Senior Vice President of Healthy Communities, the California Endowment
Dr. Anthony Iton is senior vice president of Healthy Communities at the California Endowment, where he oversees a 10-year, billion-dollar initiative to improve the health status of low-income Californians. He previously served as director of the Alameda County Public Health Department and worked as a physician in the HIV Clinic at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
What inspires you in your work?
I am passionate about the need to eliminate health inequities; that goal has been a constant throughout my career. I believe the only way to achieve sustainable progress is by designing intensive, place-conscious interventions that draw on existing assets and build social, political, and economic power among residents of under-resourced communities.
If you could change one thing about medical education, what would it be?
I would help medical students gain deeper insight into their patients’ lives by participating in patient home visits and ambulance ride-alongs. Once students had participated in 50 home visits and ambulance rides, I’d ask them to write assessments of the social conditions their patients face and the policies they see as barriers to their patients’ health and opportunity.
What life experience has taught or changed you the most?
My older brother died from leukemia at the age of 51. It was a shock to our family, and we are changed as a result. I have learned not to take things for granted and that humans are fragile and ultimately mortal. It also taught me to question conventional wisdom and to pursue fundamental change with an urgency that’s tempered by realism.
What’s your most annoying habit?
I am impatient and sometimes I reveal my impatience at times when I should probably disguise it.