August 26, 2020 • By Xanat Hernandez
As chief medical officer at Monarch Healthcare (Optum), Dr. Nancy Boerner EMBA ’03 makes decisions that will impact both patients and doctors. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Boerner’s leadership and experience creating effective healthcare systems is in more demand than ever.
Boerner is a fourth-generation Japanese American from Torrance, CA whose parents were forced into internment camps during World War II.
“My family has been here a long time, but we essentially started over again, from zero,” said Boerner. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”
It was not until her third year at UCLA that Boerner decided to pursue medical school. As a result, Boerner spent five years as an undergrad, but the hard work paid off when she was accepted to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Boerner lived with her grandmother for her last two years as an undergrad and she developed an appreciation for the geriatric community—their experiences, stories and wisdom.
“At one point I thought I wanted to be a reconstructive hand surgeon, and so many of my classmates were specializing,” she explained. “But I wanted to be a generalist; I wanted to treat the whole person.”
After medical school, Boerner joined a private practice in Laguna Beach where she practiced internal medicine for 17 years. She also became a part of an independent practice association (IPA) that later became Monarch Healthcare.
Through a leadership development group at Monarch, Boerner was exposed to the administrative side of clinical medicine and the healthcare landscape as a whole.
“I realized that physician leadership was scarce,” she said. “Decisions were being made by people who had never sat beside a patient’s bed in the middle of the night, wondering if they had done everything they could.”
Boerner was now VP of medical affairs at what is now Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, serving as the bridge between physicians and hospital administration. She also began forming ties with The UCI Paul Merage School of Business, enrolling in the MBA for Executives program and attending the Health Care Forecast Conference, presented by the Center for Health Care Management and Policy (CHCMP).
Boerner is now in a full-time administrative role as chief medical officer at Monarch. Boerner implements clinical programs for better patient outcomes and satisfaction so “physicians can focus on doing what they do best.” She has spearheaded the development of wrap-around services such as social workers, pharmacists, palliative care and oncology navigators.
During the pandemic, free PPE was distributed to both the employed group and IPA doctors at Monarch. The crisis became a catalyst for the rapid adoption of telehealth, which through Optum, is being made available to physicians at no cost during the state of emergency. “The pandemic has pushed us forward in an area of innovation I’ve been wanting to go. Barriers have been knocked down.”
Boerner also noted that doctors have come to view groups like Monarch and managed care in a different light. During the crisis, Monarch was able to provide a steady stream of PPE to its partners as well as the safety and financial security of belonging to a bigger system.
Boerner continues to send up-and-coming leaders to the Health Care Forecast Conference and to the Certificate in Leadership for Health Care Transformation certificate program.
“I want to open people’s minds to the different ways you can help patients and impact the healthcare system,” said Boerner.