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A Bridge Between Two Worlds: Administrator and Clinician

Hilton Perez MD, MBA
A physician needs to know administration, to know business. Administrators need to have a clinical background in order to understand the patient and provider perspectives. Forming a bridge between the two worlds is essential.
A Bridge Between Two Worlds: Administrator and Clinician

When patients miss a scheduled appointment at one of Ampla Health’s clinic sites in Northern California, they are likely to receive a call from someone on staff to determine why they missed the appointment and what can be done to facilitate their experience the next time. Ampla Health’s Healthcare Administrator, Dr. Hilton Perez, MD, EMBA-HA, MT (ASCP) feels that this is just one element in a series of changes that the organization is engaged in to make sure that patients are treated with dignity and respect. Ultimately, Dr. Perez hopes that Ampla Health becomes a place where patients can obtain all the services they need within the four walls of the clinic.

Dr. Perez views a focus on the whole person as the natural next step for health care in the United States. He says, “When I was a medical student in training, everyone was more concerned about paying attention to a heart or a lung or some other body system. But, really, we need to look at a comprehensive approach. The medical component has to be a part of the other pieces working together. It is a holistic approach.” Dr. Perez acknowledges that many times individuals have so many problems to handle that they are not in a position to improve their health. These challenges are magnified for patients who are dealing with fears about immigration or other legal barriers; for others, it is anxiety over their children or violence in their own lives that prevent them from obtaining care.

To better understand the patients’ perspectives, Dr. Perez says that he tries his best to imagine himself in their shoes. He says that his own experiences of going to school without many financial resources or health insurance help him to understand some of the anxieties faced by patients at the health center. In many cases he says that patients, especially those new to the United States, “don’t know the rules, they are afraid, and they don't know who to contact.”

A MULTIFACETED CAREER IN HEALTH CARE

Dr. Perez completed his medical training at Michigan State University in internal medicine. After medical school, he went on to receive a master's degree in health care administration and policy, as well as a master's degree in business administration.

Dr. Perez has been working in health care for over 30 years, 20 of which have been in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). For the last five years, Dr. Perez has worked with Ampla Health in Northern California. He says that he did not have much exposure to working with FQHCs while in medical training. He is hopeful that there is a growing trend toward emphasizing primary care in health professions’ training programs. Working in the FQHC world has been very rewarding for Dr. Perez. The experience allows him to work with patients from many different countries and has also fed his professional growth through participation in national level initiatives such as the health disparities collaboratives.

In his career with FQHCs, Dr. Perez has held a number of different positions which provide him with a well-rounded perspective on overall clinic systems. At Ampla Health, Dr. Perez is able to combine his medical, clinical, and health administration knowledge to improve the overall clinic experience.

In the past, Dr. Perez states, “people felt like you were either a doctor or an administrator, with nothing in between.” He points out that in many ways his ability to straddle the two brings out the best of both worlds. According to Dr. Perez, “a physician needs to know administration, to know business. Administrators need to have a clinical background in order to understand the patient and provider perspectives. Forming a bridge between the two worlds is essential.”

While there is an ongoing need for improvement, Dr. Perez is hopeful that health care is moving in the right direction. He is committed to searching for ways to provide more services, greater access to care, and a welcoming environment where treating patients with dignity and respect is the first priority.

30 CLINICIANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE is a project celebrating Migrant Clinicians Network's 30th anniversary through the life stories of 30 clinicians making a difference in migrant health. Learn more about Migrant Clinicians Network.

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