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New alumni association co-presidents hope to boost networking opportunities, diversity and inclusion

PHAA board members Riya Suising MPH ’20, Elizabeth Ly MPH ’19, co-president, Francesca Lomotan MPH ’17, Gene Ho MPH ’20 and co-president, Alice Chu MPH ’19, in the lobby of Berkeley Way West after the August 6, 2022 board retreat.

The UC Berkeley School of Public Health welcomes Alice Chu ‘19 and Francesca Lomotan ‘17 as new co-presidents of the UC Berkeley Public Health Alumni Association (PHAA) Board of Directors. Recently, we sat down to talk to them about their new roles and what’s in store for the alumni association.

Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Alice Chu

Alice Chu earned her MPH in Health Policy and Management from Berkeley Public Health  in 2019. Currently, she is the director of market access and medical marketing, Asia Pacific, for Glaukos Corporation, headquartered in Aliso Viejo, California, where she demonstrates the clinical and economic value of novel therapies for chronic eye diseases developed by the company. Prior to her work at Glaukos, Chu worked at the Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson Medtech. She received her PhD in Molecular and Biochemical Nutrition from UC Berkeley and holds an MBA from Singapore Management University.

What are you looking forward to as the new co-president of the Public Health Alumni Association Board of Directors?

The board recently had an ideation retreat in August. The initiatives that were proposed keep getting more exciting every year as we have new members who have joined the Board.  I’m looking forward to seeing these ideas—some controversial and thought-provoking—come to fruition for our global alumni and communities.

What inspired you to take on a leadership position within PHAA?

I can’t cut the umbilical cord with UC Berkeley. There have been too many great memories from my doctoral/postdoctoral and MPH days. I want to give back to this amazing public institution, and in particular to the School of Public Health. I adore all that I have learned about public health. Furthermore, PHAA has been the only organization where I’ve cried from empathy, laughed from silliness, smiled from gratitude, and learned from experts—all at once.

What has been your favorite experience as a member of PHAA?

We held our first international webinar in 2020 on effective COVID-19 responses, which consisted of distinguished speakers from New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. Right after the webinar, I received an email from an alumnus who got his MPH in 1972. He commended the webinar and said that he hasn’t had much interaction with the School since graduating; however, this session made him realize how good of a job  Berkeley Public Health does in educating the public.

What do you hope to accomplish as co-president?

I’m currently the only person on the board who is based internationally. I live in Singapore. I would like to see more participation and continue to develop webinars applicable to our alumni and communities in the Asia Pacific region. This is my personal goal for this school year.

I see that your work today primarily focuses on marketing novel therapies developed by Glaukos—how do you think your role with PHAA will influence your everyday work?

PHAA keeps me grounded. What that means is that I hear about issues that are of importance to the population and to governments. In my line of work, we have to make the case to governments in the Asia Pacific region as to why they should reimburse/cover our new technologies because almost all countries have public health insurance. So, I understand where [government payers] are coming from or their perspectives versus the industry.

Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for current Berkeley Public Health students?

I appreciate the commitment that you have to address society’s tough questions that I wouldn’t even know how to answer. We are not talking about increasing shareholders’ value;In public health, we are looking at improving situations such as social-economic status, education, structural racism, and the environment, in addition to efficiencies and quality in population health. You can, and you will!

Francesca Lomotan

Francesca Lomotan earned her MPH from the Berkeley Public Health Online program in 2017. She currently serves as Tobacco Prevention Program Director at San Mateo County Health. Lomotan is also the founder of the online media project Bay Area Public Health which aims to strengthen the public health community throughout the region. Prior to her time at UC Berkeley, Lomotan earned her undergraduate degrees in public health policy and psychology & social behavior, from UC Irvine.

What led you to become co-president of PHAA?

Last year was my first year serving on the PHAA Board of Directors and I really enjoyed my experience on the Anti-Racist Action Committee, networking with other alumni, and ultimately supporting the field of public health.  When I received a nomination to serve as co-president with Alice Chu, I immediately felt honored and excited!  I decided to accept the opportunity to have a leadership role to help further PHAA’s mission and give back to the community.

What has been your favorite experience as a member of PHAA?

My favorite experience was collaborating with other members of the Anti-Racist Action Committee to host a virtual event called, “The Power of Storytelling: Healing from Racism.”  The intimate event was a community-building listening session that provided a space for UC Berkeley students and alumni to connect, heal, and share their experiences around racism.

I noticed that you’re the founder of the blog and social media project Bay Area Public Health. Could you talk about your work there and what you’re currently doing?

I launched Bay Area Public Health in 2021 to help build bridges within the San Francisco Bay Area public health community.  It was initially designed as a space where public health professionals (and those aspiring to work in public health) could connect and learn about others who love public health, prevention, and upstream work. For Bay Area Public Health’s one-year anniversary, I conducted an evaluation to gain feedback from followers. I learned that what followers like the most is seeing public health information and they want to see more public health action alerts; I’ve focused on posting more of this type of content since receiving the feedback.

How does your experience with San Mateo County Health overlap or fit in with what you aim to accomplish as co-president of PHAA?

While working at San Mateo County Health, I’ve increased my community organizing, civic engagement, and environmental prevention work experience.  During the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve also learned various strategies for virtual community engagement while working remotely. These experiences can be applied to help accomplish a personal goal as co-president to help increase awareness of PHAA through various media channels and especially engage new alumni.

What are some plans you have for the organization during your tenure?

I plan to support my fellow board members in their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, increase student and alumni networking, and provide opportunities for professional development.  I will be working most closely with PHAA’s Events & Networking Committee to help increase alumni participation in virtual and/or in-person events hosted by the committee. Additionally, I will meet regularly with the dean to give updates on PHAA and find areas where PHAA can support the school’s priorities.

Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for current Berkeley Public Health students?

Take this time as a student to explore the different areas of public health; reflect on how and why you want to work in the field.  Reach out to public health professionals to network, learn, and ask questions as you prepare for a public health career.  PHAA offers some great networking opportunities so consider attending one of PHAA’s events to start or expand on your list of public health connections!