Interview with Dr. Harsha Ramchandani
Our community health centers employ providers that are not only mission-driven to provide the most equitable and accessible care to our most historically marginalized communities at all times, but they are also often pillars in the communities they work and serve in. Regularly serving on boards, and working bilaterally with their respective counties, our health center providers, through their culturally congruent and competent care practices, are also trusted resources for our community members.
We recently sat down with Dr. Harsha Ramchandani, Chief Medical Officer, Bay Area Community Health Center to learn more about her work and her recent appointment to the Alameda County Public Health Commission.
Name: Dr. Harsha Ramchandani
Title: Chief Medical Officer, Bay Area Community Health (BACH)
Guiding Quote: If you are walking down the right path and you’re willing to continue walking, eventually you will make progress – President Barack Obama
Alameda Health Consortium: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dr. Harsha Ramchandani: I was inspired to pursue a career in healthcare by my grandmother, who was a nurse. After completing my internal medicine training at Detroit Medical Center, I have been practicing medicine and serving the community. In my personal life, I am a proud mother of two amazing kids, and my husband and I enjoy traveling and exploring new destinations.
Upon completing my internal medicine residency at Detroit Medical Center, I joined an academic residency program as part of the teaching faculty. This position was instrumental in my growth as a physician, as it allowed me to focus on improving the quality of care and working with residents to create quality improvement (QI) projects. However, eight years ago, when my family and I relocated from Michigan to the Bay Area, I began searching for a job that would enable me to continue my work on providing comprehensive, equitable, affordable, and high-quality care. That’s when I discovered Bay Area Community Health (previously known as Tri-City Health Center) whose mission resonated with what I believe and what I ultimately hope to achieve – carving a path towards equitable, accessible, and whole-person care for all who walk through our doors.
AHC: What was it about community health centers (CHCs) that drew you to their work?
HR: Community health centers (CHCs) offer a comprehensive range of healthcare services, including primary care, dental care, mental health services, social services, and other related services to underserved and marginalized communities. The centers are designed to serve individuals and families who might not have access to healthcare due to financial, social, or geographical barriers.
This mission of CHCs – to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to underserved communities – provides an opportunity to make a real impact on patients’ health and well-being, and the chance to improve the overall healthcare system’s foundation are the main reasons that drew me to CHC work.
AHC: You were very active in leading the frontline response to COVID at BACH. In what ways has this experience paved the way to be on the Alameda County Public Health Commission?
HR: During the pandemic, all the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of Alameda Health Consortium’s 8-member community health centers collaborated to devise strategies aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID. Our efforts were closely coordinated with Dr. Nick Moss, the county’s Health Officer. Our collaboration with the county on various fronts, such as public education to reduce vaccine hesitancy, testing, and vaccination rollout projects, taught me numerous things. It was evident that the county public health department plays a pivotal role in shaping healthcare. Being on the Alameda County Public Health Commission is one way of giving back to the community and making an impact. The commission comprises of appointed members who advise the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on public health issues. Their aim is to promote and safeguard the well-being of the county’s residents through various endeavors, including policy development, health education, and community engagement. Having a seat at the table where decisions get made regarding the health and wellbeing of our community members is one more way for me to be of service to our Alameda County residents.
You can watch Dr. Ramchandani and BACH CEO, Dr. Zettie Page in a specially produced COVID video below:
AHC: As part of your new role with the county, you will be helping to assess the need for public health policies and programs in Alameda County. What do feel are some of the priority areas for Alameda County?
HR: Community Health Centers (CHCs) play a significant role in providing outreach, education, and support to several high-risk populations, including refugees, low-income individuals who experience health inequities, and homeless individuals with multiple co-morbid conditions. CHCs provide comprehensive services that encompass not only medical care but also behavioral health, social services, outreach, education, screening for social determinants of health and other support services.
The work that we do at CHCs align very closely with public health priorities in Alameda County including:
- Chronic Disease Prevention and Control: This includes programs and initiatives aimed at reducing the prevalence and impact of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Addressing homelessness, including physical and mental health challenges, substance use, and social isolation.
- Addressing mental illness especially among youth and senior population
- Addressing Health Inequity: This involves addressing the root causes of health disparities and working to eliminate them through policies, programs, and systems change.
- Communicable Disease Control and Prevention: This includes programs and initiatives aimed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and vaccine-preventable diseases.
At BACH we address and respond to all the above, and more, through a culturally congruent lens that puts the patient at the center of their care. Working closely and bilaterally with the county allows for a more collaborative approach to responding to the needs of our most vulnerable.
AHC: Is there anything else you wish to share about your journey and work with underserved community members or your work with the Alameda County?
HR: This journey has been nothing short of amazing, and I am thrilled to continue working with this community. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many people who have helped me achieve my goals. In particular, I would like to thank my mentor and dear friend, Dr. Laura Miller, the former CMO of CHCN, for her unwavering support and guidance. Additionally, I would like to express my thanks to CEO of BACH Dr. Page for his invaluable advice and counsel throughout this journey.
Working with underserved community members can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. It requires patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of the unique challenges that these individuals face. It also requires a commitment to providing culturally responsive and equitable care that addresses the root causes of health disparities.
I am excited about working with the county as it offers the opportunity to make a significant impact on public health at the population level. County public health departments play a critical role in developing policies, programs, and initiatives that address the most pressing public health issues facing their communities. By collaborating with community partners, advocates, and other stakeholders, county public health departments can help to build healthier and more equitable communities.
You can learn more about Bay Area Community Health HERE.