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Legislator Profile: Dr. Richard Pan

Dr. Richard PanSince being elected to the Assembly in 2010, Dr. Richard Pan has worked with a variety of partners on legislation and other efforts that help Californians build safer, healthier communities.

As chair of the Assembly committee on health, Pan focuses on expanding transparency and oversight of government agencies involved in building healthier communities, as well as ensuring federal healthcare reforms are implemented effectively and efficiently in California.

Pan teamed up with Consumer Federation of California and the California Alliance of Retired Americans to remove expired medications and baby food from store shelves. And working with parents throughout California, Pan made sure schools and communities have the live-saving information they need to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.

As director of the UC Davis pediatric residency program, Pan created Communities and Physicians Together to make UC Davis medical students available to work with families and local associations on projects that improve health in their neighborhoods. As co-founder and chair of Healthy Kids Healthy Future, Pan helped secure health, dental and vision coverage for more than 65,000 local children. He helped create the Sacramento Health Improvement Project, bringing together doctors, hospitals, clinics and community leaders to ensure that all Sacramento County residents have access to primary health care.

Pan continues to practice medicine at The Effort Oak Park Community Clinic, pursuing his passion for working with families to build healthier communities.

Q: What do you feel is the largest contribution the biomedical community has made to California?

A: The largest contribution is certainly the treatments that are saving lives and reducing morbidity. The side benefits, of course, are the major contributions to the California economy, certainly in terms of job creation and in reducing disease.

Q: What has your experience as a physician been like with our community?

A: I am a general pediatrician, so most of my work is on the primary care end. I’ve taken care of children with diseases that are very rare and require specialized treatments. We are in the midst of a genetic revolution and are better defining how genes attack disease. We are also in the very beginning stages of a neuroscience revolution.

In the end, we are going to turn this into treatments to help families. It’s going to be the biotech community that develops these treatments and helps disseminate them. That’s what is so important about our investment in biotech and being a leader in biotech here in California. We can do the research, go out and conduct studies, and, in the end, turn it into treatments that help families.

Q: How well do you think genetic sequencing is being integrated into the clinical practice?

A:  What we have to do is turn that data into information. We are getting to the point, from what I understand, that you can sequence a person’s genome for $1,000. But what kind of information can we get out of that, and how can we use it to improve a person’s life?  As we are trying to better figure out how the brain works, there’s tremendous opportunity there in terms of mental health, which is a very large chronic disease burden.

Q: What do you see as the University of California’s role in the biomedical community?

A: As a professor at UC Davis, I’ve seen it play a very important role in not only conducting research but in creating the future workforce. These tend to be very highly trained, doctoral-level people. If you look at Silicon Valley as a model, in terms of economic development, it is a really unique ecosystem in terms of creating an environment for innovation. So, one of the things we really need to encourage in California, as we’ve done for information technology in Silicon Valley and for arts and entertainment in Hollywood, is build collaborations for the biomedical industry. That kind of interaction is critically important. And it’s why I encourage investment in higher education.  For all the wonderful resources we have here in California, a highly educated workforce is really our competitive advantage. 

Q: How do you see national healthcare reform being implemented in California?

A: We are moving ahead with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We want to expand coverage to more Californians and, of course, expand access to healthcare. In the end, we can do that. We can figure out what causes disease, we can develop the treatments, but people need to be able to access it.

As we look at how we try to reduce the cost of healthcare, the biggest opportunity for doing so is in the development of more effective treatments — and improving access to that. As we are looking at health reform going forward, we also need to consider how we better use our funds.

Q: What is the best way for the community to engage a member’s office?

A: One way is to come and talk to us, and you can come visit the capital or district office. Educate the members about what you do, and what it takes to do it. There is very little time, given the term limits, for legislators to pick up on some of these topics and issues.

Q: As a healthcare provider and a legislator what do you see has the most pressing issue in CA?

A: Certainly one is getting our economy going right now. We are starting to see signs of improvement, but we need to continue to work on that. We need to plan for the future. To me, that is about how we can work with business and labor to try and improve economic productivity and infrastructure. We need to make sure we continue to maintain access to higher education. I really believe that we never have an excess of human talent. Part of having a productive workforce is having a healthy workforce, so we want to be sure we take care of our aging population.

We want to be sure we have a high-value business climate here in California. We will never be the cheapest place to do business, but we can be the highest value.

Q: What type of healthcare legislation are you looking at for the coming legislative cycle?

A: The biggest thing we have coming up in the next year is implementation of the ACA. With the Supreme Court ruling and the reelection of President Barack Obama, there is much more certainty moving forward. The ACA is a very important step in expanding access to healthcare and also in developing new frameworks that will help reduce the growth of healthcare costs. Federal law is a framework, but we still have a lot to do in the state of California to make it happen.

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