His extended family was not as impressed as he expected. 

“They asked, ‘Why not be a doctor?’” Kang says. “They told me that the human body is the same all around the world, and I could always come home and serve the motherland. It was a compelling case.” Although he has remained in the U.S., Kang took the advice to heart. He spent a year working as a paralegal for the United Farmworkers Union in Southern California, then returned to Harvard and promptly switched his major to biochemistry. 

Focused on Service

After graduating, he came to California to pursue an MD at UCSF and a master’s in public health at UC Berkeley. He also helped create the Bay Area Asian Health Alliance and the Tenderloin Senior Outreach Project, among other health-advocacy projects. 

Because of my public health training, I thought on a larger scale about society. I saw that medicine is a service fueled by altruism and passion, but it also has to operate as a business.


“I was less focused on grades and more focused on service, and I really enjoyed it,” Kang says. After an internal medicine residency, he worked for the Boston nonprofit Urban Medical Group, a primary care practice for the elderly and disabled that ran like a “medical home” before the term was even coined. Within six months he was running the group, a position he held for 10 years. 

Medical Home 

Next came a White House Fellowship, followed by seven years as chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Among other responsibilities, he set out to improve Medicare’s coverage of medical homes, which provide patient-centered primary care, and established the National Quality Forum, Hospital Compare, and other widely used quality measurements. 

“I wanted to figure out how best to measure performance and how to pay for value,” he says. Kang moved to the private sector in 2002 and for the past year has served as president of ChenMed, which provides innovative primary care for low-income seniors in six states. 

“I’m back to caring for underserved seniors in a medical home model – work that began for me in San Francisco,” Kang says. “My work has taken me full circle.”

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