Caring for Millions in Southern California

OOMPH Alumnus Tim Ho

Tim Ho Class of 2014

Since 1997, graduate Tim Ho has worked at Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG) as a family medicine doctor, caring for one sick patient at a time. In 2015, he assumed the role of Regional Assistant Medical Director, Quality and Clinical Analysis at the group, and was charged with taking care of millions of people at a time.

“Family medicine doctors see patients in the office, prescribe medication,” Ho says. “They do a great job with the patients that they take care of, but they don’t have the opportunity to impact the operation of the health care system outside of their office. On the other hand, health care executives make policies and develop budgets. They do a great job running health care systems, but they usually don’t have the opportunity to impact the care of individual patients outside their conference rooms. A physician leader, such as a medical director, can bridge that gap between the operation of a health care system and the care of individual patients.“

To be effective and feel confident in this new role, Ho began searching for a program that could provide him with the tools to handle this undertaking. “At the time,” Ho says, “the Berkeley [On-Campus/Online] MPH program was just starting, and I felt an urge to be involved in the creation of something that could have a profound impact. This program has a mission to develop leaders in public health. I also felt that the leaders and staff of the program took a personal interest in me.”

Ho also felt nurtured by his fellow classmates—an essential asset when you’re learning in an online environment—and that the personal and professional experiences those students brought to the class infused life into his cohort. “My horizons were profoundly expanded by my fellow students and professors,” Ho adds. “I never felt alone.”

Looking back on graduation, Ho feels that the MPH helped him build his confidence to move forward in his role: What he learned from biostatistics to organizational behavior to disaster preparedness to ethics inform his day-to-day responsibilities, such as closing health care disparities and performance improvement work.

“Public health is often forgotten in the health care delivery system. At best, public health is an afterthought. I feel that my role is to be the voice of the public health in the health care delivery system. We are a care delivery organization, and our strategies focus on the care of individual patients. That’s what we’ve done and what we still do. But we need to be reminded to look beyond the care delivery system and individual patients and consider communities and social determinants of health to improve the lives that we are responsible for.”