Meet Santa Rosa Community Health's Lisa Ward, a 2019 North Bay Women in Business winner
North Bay Business Journal asked 2019 Women in Business Awards winner Lisa Ward to fill us in on her background, responsibilities and community involvement, and insights into what makes her a notable professional in the region.
Professional background: I trained as a family physician at UC San Francisco where I worked alongside amazing mentors and teachers in an intense, innovative and progressive learning environment.
Next, I went to public health school in London, England. I wanted to learn about health systems and health are in the context of a health care delivery system that provided universal health care where quality was high and costs were better controlled than our own.
Then, I studied health research and began a career as a medical researcher, not in the laboratory with a pipet, but in health systems studying massive national-level data about health insurance and health care quality.
Then, I did specialty training in women's health and spent many years delivering babies, treating osteoporosis and heart disease in middle aged women, and managing common chronic diseases in women as they aged.
I then used my expertise in women's health and health policy to work as clinical professor teaching medical students and residents at UC San Francisco and at San Francisco General Hospital.
I next moved to Santa Rosa to teach at the Family Medicine Residency Program and to work at Santa Rosa Community Health in our community health centers. I have been here for 11 years, doing less teaching over time, but more and more executive leadership.
For the last five years, I have served as the chief medical officer where I lead the work of our 100+ medical providers, mental health specialists and nurses taking care of the whole community building health systems to deliver the best care possible to our patients.
Education: Medical School --Masters in Public Health; masters in Medical Research
Tell us about yourself and your company: I am a family physician at Santa Rosa Community Health where I see patients from infants to elders in a work environment where we believe that health care is a human right.
We care for over 40,000 residents in Santa Rosa. Most of our patients are poor, some speak languages other than English, and many are immigrants. Most are working class people doing the work that makes our world go ‘round.
In my work place, everyone deserves the highest quality of care and our work culture teaches us to meet people where they are, to offer them a sanctuary with care and respect, no matter the circumstances that brought them to our doors. My work is both incredibly challenging and deeply rewarding.
I love my job because it allows me opportunity to provide amazing, high quality care for our community. At the same time, I am able to challenge people's assumptions about our patients, our work product and health care for the poor and underserved.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
In 2017 I traveled to Cuba where I toured medical facilities, neighborhood clinics, vaccine and medication factories, and visited one of their medical schools in Havana, Cuba.
I was surprised by many things at the medical school.
First, they graduate thousands of medical doctors each year. A single medical school in the U.S. graduates 100-200.
In Cuba, their entire medical education is subsidized by the Cuban government. U.S. graduates have on average student loan debt of over $500,000 by the age of 25.
In Cuba, they also graduate 30-50 American medical students each year, and most of them are people of color who want to work as primary care doctors in the U.S. These young physician graduates have difficulty getting residency training back in the U.S. once they complete their Cuban medical school training.
I knew that our organization at Santa Rosa Community Health could help by creating summer internships and a medical student rotations where these students could learn about our medical system and get highly respected training and references.
Now two years later, we have has five medical students over the summer and recruited our first family medicine resident who is an American citizen and a graduate of the Cuban medical school in Havana to start as a resident in our residency training program beginning in June.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
I have used my leadership positions to make recruitment into health care positions more diverse, recruiting more people of color and people from different backgrounds in life.
For example, when leading the recruitment process for the Family Medicine Residency Training Program at our Vista Campus, we created a process that acknowledged and valued cultural competency and life experience through the application metrics.