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Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare–Philip Ozuah: Healthcare leadership is a calling, not merely a job

By | December 19th, 2016 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Philip Ozuah: “We need to focus more on keeping people well and not simply figuring out how to do more things to them when they are ill.”

 

Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

The plan was relatively straightforward.

 

After he entered medical school at age 14 in Nigeria and eventually earned his M.D., Philip Ozuah’s objective was to get extra training in the U.S. or the U.K. before returning to his homeland to collaborate with his father on building a hospital, which the younger Ozuah would run.

 

But the plan hit a snag when Ozuah became smitten with his pediatrics work in the Bronx at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he has spent his entire career and now serves as chief operating officer.

 

“I was always driven by the desire to make a difference, and to make a difference in underserved populations,” Ozuah says now. “That was actually one of the factors in remaining and practicing in the Bronx, because I realized I could serve an underserved population right here in New York, and that deepened the resolve and the passion for doing that work.”

 

Ozuah’s father was an engineer and his mother was a school principal in Nigeria. They stressed the importance of education to their children, and Ozuah’s older brother was the first member of the family to travel to America to attend university. When Ozuah came to the U.S., he set to work on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California and eventually earned a doctorate in leadership. But the degree of poverty in the U.S. surprised him.

 

“Obviously, I came to the U.S. from a place where there’s immense poverty on the one hand and immense wealth on the other, and they could be juxtaposed right next to each other,” he says. “But there is an image of the U.S. as the richest country in the world, which it is. And so, the extent of some of the privation here can initially be puzzling. You say, ‘How can this be?’ ”

 

Eliminating health disparities has been a lifelong focus for Ozuah, so he is pleased to see population health taking on much greater prominence under the ACA. And, if some of that emphasis has its roots in fiscal issues, he’s fine with that. Just alleviate suffering, he says.

 

“I’m not surprised as much as gratified because I think the focus on population health is long overdue,” he says. “Of course, it’s being driven as much out of necessity as a sense of mission, but it doesn’t matter to me what the motivating factors are. As a nation, I think we need to focus more on keeping people well and not simply figuring out how to do more things to them when they are ill.” Read more…