Engineering domestic health: Jack Ching '13

Thursday, Mar 2, 2017
by Alex Wheatley '16

Jack Ching ’13 is not your typical GHP student. A graduate in Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE), Jack was never interested in a traditional global health track. Yet he says that participating in the Global Health Program was the highlight of his Princeton career.

                When introduced to the GHP program during his sophomore year, Jack remembers wondering what this seemingly internationally-focused health program could do to support his interest in domestic health policy. He delayed one of his core ORFE classes to take Professor Uwe Reinhardt’s course “The Economics of Health and Healthcare”, which hooked him onto issues of healthcare and health delivery. Balancing the two tracks (GHP and ORFE) over the next two years proved challenging, but the perspectives he gained from each were invaluable. “As a non-Woodrow Wilson School health policy student, GHP gave me the opportunity to explore my interest in domestic health and health policy from a very different lens.”  He appreciated the many different perspectives brought together within the GHP community.

Through Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) and GHP, Jack interned with the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. and Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. These experiences reinforced his interest in healthcare delivery systems. After graduating, Jack joined Kaiser Permanente as a business consultant with the department of Quality and Operations Support. In this role, Jack has translated strategy into business operations across fifteen medical service areas in Northern California. His work has ranged from implementing a large-scale Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening program to designing a lung cancer detection and surveillance program. Jack says that through classwork and summer internships, “GHP launched me on my career path and helped me find my interests along the way.” 

As an undergrad, Jack expected to stay close to health care operations, perhaps earning a Master’s in Health Care Administration and ending up as a Chief Operating Officer at a hospital. However, his three years at Kaiser Permanente have changed his plans: Jack will enter a PhD program in health policy at Stanford with a concentration in Decision Sciences in the fall. At Kaiser Permanente, Jack found himself drawn to multi-systems issues: are there best practices/policies that can be learned and translated across delivery systems? How can you model healthcare systems and policies? How do these sorts of complex systems interact with each other or within themselves? With PhD training, Jack will be better able to engage with these questions. He thanks GHP for helping him jump from a Bachelor’s to a PhD: “I have such strong training in basic concepts and theory in health care/health policy that I didn’t need a Master’s degree. With my work experience, I can just push to the next level.”

When asked what advice he would share with current GHP students, Jack encouraged students from nontraditional backgrounds (like ORFE) to stick with the program. Their different ways of thinking make their perspectives especially valuable in the classroom and the working world, he says. He also advised students to expand their networks: the health policy world is pretty tightknit, and “you don’t network simply to network. You network because you get to talk to people who share your passions.”

Jack is a 2013 graduate in Operations Research and Financial Engineering. He enters a PhD program in health policy at Stanford in the fall.