Excellence in Action
Caitlin Beck, M.P.H. ’05
Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza • October 12, 2017
Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.
I studied Public Health at UCLA and received my master’s degree in Health Policy and Management in 2005. I always enjoyed working with children and families probably because I am the second oldest of seven children and come from a large loving family. I started volunteering in hospitals at an early age and really liked that environment. Some people really dislike hospitals and I am the opposite – they always intrigued me. I essentially combined my interest of working with children and families and applied my master’s in Public Health to work specifically in management of hospitals. I started my career at UCLA working in the Center for Autism Research in Treatment while I was in graduate school. I was recruited to PwC to be an intern in the health care consulting practice and continued to work there for several years as a healthcare consultant, which was a profound learning opportunity. Eventually I went to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and worked in administration. That was also a direct result of UCLA because I had alumni connections through my graduate program. Now I am back at UCLA as an employee again – this time in my dream job. I feel like I have come back home again as a Bruin.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
When I was growing up, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. My family all pulled together to help take care of him so we spent a lot of time in healthcare environments. Our experience with the healthcare system stayed with me. After he passed away, his doctor encouraged me to volunteer because I was having a hard time emotionally and she thought that being around other families and being able to help them would help me get over my grief. Once I started volunteering at the hospital, I loved it. From there I always thought I would do something clinical like get a degree in clinical psychology or clinical social work but I realized that I enjoyed organizing people and managing projects. I liked more of the business side of healthcare so I studied public health, which I felt was the best of both worlds. I got a lot of training in things like epidemiology and biostatistics, things that are very public health oriented, but also systems and management, which I love.
How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?
UCLA has opened so many doors for me. My first job out of college was here – starting as a research assistant and moving up to manage the autism center. I had amazing early learning experiences around writing grants, managing people, managing teams, working with physicians and residents and other trainees in an academic medical center. I was educated here and able to receive a master’s degree that changed my entire career trajectory. My internship at PwC was a result of being at UCLA and it was there that I realized the power of our alumni connections. Then coming full circle back to UCLA as a senior healthcare leader and having that door open at a very different level of my career was also a result of relationships I had that kept through the years. UCLA is the common denominator for so many of my career accomplishments.
In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?
As I was seeking out the right graduate program, I utilized alumni connections to gain insight into the programs I was looking at. Once I started school, I became a member of the student board and I stayed in touch with my colleagues even after graduation. As we grew in our careers, we all stayed in touch. Social media has made it easy to keep in touch with people and see where they went and where they are now. Now I am able to help bring my experiences to UCLA students via panels or mentorship. I think UCLA alumni are more like family – a big constellation of Bruins supporting each other within Los Angeles and beyond.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?
The decision to leave consulting and seek opportunities in a healthcare organization was tough. Being on a consulting path, I really liked the work and my clients and teammates but I always felt like I was missing this one thing…walking in the shoes of my clients. Here I was a consultant working for people who had senior executive level jobs, I was doing projects and analytics for them but I kept thinking, “I’ve never done their job”. I always felt like to be a trusted advisor you had to walk the path so I made the choice to leave consulting and work my way up in hospital administration. It was a gamble because some people make it, some people do not and I am fortunate because not only did I achieve my dream job AND it is at UCLA, a place that holds such a special place in my heart. It is an honor to do this work in a place that opened so many doors for me. I have had help along the way and I never forget where I came from. It keeps me humble and reminds me to continue to mentor, support and open doors for others.
What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in Public Health?
I have three pieces of advice – one is do the work you enjoy. If you love your work and you enjoy what you’re doing, you will never feel like you worked a day in your life. I think Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” so, you have to start by choosing something you are very passionate about. Number 2 is to stay close to your classmates because the people that you go to school with become your peers and colleagues as you evolve in your career. Those connections and relationships are the foundation of your network as you grow in your careers. Lastly, do not forget where you came from as you move up in your career; always remember to give back not only with philanthropy but also with time. Give back by helping other students that were in your same shoes at one point.
How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?
Well, the good news is my office is on campus so I try to participate in anything I am invited to. I have given talks, participated on panels, and given lectures in the school of public health. I am also the past president of the board for my departmental alumni group in the school of public health so I continue to try to stay involved with students and alumni activities for that. Now I am trying to work on a bridge for students to work at the hospital within UCLA Health to get some course credit and some exposure while they are in school.
What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?
Any time we beat USC in any sport, it makes me proud. UCLA is an absolutely amazing institution and the people here make it what it is. I am so honored to call myself a Bruin.
I love the work that I do. I will continue to support patients and families, staff, care teams, etc. to deliver the best patient care we can to our patients and families. I will also continue my work to improve the health care system so that it is easy/easier to navigate so patients and families can focus on their health instead of worrying about navigating the system. I know first-hand that when you are in the midst of a healthcare crisis, the last thing in the world you want to worry about is the system itself. You want to worry about your own health or your family member’s health so I feel like my job is to make it as easy as possible so when patients and families are in our care…to try to make it as good and easy as it can possibly be.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Stephen Mendoza earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from UCLA in 2018. Prior to joining the Partnership UCLA / Alumni Career Programs team as a student staff member, Stephen had successfully completed internships with Ernst & Young, J.P. Morgan, and Disney. Through the Excellence in Action alumni spotlight series, Stephen expanded his network, met successful business professionals, and shared their advice and life experiences with the greater UCLA community. Stephen is now building his career as a Financial Analyst with Wells Fargo Corporate Banking.
Interested in learning more about UCLA alumni who are creating lasting impressions and impact in their industries? Visit Excellence in Action for the full collection of interviews.