Alumna takes a top position at Kaiser Permanente

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Julie Miller-Phipps graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 1983. She was recently appointed president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan in Southern California.
(Courtesy of Mayra Suarez)

Julie Miller-Phipps is a Cal State Fullerton alumna who has demonstrated how far a degree from the university can take someone. She assumed the role as president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan in Southern California on Aug. 15. She has been working at Kaiser for over 30 years.

In her new position, she will direct the region’s 14 hospitals and 241 medical offices. These facilities are staffed with almost 68,000 employees, partnering with 6,600 physicians to meet the health care needs of more than 4.2 million members, according to Kaiser Permanente’s website.

Miller-Phipps decided she wanted to be in the healthcare industry while she was in high school. She volunteered at a local hospital near her house, and right away she knew that working in health care was her calling.

Once she received her bachelor’s degree from CSUF, Miller-Phipps was able to obtain a management position at Kaiser shortly after returning from maternity leave.

Mark Costa, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente Orange County, said he knows where Miller-Phipps’ desire to give back comes from.

“I know she feels strongly that Cal State University, Fullerton helped her as she was developing her career – it helped her develop as an individual,” Costa said. “Her desire to give back is really part of who she is.”

Miller-Phipps began working at the hospital near her house in Anaheim two years before it was bought by Kaiser. She has been with Kaiser her entire adult life and has held 12 different job positions with the company.

To this day, Miller-Phipps said she relies on everything she learned at Cal State Fullerton about group process, communication skills and team management.

“Those are all things that I learned in my sociology degree at Cal State Fullerton that have added so much value into my journey as a leader,” Miller-Phipps said.

Born and raised in Southern California, she is the first person in her family to graduate from a four-year university.

The fact that CSUF was such a  commuter university allowed Miller-Phipps to work full-time while attending classes at night.  She said she appreciated having the opportunity to learn at a university while still being able to hold down a job to pay for school, housing and other bills.

“The professors were terrific and the students were fun to learn from,” Miller-Phipps said.

Miller-Phipps is class of ‘83 and she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in group process.

The degree and experience she received from CSUF prepared her to go onto a master’s program at the University of LaVerne.

CSUF first reached out to Miller-Phipps in 2007 during its 50th anniversary to include her in what the university called “The Women of Distinction.” The school selected a group of 50 alumna who were successful in their careers to be a part of the honored group.

From that time on, Miller-Phipps became more involved with the university. She then became part of the Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors because it was the area that caught her attention.

“I was really impressed by the strategic plan at the university and how it aligned with my own organization’s values and mission to improve the educational attainment for students and to help the whole community by providing a workforce that was ready and able to take Orange County and California to the next level,” Miller-Phipps said.

Miller-Phipps later went on to become chair for the board of governors and said her experience was an amazing one.

“I got to know many community business leaders, educational leaders, the deans of schools and what all of their needs were. I also learned about how academic politics works,” Miller-Phipps said. “It was a fascinating process.”

Greg Saks, vice president for University Advancement, had the opportunity to work with Miller-Phipps during the time that she served as part of the Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors. He spoke highly of her work on the board and her commitment to making a change.

“She was (an) organized and passionate advocate for our students,” Saks said. “Really understanding our role within the community and really deeply understanding how public education is the catalyst for economic and social change.”

The reason Miller-Phipps left the board of governors in 2014 was because she had been promoted to president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, the position she held prior to her most recent appointment.

Miller-Phipps said she is looking to put into practice everything that she has learned throughout her career.

“I think what I look forward to the most is being able to take everything that I have learned in the last 30-plus years and being able to lead our largest region and help take our organization to the next level into the future,” Miller-Phipps said.

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