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Friday, April 3, 2020

Victoria Mann Simms: Changing the World One Family at a Time

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Victoria Mann Simms is dedicated to helping young children grow and thrive. 

The Los Angeles-based nationally recognized child development specialist and philanthropist is focused on creating more recognition around early childhood development, particularly in the local Jewish community.

Her work in serving children ages 0-3 dates back to her 25 years as a clinical psychologist and her training in infant psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 

After her father, Ted Mann (of the Mann Theaters chain), passed away from lymphoma in 2001, Mann Simms combined her expertise in child psychology with her newfound passion for integrative care — a methodology that helps improve a person’s mind, body and spirit alongside whatever medical treatments they require, which was used in her father’s care.

She dedicated herself to increasing the accessibility of integrative care to oncology patients, low-income families and children up to the age of 3. Before her father’s death, “I was more right-brain than left-brain,” Mann Simms told the Journal. “When he got ill, I got very involved in his medical care and involved in integrative medicine.”

That included founding the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology in 2001. In 2005, she established the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center at Venice Family Clinic — the first integrative care center at a free clinic. In 2011, she founded the Simms/Mann Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the health and wellness of children, families and communities. 

“As a professional and mother and grandmother, I would love to see the Jewish community strive, and I want us to help grow strong, capable, empathetic adults.” — Victoria Mann Simms

The organization’s programs include the annual Simms/Mann Institute Think Tank, which brings early-childhood development practitioners and professionals together to share their research on children from the time of birth to age 3. She began the think tank out of the backyard of her and husband Ronald’s Santa Barbara home. Thirty people attended the initial event. Today, it draws hundreds of people from around the world. 

“One of the reasons we invested so highly in ages 0 to 3 is we feel that helping a parent and child right from the beginning learn how to connect, how to calm, is very important in learning how to be adaptive to a fast-moving society,” Mann Simms said.

The Institute specifically engages Jews through its “First 36 Project” in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which offers 18 months of training to parent-and-me facilitators at Jewish day schools across the city. Participants include educators from Adat Ari El, Maimonides Academy, Stephen Wise Temple and Sinai Akiba Academy.

“One of the reasons we invested so highly in ages 0 to 3 is we feel that helping a parent and child right from the beginning learn how to connect, how to calm, is very important in learning how to be adaptive to a fast-moving society.” — Victoria Mann Simms

“We’ve not been doing this for that long,” Mann Simms said, “but we’ve been able to attract some of the most important neuroscientists in the world.”

Mann Simms, raised in a non-practicing Jewish home, said, “As a professional and mother and grandmother, I would love to see the Jewish community strive, and I want us to help grow strong, capable, empathetic adults.” 

She also believes synagogues can attract more families by working with parents to help them understand there is more to parenting than buying the best stroller, such as teaching a parent the simple act of putting down the cell phone and talking to his or her child over dinner.

“I didn’t have much of a Jewish background, but I think all Americans have the pursuit of happiness, and it can be shallow and self-absorbed,” she said. “If you look at statistics, the temples are not getting young families in the way we would hope. Research shows the importance of spirituality and community experiences for young families. I think it is important to connect with them.”

She added, “Promoting early child, welcoming the families, is a wonderful way to bring families into the temples and a wonderful way to help parents so they can understand and get in touch with what they want to be in this world, and what they want to model for their own children.”


Read more about the Simms/Mann Think Tank here. 

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