Sonoma County health officer Sundari Mase wins North Bay Women in Business award
Sundari R. Mase says business is being called upon to share responsibility for public health during the coronavirus pandemic. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.
Tell us about yourself and your company: Dr. Sundari R. Mase began serving as the county’s health officer March 2020. Dr. Mase brings local, state, federal and international experience to Sonoma County most recently serving as an independent Tuberculosis (TB) consultant for all aspects of TB clinical, programmatic and research activities; prior to that she was the India Country TB Medical Officer for the World Health Organization (WHO).
She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She finished her residency in Internal Medicine at UCSF and, subsequently, obtained her Master’s of Public Health with an emphasis in epidemiology at UCB.
The county health officer is responsible for the protection and promotion of the public's health for all in Sonoma County. She will oversee the work of the DHS Public Health Division located at 625 Fifth Street in downtown Santa Rosa as well as work with other departments, community partners and other counties to improve health on both a programmatic and a policy level.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
My biggest accomplishment this year has been leading the efforts to respond to and contain the novel coronavirus pandemic in Sonoma County.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Protecting the residents of Sonoma County from hospitalizations and deaths (morbidity and mortality) due to the novel coronavirus.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Maintaining an adequate response to the Novel coronavirus and protecting the people of Sonoma County amid this pandemic with the multiple economic and social repercussions that are at odds with the response.
Words that best describe you: Determined; responsible; capable; caring; evidence-based; passionate about my work.
In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?
Prior to this pandemic, I never considered a situation when civil liberties would have to be affected for the good of the community. As a result, I have become immersed in (negative, partisan) politics in a way that has changed my perception of humankind and human nature, with the realization that there is a vocal minority that are the drivers of selfishness, hate and injustice.
This faction has always been a part of our society, but a largely hidden part until now. This makes me a stronger and better person who will continue to uphold the principles of equality and justice for all.
Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?
I have a heightened sense of responsibility to uphold the fight against racism and inequity and to represent the interest of everyone in the community.
And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?
Businesses have realized that they must do their part and bear responsibility for the public’s health and welfare in a way that they have never before been called on to do. They have had to make necessary sacrifices for the good of the community and will emerge stronger and better as a result.
As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
I have not faced many obstacles based on race or gender. Throughout my career, I have met people who have helped and mentored me in my path to success. I have not encountered glass ceilings or have simple shattered them with the help of colleagues and friends.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Public Health Physicians will continue to work tirelessly for the good of the general public and they will be recognized and respected for their contribution to the Novel coronavirus response and the overall health of the community in the United States. This will be a better profession in five years.
Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: My father because he demonstrated the meaning of success and taught me that I could achieve anything that I set out to with hard work and determination. He was a Fullbright Scholar and immigrated to this country with us in 1970. He taught me that “adversity builds character.”
What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?
The sky is the limit; work hard, persevere, hold onto your principles and you will achieve your goals. Don’t let anything stand in your way.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Bill Gates
Typical day at the office: One call or meeting after another – mainly devoted to the coronavirus response.
Best place to work outside of your office: In a cafe
Current reading: “The Handmaid’s Tale“ by Margaret Atwood
Most want to meet: Meryl Streep or Florence Nightingale
Social media you most use: I do not use social media
Stress relievers: Exercise and being with family
Favorite hobbies: Cooking and travel
What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?
That I am dedicated to doing the right thing for everyone and that I am committed to making the world a better place.