Thomas Tsang, MPH ’02 is a physician and entrepreneur who has made a tremendous impact on public health through policy and practice. He currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Healthcare Services and Solutions (HSS), a subsidiary of Merck, working to establish and build new businesses as evidence-based disruptive innovators in the health ecosystem.
Born to illiterate Chinese parents in Hong Kong, Tsang immigrated to Brooklyn, where his family owned a Chinese restaurant in Williamsburg. He was a part of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s Project - Asian Health Education and Development (AHEAD) - which exposed him to careers in public health and put him on the track he follows today. After completing the seven-year BS/MD program at the CUNY Medical School, a residency in Primary Care at Montefiore Hospital, and his MPH at Mailman, he took a position seeing patients at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, practicing medicine for twelve years. He was interested in encouraging early primary care interventions in the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations he worked with, and developed a community-wide program to deal with issues surrounding Hepatitis B. Inspired by that experience, he joined the New York City Board of Health, voting on hot-button issues including posting calorie counts in restaurants and restrictions on sugary beverage portions.
From there, he became a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy fellow in Washington D.C., where he worked with the House Committee on Ways and Means as part of the team which wrote the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. He worked on the ACO, patient-centered medical home, and quality of care provisions and engaged on the House side in conferencing with Senate staff. He then moved to the regulatory side, taking a position as Medical Director for Meaningful Use at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, where he helped the federal enterprise (HHS) maintain a quality strategy as it moved from fee-for-service to an outcomes-based model. He also held the role of Healthcare Senior Advisor to the Governor of Hawaii, developing a statewide healthcare transformation strategy. He is passionate about breaking down silos and delivering the best high-quality care at the lowest cost. He has seen personally how broken the system is, navigating care for his 86 year old mother. His parents can’t read or write in English or Chinese. He knows they would be lost if he weren’t there as an advocate and to question poor medical decisions.
His advice to graduates? “Life is too short to wait for something to change - you have to ‘lean-in.’ Lots of opportunities exist. You can take a non-linear, nontraditional pathway to achieve your goals.”
BASED ON AN INTERVIEW BY NINA ROTHSCHILD, MPH ’92, DRPH ’00 AND ANETTE WU, MD, MPH ‘08