U.S. News & World Report ranked among the nation's best, landing 29th in gynecology and 43rd in treating kidney disease.
When the Web site www.bestdoctors.com listed 40 UCI physicians, they became the focus of another ad. The same thing happened when a coalition of mainly Fortune 500 benefit managers called UCI the safest hospital in California.
Cygan said the new emphasis came about because community and business leaders, many of them on panels that advise the medical center or help it raise money, were telling hospital officials they were doing a poor job of telling its story. The ads are aimed not only at prospective patients but at doctors who might then be more likely to make referrals to UCI.
"People haven't associated this facility with high-quality university health care," Cygan said.
The new campaign targets families likely to have health insurance that will pay the bills. The ads have appeared in local newspapers and editions of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and U.S. News that are delivered to Orange County's wealthiest ZIP Codes, said Susan Rayburn, the medical center's vice president of external affairs.
UCI officials would not say exactly how much money they are spending on advertising. Cygan said the center's $3-million annual marketing budget has dropped slightly, but a greater proportion now is devoted to advertising.
UCI is by no means the only area hospital to advertise, especially around the fall and spring, when businesses allow employees to change health plans.
Debra Legan, vice president of marketing for Hoag, said the hospital's ad campaigns result in more phone calls and referrals. The most successful ads, she said, are those that run on the sides of buses.
"We want to make sure when people are diagnosed with something, we're on the top of their mind," Legan said. "If someone is told they have cancer, we want them to know there's a cancer center at Hoag hospital, and they should check it out."
Hospital advertising was low-key until the mid-1980s. But as managed care and Medicare changes made health care more competitive, hospitals began to advertise much more frequently, said Rick Wade, senior vice president of the American Hospital Assn. in Washington, D.C. He said that because some units lose money, hospitals must attract patients for treatments that bring profits.
UCI officials say they are determined to erase the image of the medical center as the county hospital; it stopped fulfilling that role after UC Irvine bought it 26 years ago.