J. Mario Molina goes from former insurance CEO to founding medical school dean

J. Mario Molina, M.D., once the CEO of the insurance company that bears his family’s name, has been named the founding dean of a new California medical school.

Molina has been appointed the new dean of the Keck Graduate Institute’s (KGI) medical school, the school announced this morning.

Molina, the former CEO of Molina Healthcare, will oversee the planning and development of the KGI School of Medicine, which plans to open in southern California to help address the shortage of primary care doctors.

“I’m very excited,” Molina said in an interview with FierceHealthcare, about his new venture. He says it is time for a new approach to medical education.

RELATED: Former Molina Healthcare CEO takes over California medical group

“I’ve seen medicine change tremendously in the last 30 years. We really need to change the way we’re preparing doctors for the 21st century,” he said.

His first order of business as head of the medical school will be to take the steps necessary to apply for accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), a process Molina says may take a couple of years.

Photo of doctor
J. Mario Molina, M.D. (KGI)

Molina served for 20 years as CEO of Molina Healthcare, the Fortune 500 insurance company founded by his father to provide healthcare to low-income individuals, until he was fired in 2017 by the board of directors who cited the company’s disappointing financial performance.

KGI, located in Claremont, California, announced almost a year ago its plans to open a new school of medicine. Molina says he hopes the school will take an approach that can prepare doctors for the challenges they face in the healthcare industry that exists today.

RELATED: Purchase of California clinics gives ex-Molina CEO a way to ‘fulfill the mission that my father started’

Most doctors are no longer solo practitioners, he said. “Medicine is a team sport,” he said, and physicians must be educated to work as part of a team.

“Medicine is changing so rapidly. What we learn today is out of date quickly. It’s really important we give these students the skills to continue their education long after they leave medical school,” he said.

It’s also important that doctors understand the economics behind medicine, he said.

“When I was in medical school, nobody ever talked about the cost of care or what it meant to be in the medical business. Doctors are the biggest drivers of healthcare costs. I think the students need to have an understanding of medical economics and medical policy and how the decisions they make drive the cost of healthcare and how it affects their patients. It’s becoming an issue for the patients themselves,” he said.

Molina, who started in his new position last week, said it is too soon to say when the new medical school will open. “It’s a brand-new school and there is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

The first step was hiring a new dean to begin that work. “Dean Molina is highly regarded by his colleagues for his vision, passion, expertise, and leadership,” KGI President Sheldon Schuster said in making the announcement. “He has an immense amount of experience in serving Southern California communities and we are confident in his ability to develop an innovative medical school for the 21st century.”

The school will focus on multicultural competency, population health research, and commercial innovation, as it prepares physicians with training and tools to improve the health status of communities where they practice.

After being ousted from Molina Healthcare, along with his brother John who was the CFO, Molina took over a network of community medical clinics in California, formerly known as the Molina Medical Group. He operated the primary care clinics as the Golden Shore Medical Group.

The clinics, however, closed at the end of January and most have transitioned to federally qualified health centers, he said.