Meet Susan Huang, M.D., your new Regional Chief Medical Officer

Following a nationwide search, Susan Huang, M.D., joined Providence Southern California as regional chief medical officer on Aug. 1. A key member of the regional leadership team, Susan will ensure that clinical considerations inform all strategic decisions. Alongside her dyad partner, Brian Helleland, chief of clinical programs and operations, Susan will work to enhance physician engagement, foster collaboration across the region among group and affiliated physicians and our ministries, offer clinical guidance on patient safety and quality, and provide the physician perspective.

Dr. Huang comes to Providence Southern California from Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group of Sutter Health where she most recently served as chief value medical officer. In her role, she defined vision, strategy and tactics for establishing the organization as the provider of choice for patients, employers and payers, creating a value-oriented culture and executing on strategies to deliver high-value care across the continuum. Dr. Huang’s additional responsibilities included oversight of ambulatory and hospital specialties, addressing social determinants of health, patient advocacy, workflow optimization programs and strategic growth operations. She also served on the board of directors for Sutter Health Plus Health Plan.

Dr. Huang is also a health care innovator with health care industry experience and a contributor to novel clinical algorithm development at Google.

Dr. Huang at a glance:

  • Board-certified dermatologist
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Residency at Harvard Medical School hospitals including the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was elected chief resident, and completed executive education at the Harvard Business School
  • Former teaching faculty member of Harvard Medical School and attending physician at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where she served as a medical director of quality and safety

We sat down with Dr. Huang and asked her some personal questions:

What made you get into medicine?
Growing up, I was always drawn to the sciences and to service. I had wonderful opportunities to participate in basic science research, and those experiences sparked my imagination about what the cutting edge of medicine could look like. At the same time, I was always drawn to what I could do to help my local community, and bring comfort to people in their times of need. Medicine became a natural choice, as it’s a marriage of science and service.

Was there one person or event that inspired you to become a doctor?
There wasn’t a single person or event that led me to medicine. No one in my family practiced medicine or worked in health care. My paternal grandparents were farmers and my maternal grandfather was an auto mechanic, and my parents were in the restaurant business. My mother, though, was very committed to serving those in need in the community. My mother, brother and I would serve together. These experiences played a large role in how I saw my role and responsibility to those in need, and how our actions could bring opportunities and comfort to others. These types of experiences, along with my love for science, ultimately led me to medicine.

Why did you choose to be an administrator?
My path to becoming an administrator happened organically over time. It was not something that I had planned. I’ve always been restless about trying to improve how we can do things better. Even when in full-time clinical practice, I’d be busy working on how to improve or build something. What I was doing on the side led to opportunities to lead initiatives and take on formal leadership roles. I started out with part-time admin roles, which then became full-time roles. I’ve enjoyed the path and the organic nature of it. I also greatly value this opportunity to lead and to serve -- patients, physicians, providers and caregivers alike.

What do you most look forward to in the new role?
U.S. health care is at an inflection point. What we do at Providence Southern California can set the stage and the path forward for U.S. health care. We can be the leaders of what it means to deliver mission-driven integrated health care, to be the best place to receive care and to be the best place to deliver care. I look forward to doing all that I can in service of our organization’s Mission. I’m also looking forward to learning about all the different parts of Providence (there are many!), and meeting and working with people across our region.

Are you willing to share something about you that is unique or surprising?
Prior to the move down to Southern California, I most recently lived in Silicon Valley. Being in Silicon Valley, I got plugged in with Google and had an opportunity to be part of a founding team building a health care AI model. It was an amazing experience and a great way to see how big tech gets work done. Our founding team consisted of engineering, product, design, business development and clinical (me), and we were able to accomplish a lot together through trust, mutual learning and a shared goal. It reinforced how diversity on teams can accelerate work. It was also fun to accomplish things that others didn’t think was possible.

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