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Stories of Leadership: Ed Martinez

Ed Martinez, '68 and '72, is the chief executive officer of the San Ysidro Health Center.

Ed Martinez has been in the healthcare management field for 37 years. He earned his bachelor's degree at San Diego State University and master's of public health-hospital administration degree from Yale University.

In 1998, Martinez joined the staff of the San Ysidro Health Center as president, and helped to secure the organization in a strong financial position. He writes numerous op-ed pieces for the U-T San Diego and other publications.

Tell us the highlights of your professional career. What are your proudest achievements?

The first exciting event took place in 1974 when I graduated from Yale University's School of Epidemiology and Public Health. The program is considered one of our nation's stellar public health programs because of its robust academic, research and community-health orientation.

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Ed Martinez

As a student, I selected the hospital administration track to specialize in. This degree allowed me the opportunity to work in a major teaching medical center (University of California, San Francisco) as an assistant hospital administrator, as well as serve as the CEO of two community hospitals — one in Las Vegas and the other in San Diego.

The second exciting achievement of my public health career was being appointed the president of San Ysidro Health Center, a federally qualified health center in 1998.

The health center was founded by seven local housewives with a vision to develop a high-quality community clinic. This vision has been the driving force behind its growth over the past 43 years. We now operate 11 primary care clinics and 12 additional service centers in the South Bay and southeastern San Diego.

Some of my other accomplishments include:

  • Receiving a presidential appointment to the 2005 Advisory Committee to the White House Conference on Aging
  • Being recognized as the "Most Admired CEO" (for small non-profit organizations) by the San Diego Business Journal in 2011
  • One of San Diego's "Top Influential" by the San Diego Daily Transcript in 2011
  • "Civic Leader of the Year" in 2012 by The Latino Champions Awards

What is your favorite college memory?

My favorite college memories in San Diego related to my attending San Diego City College and San Diego State University. I attended both colleges part-time while working. I recall how dedicated my professors were at both colleges — they were always available for questions and they placed a high priority on responding to questions from students. Because of this commitment to the teaching profession, I have always held my college professors in the highest esteem.

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What was your favorite professor and/or what was your favorite class?

My favorite professor was James Kitchen, a professor at SDSU's Department of Public Administration. I appreciated Kitchen's commitment to work with students around their thesis projects. His interest in community-oriented services was also very interesting and focused on what was going on in the San Diego community.

If you were to give current sdsu students some advice, what would you say?

Seek the highest level degree you can afford-in terms of time and money. In today's job market, a master's degree is the bare minimum one needs to make it to the "short list" of job candidates. If a job is not available in your area of interest, stay in school and pursue a graduate level degree in your area of specialty, or in a related discipline.

Also, realize that it takes years of training and work to become proficient in any profession. There are no shortcuts to a challenging administrative position. Everyone has to put the time and energy into their career goals. Stays focused and always keep moving forward.

What are you currently reading? What's your favoirte book?

I read a lot of medical and public health research so I don't usually have a lot of leisure time to read.

What is your passion?

To try and provide people opportunities to succeed, build up the community, and make an impact on others’ lives.

What is your motto?

One of my mottos would be: "The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose." I sincerely believe that we are all here for a purpose. Every day I think, "Did I make a difference in someone's life?"

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?

I would ask my wife to invest our winnings in a growth-related portfolio. Then, I would provide my grandsons with the resources needed to attend whatever college they wanted to attend. I would then take golf lessons from my son-in-law and after I became a good golfer, I would retire and play golf with my wife!

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