Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa pediatrician wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
Now is the time to “double down” on family and friendships, said Jose E. Morales, M.D., MPH, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Education: Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health
Tell us your story and that of your organization: I was born and raised in Miami, Florida.
My father was an immigrant from Puerto Rico and my mother from the U.S. Going through the public school system, I had friends from all over the Caribbean and Latin America.
Every day I witnessed the ‘American dream’ play out seeing a family’s hard work lead to the opportunity of upward mobility.
I graduated college in natural science, however I lacked a clear goal of what I wanted for a career. After a year traveling/working in South and Central America I found myself longing to get back to my roots and find a career that would support the underserved and immigrant population.
With this in mind, I decided to become a physician. As they say, the rest is history! Kaiser Permanente was my first choice because of their integrative health care model and the focus on prevention. I was lucky enough to be hired by the KP Santa Rosa Department of Pediatrics in 1997 and have had amazing career support for over 20 years.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
In January 2020, I was appointed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors as a commissioner for First 5 Sonoma County.
One of nine commissioners, we are charged with stewarding statewide Prop. 10 tobacco tax dollars that come into the county.
First 5 Sonoma County invests approximately $6M annually in programs, services, and systems that support the optimal development, health and school readiness of children, birth to five years old, as well as promoting nurturing care giving and parenting and high-quality early care and education.
First 5 also prioritizes the needs of the Latino community and supports initiatives that target the significant disparities in health and school readiness.
In May, I was a part of an ad hoc review committee that was responsible for awarding $400k in Responsive Grants funding to address the impact of COVID-19 on young children. It was a great experience being able to leverage my knowledge around COVID-19 as a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente with a multidisciplinary team of community health experts and advocates.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Growing up in a traditional household the men in my family worked long hours and were seldom involved family life. With the wonderful support of my wife, who was also raised in this tradition, we have moved away from repeating this legacy. We have worked together to raise two amazing daughters and maintain close family ties.
What is your biggest challenge today?
It has been, and continues to be, advocating for those whose voice is overlooked. This includes the children in our community as well as those the system leaves behind.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?:
The Latino business community has done an amazing job of creating a unified message for Sonoma County.
Especially in advocating for equality, fairness, and respect. I am most proud seeing this vision positively influence Sonoma County development at all levels.
One great challenge we face is youth education and the support for upward mobility. It will be very difficult for Sonoma County to reach its full potential without a strong, educated, and thriving work force. For the good of Sonoma County we need to continue our investment in all levels of education and mentorship.
Words that best describe you: Multicultural, curious, active, caring, supportive, and family oriented
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
I am the first person in my family to become a physician. There were no role models to help guide the path and it has always been hard to find relatable mentors. Improvising was common and led to a few mistakes along the way. Never losing hope and avoiding naysayers always sounds easier in retrospect, however this did help.
My father insisted we give our best effort and I remember having to repeat many tasks as a child if I tried to cut corners. As an adult, I often face obstacles as an opportunity to work a little harder. I guess it has been a combination of stubbornness and family values that keep me going.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
The unexpected series of historic and paradigm-shifting events that have taken place in 2020, will undoubtedly change the future of health care.