Kameron Matthews, MD, JD, FAAFP
Chief Health Officer of Cityblock Health, Brooklyn, NY
Dr. Kameron Matthews is the former Chief Medical Officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the current Chief Health Officer of Cityblock Health. Dr. Matthews graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts in public policy studies in 2000; Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School in 2006; and Doctor of Medicine from Johns Hopkins in 2007. Dr. Matthews completed her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UI Health). She has held the title of Patiño Fellow since graduation from UChicago Law.
Dr. Matthews’ professional career began with medical school in 2000, drawing inspiration from her father, a family physician himself. In her third year of med school, however, Dr. Matthews interned on the Hill for the Senate Judiciary Committee where she gained exposure to the inner workings of public policy and its potential to impact health care. This experience sparked an interest in healthcare law and policy. In 2003, Dr. Matthews took a leave of absence from Johns Hopkins to attend the University of Chicago Law School.
“Working on the Hill demonstrated the impact a legal background could have on my ability to influence change. I realized that if I didn’t understand the legal framework nor governance structure that affects patients, then I wouldn’t be able to see the end-to-end and deliver better solutions. I wanted to be in the room where decisions are made…where I could enact change on a larger scale. This was simply out of the scope of medical school.”
In law school, Dr. Matthews received the education that she felt was missing from medical school alone.
“Medical school confirmed my love for medicine and patient care, but law school allowed me to see medicine through the social and political lens of public policy. It opened my eyes to the various social determinants of health. More importantly, law school provided me the tools to advocate for policy that addresses them.”
Upon completing her medical and legal studies, Dr. Matthews served as a staff physician at Cook County jail and juvenile detention center. She then returned to UI Health as Chief Medical Officer of the Mile Square Health Center and Medical Director of its Department of Managed Care. In 2016, Dr. Matthews joined the Department of Veterans Affairs where she led the newly created Office of Community Care into unprecedented transformation. Just three years later, in 2018, Dr. Matthews was appointed to Chief Medical Officer of the entire VA healthcare system—the largest healthcare network in the world.
Dr. Matthews attributes much of her success with the VA to her legal education.
“My first major task [with the VA] was to implement the Missions Act. I needed to pass three federal regulations in 12 months; something that usually takes 18 – 24 at a minimum. This is where the law degree really kicked in. I was on the Hill nearly every week trying to expedite the process. It worked. We were able to launch, and the program was a success. This led to my appointment to CMO.”
Dr. Matthews’ passion for helping others extends beyond purely healthcare. In 2012, Dr. Matthews founded the Tour for Diversity in Medicine (T4D), an initiative seeking to bring premedical enrichment activities to minority high school and undergraduate students across the country. In result of her efforts, Dr. Matthews was recognized as a “40 Under 40 Leader in Health” by the National Minority Quality Forum.
Today, Dr. Matthews continues to focus on larger health policy issues that impact underserved patient populations such as access to care and financing, health disparities, social determinants of health, primary care, and the medical home.
Dr. Matthews on the Tony Patiño Fellowship:
“There’s a somewhat narrow focus in law school where they try to direct you to a law firm or a clerkship or other traditional legal practices. My interests were much broader, and the TPF really let me have a space and to go beyond the classroom. Talking to the Fellow-Elects and Fellows helped me see the bigger world out there and that the world needs people like us to work in these roles. It provided a space where I felt comfortable and celebrated; where I was recognized for wanting to do something bigger.”
Dr. Matthews on advice for current and future Fellow-Elects:
“I think the best advice I could give is to step outside of the comfort zone of law school alone and understand the broader opportunities that lawyers have that may be outside the practice of law. We have legal and analytical training, but we can use that in many different spheres. …Think Creatively about how to use your legal education.”
Dr. Matthews on education:
“Revel in your diverse interests. School should be about taking opportunities to explore. Try to go as broadly as possible and get some depth to your experiences. Exposure is great, but go a little deeper.”