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Spotlight: Patricia Hao, Codman Square Health Center, Inc.

2-8-11 Feature Story:

Patricia Hao is the current Site Supervisor at Codman Square Health Center. Prior to this role, she was a HealthCorps member at Codman. Having served on both sides, we asked Patricia to share her unique perspective with us.

  • Degree: Human Evolutionary Biology with a Secondary in Health Policy, Harvard
  • Born: Beijing, China; Raised: Brighton, MA
  • Hobbies: competitive ballroom dancing

What were your career aspirations upon entering the program as a member?

As a HealthCorps member I was mostly interested in business and healthcare. I wanted to learn how things run in the field of healthcare delivery behind the scenes, especially in primary care. That is what excited me most.

Did the program help shape these aspirations for you?

Absolutely. One of the things that attracted me to Codman was the wide range of initiatives and projects going on. They really seemed to want to be at the cutting edge of healthcare delivery for an underserved population. A lot of the projects they were working on were things I had only read about in policy classes: Patient-Centered Medical Home, Pay for Performance, Care Coordination. It was exciting to be "doing" instead of simply "reading about" these things. From taking minutes to coordinating projects, I played many different roles. With each role, I always learned a great deal in a short amount of time. This exposure and my site supervisor really helped guide my aspirations and nurture my interests.

What was the most valuable aspect of the program for you?

I really felt that the mentorship and camaraderie I received, both with my site supervisor and my coworkers, were important for my growth. To have the freedom to stop in the hallway or at someone's desk and have a conversation about someone's day or something totally unrelated to work helped me to build relationships and gain a greater appreciation for the work that I do.

How has being a member helped you be a better site supervisor?

I definitely know the technical things a little better, like timesheets. I'm better able to explain what a HealthCorps member is to other health center staff. Being a member has also shown me that good leadership means knowing how your team likes to work and what they need in order to be a productive member of the team. Direction and clarity cannot be emphasized enough, especially for someone who is new to a job. Knowing how much I needed these things as a member has raised my awareness as a site supervisor. For example, instead of "I need you to get this done," I say, "Here is why we need to get this done. Here are some suggestions as to how to get it done. Here is when it needs to be done by. Are there any questions?" This helps us all be on the same page and makes everything tighter. As a member, it was also really important to socialize. Taking time to have a casual discussion about one's observations or experiences can help them process what they're learning and can be a source of fulfillment, understanding or insight about oneself. I try to make sure members take breaks throughout the day and feel comfortable debriefing whenever necessary.

What are some things that you learned as a member that you are now trying to pass onto new members?

  • Take the opportunity to not only learn about what you are interested in but also about how you like to think and work. I think this can be very powerful information in deciding what careers and jobs will make you happy.
  • It is good to get advice but it is also really important to trust your own instincts.
  • Working in public health centers, you are probably going to see a lot of inefficiencies and problems. Keep your eyes open for where there are areas that could be improved and really try to apply yourself there - you will be able to learn a lot more from the things that don't work than from the things that do work.
  • Finally, try to look at your weaknesses from several angles. For example, throughout college and as a member last year I constantly felt inadequate because I was not detail oriented; I always made mistakes adding up numbers! However, not getting held up on the little things came in handy when I had to think big picture - coordinating the various stakeholders in a particular project, analyzing systems, devising strategies - and that's what I found I was good at. So, my advice is not to beat yourself up about your weaknesses but let them teach you about your strengths.

What are some of your goals for members for this program year?

The most important thing is for them to learn is to think for themselves and know how to support what they think. I would like them to learn about professionalism and build up their communication skills. I also really want them to learn about and develop their strengths because this is the time to do it. I would list "to learn about primary care" as a goal but that is something they will naturally learn by being in a primary care setting. The reason I'm focusing on these three is because these are skills that they can use in any field.

Where will you go from here?

I would like to continue my work in health and business management. I just really love the idea of being able to create significant changes while still preserving the face-to-face interactions with the people they affect. I would love to try my hand at something like consulting because I think it would provide good training about the nuts and bolts of how a company/organization runs and ways to fix it. And in terms of school, in the next 5 years or so I'd love to be enrolled in business, medical or policy school.

For more information on the Community HealthCorps program, click here.

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