Dr. Arlene Vernon has been named chief of staff at St. Mary Medical Center, becoming the first woman to hold the position in the hospital’s 100-year history.

The hospital announced Vernon’s appointment Tuesday, noting she will hold the position for two years — from January through December 2025. It’s common practice for hospitals to appoint the position for two-year increments.

“As the first woman chief of staff, and a proud member of the LGBTQ community, it is an honor and privilege to serve a hospital that has been the pillar of strength for the Long Beach community for more than 100 years,” Vernon said in an emailed statement Wednesday, adding that she hopes to “foster open dialogue, bring innovative perspectives” to planning and “prioritize patient-centered care while supporting the well-being of healthcare professionals.”

Board certified in emergency medicine, Vernon earned her medical degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C. She completed her residency in emergency medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.

Vernon has been an attending emergency physician at St. Mary for 35 years and brings a wealth of experience to the position, the hospital said in the announcement. Previously, she served as vice chief of staff, chair of the emergency department, chair of the medical executive committee and chair of the bylaws committee.

Vernon is also an assistant medical director for Vituity, which manages St. Mary’s emergency department.

Previously, Vernon has served as a clinical instructor and was an attending at Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar and at UCLA Medical centers in Westwood and Torrance.

“Highly respected by her peers, Dr. Vernon is the physician of choice for other doctors, nurses and ancillary staff,” the announcement states. “She’s passionate about patient care for all patients and is a tireless champion of underserved patient communities with HIV, Hepatitis C and Opioid Use Disorder.”

In her personal life, Vernon was a founding member of Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce and has served as a Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader, assistant Scoutmaster and a Red Cross blood drive organizer.

“I have dedicated my entire career in Emergency Medicine to Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center with the goal of always providing excellent healthcare to patients, particularly those that are often underrepresented and lacking routine medical care,” Vernon said. “Our medical staff consists of a diverse group of physician specialists, both new and long-standing, who share a common goal of delivering high-quality care in a challenging environment.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Dr. Arlene Vernon.