Mr. Ronald A. Katz
Hero of Military Medicine Ambassador Honoree
It’s hard to believe that Ronald Katz, the 2019 Hero of Military Medicine ambassador honoree, has no direct connection to the military. Just a tremendous desire to do his part, a drive ignited by memories of his father, who travelled with the USO as a band leader during World War II and shared with his son his love of the military.
Katz, through the Katz Family Foundation, established with his late wife, Maddie, is the impetus behind UCLA’s Operation Mend, which has helped hundreds of service members heal from the physical and psychological trauma of war. Currently in its 12th year, Operation Mend provides specialty surgical and medical treatments for complex physical injuries, advanced diagnostics and evaluation for traumatic brain injury, and an intensive treatment program for posttraumatic stress disorder. The program also provides psychological care, social support, travel and accommodations for the warfighter’s family members. None of this costs the wounded or their families one dollar.
Katz is an inventor and businessman who, at age 24, formed Telecredit, Inc. with partner Robert N. Goldman. Telecredit was the nation’s first online, real-time credit and check-cashing authorization service. The development of the technology, which the partners would go on to patent, was one of the first things Katz did that he felt made a difference, but it would be far from the last.
He later became interested in interactive technology, how telephones could talk to computers. He developed a portfolio of patents, which he sold to American Express, then later bought them back and licensed them to hundreds of companies in the U.S., including Bank of America, AT&T, Prudential and Verizon Wireless.
“While that was in development, I started looking for something that would be helpful to our warfighters because the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts were under way,” Katz recalled. “My late wife and I took an interest in different things but couldn’t find something that definitively affected the lives of warfighters.”
He heeded a suggestion to visit Brooke Army Medical Center, and that visit planted the seed for the establishment of Operation Mend. The medical center was building a new Fisher House, homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital. The Katzs made a lead gift to the Fisher House Foundation and came in contact with many burn patients.
“It was a devastating experience seeing what these young men and women had gone through during the conflicts,” he said. “There was little hope for some of them, a lot of hope for others. I came home and my wife and I commiserated on how devastating that was to our young warfighters.”
Shortly after that visit, Katz and his wife saw a young lance corporal named Aaron Mankin on a television news program. He had severe injuries to his face. When asked by the host, “what’s next for you?” Mankin replied, “they’ve got to fix the beautiful part,” an answer that deeply moved the Katzs.
At the time, Katz was a board member of UCLA hospital.
“I went to the hospital and said, ‘can we share in serving these young men and women with our advanced reconstruction, plastic surgery and multi-talented people?’” Katz said. He returned to Brooke Army Medical Center, which agreed to let one of their patients transfer to UCLA. That patient was Lance Corporal Aaron Mankin. There was a second patient, and a third, and now, hundreds of injured service members, referred by veteran service organizations from across the country, have been cared for at Operation Mend, their resilience matched by the commitment of the medical professionals who helped restore them.
“I wanted the opportunity to do something other than invest in a building,” Katz said of his drive to establish the program. He wanted to do something, “hand to hand, heart to heart, and this program is as close to that as you can get.”
In 1961, at the age of 24, Ronald A. Katz and partner Robert N. Goldman formed Telecredit, Inc., the nation's first on-line real time credit and check cashing authorization service, based on a system they subsequently patented.
In the mid 1980's, Mr. Katz began inventing and patenting new forms of communication between computers and telephones focused on emerging automated telephone interfaces.
In 1994, Mr. Katz formed Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing, L.P. He bought back his original portfolio of licenses from First Data Corporation (formerly American Express Information Services Corporation) and began to license his patents to some of the largest companies in the United States including: AT&T, Bank of America, General Electric, IBM, Mellon Financial, Merck, Prudential, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.
Overall, Mr. Katz was awarded more than 90 patents and his firm granted over 250 licenses, primarily in the fields of telecommunication and computing technology. Evan Schwartz, in his 2004 book entitled Juice: The Creative Fuel That Drives Today's World-Class Inventors (Harvard Business School Press) featured Mr. Katz and stated, “He has quietly become the most financially successful inventor in history.”
In 2002, after having created and supported a number of charitable endeavors, Ron and his late wife, Maddie, established “The Katz Family Foundation”.
In 2006, the Katzes began focusing their attention on serving wounded warriors and their families. They proudly provided a lead gift for a new Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center.
Then, in 2007, The Katz Family Foundation established and funded its most important philanthropic achievement to-date: UCLA’s Operation Mend. Currently in its 12th year, Operation Mend seeks to heal the visible and invisible wounds of our nation’s post 9/11-era warfighters injured in the line of duty by providing specialty surgical and medical treatments for complex physical injuries, advanced diagnostics and evaluation for Traumatic Brain Injury and a 6-week Intensive Treatment Program for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (3 weeks on campus at UCLA an 3 weeks from home over TeleHealth). Warriors and their family members receive wrap around psychological and social support, travel and accommodations. There is no cost to warriors or their family members, and the program is entirely donor funded.
Mr. Katz continues to provide meaningful philanthropic support to numerous organizations in the Los Angeles community. He has been humbled to receive awards and recognition for his work including, the Secretary of the Army Public Service Award for distinguished public service; the US Army’s “Strength of the Nation” award; and the Distinguished Public Service Award by the Secretary of the Navy, but what he loves most is to talk about his six grandchildren!