By Phuong Phillips, Aledade's Chief Legal Officer
In a fishing boat in the middle of the night, I escaped Vietnam as a toddler with my parents and two older brothers. It was the start of a two-year journey to pursue the American dream of freedom, safety and education.
After months in a refugee camp in the Philippines, we arrived in Northern California in 1980 with minimal possessions and no money. Despite having very little, I never felt deprived in my childhood. There was always food on the table (though not much) and we even had access to health care.
My father worked three jobs seven days a week, but we were still considered low income. My family relied on government food stamps and Medi Cal, California’s Medicaid program, to survive the first few years in America. This experience, along with my parents’ perseverance and determination, taught me to be grateful and to be kind to others.
It also taught me that health care is a fundamental right, and it’s a right that I have always respected. Medicaid provided not only health care for my family when we first came to the United States, but also dignity. As a kid, I had no idea that we were even on government assistance. I simply thought that my parents found the best doctor to help us when we were sick.
The doctor we saw was a solo practitioner who accepted Medi Cal from his patients, many of whom were refugees. My parents trusted this doctor because he spoke their language and provided very personalized care. He even used to call our home to follow up with my parents after their doctor visits. I didn’t realize how rare this was until I got older and had my own insurance with large health care conglomerates. Even decades later, I wouldn’t feel like I had the same personalized care I had as a child until a good friend became my regular physician. Most people do not have that luxury.
In my legal career, I always wanted to make a difference and be part of a movement for the better. When I joined SolarCity and Tesla, it was to provide clean air for future generations. I often thought of how that movement would benefit my two young daughters.
When I joined Zynga, a social mobile gaming company, I wanted to help change the perception that gaming is only for young boys, especially given that 60 percent of Zynga’s customers at the time were women. My mission at Zynga was to have the company’s employees and its products represent our customers.
For my next venture, I knew I wanted to follow my curiosity and branch out into a new industry: health care. I’ve always been curious about health care in this country. I’ve asked the questions that a lot of Americans ask: Who sets the costs? Who pays for the services? Why am I always so confused about my options and why does everything seem so complicated with this industry? I knew health care needed to be disrupted. But how? And how can I contribute without having decades of experience in this field?
I cast a wide net, and interviewed with a number of companies. But at the close of every interview, I kept comparing the company and every executive or board member to the ones I met at Aledade.
The moment I met Aledade’s CEO and co-founder, Farzad Mostashari, I felt – to use a word I don’t use lightly – ignited. His passion and vision compelled me to join this company’s mission to change the world for the better. Not often do you have an opportunity to work at a company that has a track record of facilitating so many positive outcomes for all parties involved – patients, physicians, payers and the company itself.
Farzad has also cultivated a culture that I rarely see in a company – incredibly happy employees with a collective common goal of helping people through preventive health care. Aledade is truly a special company, where employees can go to bed each night proud of what they do and excited for what they hope to accomplish.
Being Aledade’s Chief Legal Officer is a dream for me. Aledade understands that to combat the inequities and complexities of our health care system, we need to help doctors provide personalized and preventive care to their patients.
Being part of Aledade also allows me, in real terms, to give back to the numerous people and organizations who were kind and generous to my family when we first came to the United States as refugees.
I am excited to be a part of a movement that disrupts the health care industry and takes us back to when doctors had the time and resources to treat their patients with care as friends, rather than as numbers. I am honored to join Aledade’s ranks at this incredible point in its journey, and I am elated to be a part of its thrilling future.