By Olga Gallardo l December 01, 2022
A leader with a holistic view who is keen on problem-solving, Nate Oubre, vice president of performance optimization at Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan, is responsible for ensuring members receive high-quality healthcare services, meeting regulatory requirements, and departmental operating budgets. Coinciding with Oubre’s one-year work anniversary, we sat down with him to learn about his background, leadership roles, and the influence of family on his career. Oubre is excited to bring his well-rounded background in health care to Blue Shield Promise, especially as the state takes a historic step to transform Medi-Cal. Oubre thrives when solving big problems and is determined to provide Medi-Cal members with a healthcare experience worthy of family and friends.
Tell us about growing up in Los Angeles County and how living in different areas influenced your life.
I was born in Los Angeles (L.A.) and grew up in South L.A. My mom was a licensed vocational nurse and always focused on the importance of education. I was a good student and athlete in high school. My mother supported my athletic dreams while always instilling the importance of education, particularly science. Getting good grades while playing sports was a priority in my house. Playing sports allowed me to experience all communities throughout Southern California where I met different people and experienced different cultures, which was important in my development.
After a significant injury in high school, I attended community college before transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I started out as a Pre-Med major but switched to Public Health, which had an innovative undergraduate program, which allowed participants to take courses in the Graduate School of Public Health, and Graduate School of Business as well as undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, psychology, and sociology. Simultaneously, I had my first real-world leadership and management roles in student government, serving on the UCLA Board of Control with responsibility for the UCLA student stores, food facilities, and licensed logo brands internationally as well as the UCLA board of directors for student health services. These experiences helped me understand what contributes to a successful business, such as human resources, operational and capital planning, finance, and accounting. It’s also where health care as a business enterprise piqued my interest.
What path did you take after high school?
After graduating from UCLA, I worked for a few years in a healthcare consulting firm, then applied to graduate business schools. I was accepted at Harvard Business School. My application essay was about my belief that the healthcare industry would transform from a cottage industry to a more sophisticated business enterprise utilizing sophisticated corporate business tools and theories. At the time, healthcare organizations, particularly hospitals, operated on a charitable basis and were not the sophisticated business entities that we have today.
After business school, I moved back to L.A. to work for a national consulting firm with financial and healthcare clients. After my second son was born, I transitioned from consulting in the healthcare sector, where I held senior-level positions in health plan operations, finance, and hospital administration at a major health maintenance organization in California.
What strengths are needed to be a healthcare leader?
To run a health plan, you must have a broad background because it’s not only about providing health benefits, but also understanding the interaction with the healthcare system – hospitals, providers, members, long-term care, government officials, and more. Your ability to understand various areas including health plan operations is key to successfully providing quality care.
What led you to work in the Medi-Cal field?
I am deeply interested in making sure Medi-Cal members have access to quality health care, and that both their medical and social needs are met. This is an important population from a social perspective because it is remarkably diverse, with unique health and social needs. I want to be a part of ensuring that our mission to create a healthcare system that is worthy of our family and friends and is sustainably affordable is extended to all members including Medi-Cal members to ensure they receive the services they require and deserve.
What would you have told your younger self when you started your first job in healthcare?
Be open-minded and follow your passion; everyone has an individual path. Enjoy the journey.