Managed Healthcare Executive's October issue headlines 10 healthcare leaders in its fourth annual "10 Emerging Industry Leaders" feature. MHE spotlights each leader individually with a video interview to accompany the Q&A between MHE and the emerging leader.
Efrain Talamantes, M.D., MBA, MSHPM, chief operating officer, AltaMed Health Services,
I grew up as the oldest of three children in Norwalk, California. My parents were raised in a rural farming community in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in search of a better future. From poverty to lack of access to healthcare, the many experiences we faced as immigrants shaped my passion to improve others’ health and well-being. I credit my family, friends, teachers, mentors and outreach programs that recognized my potential and never allowed me to give up.
I earned a B.S. in psychobiology at UCLA, an M.D. at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, an MBA at Emory University, and an M.S. in health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Next, I had a residency at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). I also completed the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at UCLA and was recognized by the Society of General Internal Medicine with the Mack Lipkin Sr. Associate Award for my research, “Community College Pathways: Improving the U.S. Physician Workforce Pipeline.”
After my fellowship, I served as the inaugural medical director for the hospital medicine department, and I helped open Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles. I then served as the associate director for the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and co-directed the Center for a Diverse Healthcare Workforce.
Today, I serve on the executive physician leadership team at AltaMed and as the medical director for the AltaMed Institute for Health Equity, leading research, innovative health delivery, and training programs that address disparities affecting our patients. Under my leadership, AltaMed received its first Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant to develop the Health Equity to Advance Latino Patient-Centered Research community advisory board. I also serve as the designated institutional officer for AltaMed’s inaugural family medicine residency program.
Why did you choose your profession?
My interest in medicine was fueled by interpreting for my parents in the hospital. I experienced how cultural and language barriers impact quality of care. I combined my passion for science and serving my community by pursuing medicine with the help of mentors and my family.
What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
The healthcare industry has trailed behind in embracing people of color in leadership. I’ve learned that my patients and colleagues benefit from my partnership in solving some of today’s most pressing challenges. If we co-design our healthcare delivery system with underrepresented groups in mind, we can improve the health of those who suffer most. I also dedicate a lot of time to mentoring students who come from underrepresented backgrounds.
How has COVID-19 affected your responsibilities and how your organization operates? How might your job and your organization change because of the pandemic?
Thepandemic has shown how fragmented our system is when serving theunderinsured. During the pandemic, AltaMed re-imagined healthcare by providing access to COVID-19 testing in underserved communities, scaled access to telehealth and invested in our workforce’s well-being.
How has the current discussion of racism and healthcare inequity affected you, your outlook and your organization? What has been the short-term response, and what do you envision happening over the longer term to your organization and American healthcare?
We held a town hall for 8:46 minutes in remembrance, where many of us kneeled for George Floyd and Black lives lost to violence. We held a panel discussing AltaMed’s position on law enforcement violence and racism as a public health crisis. We’re working on anti-racism initiatives to improve health outcomes for people of color.
What other kinds of changes do you expect to see in healthcare in the next 5 to 10 years?
I expect to see us find better ways to care for people in their homes using technology. My goal is to ensure that access to these programs will be equitable. I also expect to see health equity play a more central role in how we design healthcare delivery.
What have you enjoyed about social distancing and extra stay-at-home time during the past few months?
I’ve had the chance to rediscover how fun it is to play hide-and-seek with my children and how important these straightforward games are to bonding. I have yet to find the best hiding place in our home, as my daughter always finds me and my son.