Derek Wong, M.P.H., M.B.A.
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
- Business Administration (M.B.A.) 2008
- Public Health (M.P.H.) 2006
- Biology (B.S.) 2003
Growing up, I thought life would be just to graduate high school, major something in the health sciences, continue to medical school, be a doctor, and that’s it. With this mindset, deciding on Biology as my major was an easy decision. The impact of choosing the Biology major would however not only be difficult, but also be one of the most important decisions.
Like many graduates, I was not sure of what to do – I was not going to graduate school and I was not ready to commit to a career. Fortunately, there was an opening for a major academic advisor position at the Department of Biology. During my college experience, I had the opportunity to be a Teaching Intern for Biology 101, 171, and 275 where I learned how to create and implement curriculum to a wide audience. Thankfully, this experience, along with being a peer mentor at the Mānoa Advising Center, helped me to secure the position.
As the Department of Biology major academic advisor, I had the privilege of advising hundreds of students to achieve their collegiate educational and personal goals. Through those years, I have been blessed to call a few of them my close friends and I was able to attend their weddings. Being a Department of Biology advisor exposed me to other opportunities, such as being an instructor at the John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY). At CTY, I had the opportunity to teach students aged 12 to 14 years old about the basic education and applications of biotechnology such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA), and gel electrophoresis. Teaching these CTY students, along with the UH Mānoa (UHM) Biology students was definitely a rewarding experience.
While serving in the Department of Biology, I continued to learn more about healthcare and decided to enroll in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). During the MPH program, I had the opportunity to be a research assistant at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, where I studied how aging affects healthy decision making. At Kaiser Permanente, I learned about research grants, interviewing participants, collecting and codifying data, and how to run an effective research project. My time at Kaiser Permanente was very positive, and helped developed people’s critical thinking skills.
After completing the MPH Program, I felt I needed more experience on the business side of healthcare and enrolled in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at the Shidler College of Business. Along with learning business fundamentals, I had the opportunity to enroll in an international course that allowed me to travel to South Korea, China, and Vietnam.
During the MBA program, my classmate recruited me to work with her at the University Clinical, Education and Research Associates (UCERA) under the Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Women’s health at JABSOM assisting in data analysis and medical billing. I assisted providers on how to properly code for their services, review insurance reimbursement, and ensure appropriate documentation. Through this journey, I learned that there are many ways to serve in healthcare without having direct patient contact.
Currently, I work at the UCERA central office as the Director of the Central Billing Office. My duties include overseeing the revenue cycle for each of the clinical departments that bill through UCERA, assisting current and new practices in improving their billing and coding processes, and assisting with quality and compliance projects. I can confidently say that being a Biology alumnus has set me up for success on this path, and I’m grateful for my experience at UHM.