Dr. Tina Cho puts focus on student success

NORWALK - As a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in Southern California, Dr. Tina Cho specializes in treating mental disorders. As the incumbent trustee for Area 6 of Cerritos College, she helps shape policy on effective ways of educating healthy minds.One such vital prop to community college education is an adequate budget. Tina says she supports Prop. 30 because, if it doesn't pass, there will be an automatic $6 billion funding cut to K-12 schools and community colleges. Should it pass, she notes, "The 112 community colleges in California will receive a total of eleven percent of the revenue collected. In addition, Prop. 30 would provide money for public safety, Medi-Cal, health, mental health, child welfare, and drug and alcohol treatment programs." These are issues, by the way, which are among her major concerns-professionally and otherwise. Since she started serving on the board of trustees in December of 2007, Tina says she has seen many changes take place on campus: Cerritos College obtaining reaccreditation, the hiring of new administrators as well as a new management firm for General Obligation bond projects, etc. She also believes the firm, Tilden-Coil, "is doing a great job at supervising construction projects on campus." She says the passage of Measure G--the $350 million bond--will "help provide money for new laboratories, classrooms and maintenance especially of the Veterans' Resource Center." She originally voted against the bond. Recently she suggested that part-time faculty should be allowed to purchase group health insurance through a pool created at the state level, their teaching hours at different schools counting towards a fulltime workload. Simply put, Tina says her vision for Cerritos College has remained unchanged: among other things, increase student success, increase the transfer rate, and increase the completion of certificates and degrees among students. She says her election to the board in 2007 resulted from a fortuitous chain of events. She was involved in CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) for the city of Cerritos when she was recruited to join the Hubert Humphrey Democratic Club. Later, she and three others simultaneously ran for seats on the Cerritos College board on a "progressive platform of change." Of the four hopefuls, only Tina emerged victorious. She says she has enjoyed her experience on the board tremendously. Tina, whose full name is Austina, was named after her birthplace of Austin, Texas. Her parents had immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1967. She grew up in North Carolina and at the beginning of her senior year moved to Louisiana, where she graduated from Neville H.S. in 1986. After studying chemistry for two years at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe, Tina transferred to LSU in Baton Rouge where she obtained her BS in biochemistry. She then attended medical school at LSU in New Orleans. She says she was very shy and suffered from periodic bouts of anxiety and depression in childhood, and reached their highest level of intensity during her first year of medical school. This delayed her graduation date as an M.D. one year, to 1995. Nevertheless, this experience, she says, gave her strength to face the future. She completed her internship at Riverside General Hospital, an affiliate of Loma Linda University, and her psychiatry residency training at UC-Irvine. Tina says she decided to go into psychiatry because she wants to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and help relieve the suffering of those afflicted. She says that mental illness causes significant disability, even death, and certainly loss of income among people around the world, and that assessment and adequate treatment of these mental disorders lead to increased productivity, health, and public safety. She says that, contrary to at least one press report, she has not been unemployed at any time since she started working, and has spent her entire career in the public mental health area. She worked as a community mental health psychiatrist for twelve years in both Orange and L.A. countries. In 2005, she served as interim medical director at Augustus Hawkins Mental Health Center, the largest outpatient mental health center in L.A. County, even as she taught psychiatry residents at Charles Drew University. She has also worked in largely underserved communities. For example, she worked for a new integrated care program in South Central Los Angeles and Skid Row in downtown LA, teaming up with staff from a primary care clinic and substance abuse treatment center to provide service to homeless, chronically mentally ill individuals in those areas. Prior to beginning recently in a new position as medical director of Royale TRC in Santa Ana and Royale TRC in Mission Viejo, she worked part-time for the Illumination Foundation in Orange County. A native of Pusan, South Korea, her father earned a Ph. D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He passed away in 1998 from pancreatic cancer. Her mother, age 77, obtained a bachelor's in education from Pusan National University and taught ESL in the Greensboro area. She has an older, adopted brother who serves as a law enforcement officer in North Carolina, and she has two younger sisters and two brothers-in-law who are all physicians. She also tells of a great uncle who was a leader in the underground resistance movement of Korea against Japan prior to WWII. On the volunteer front, Tina has lent her time, energy, and expertise to various community causes including current service on the board of the Su Casa-Ending Domestic Violence Center. She has participated at the same time in educational forums on mental illness and has provided psycho-education to support groups of family members of patients with mental illness. A member of the Cerritos Optimist Club and the Soroptimist Club International of Artesia-Cerritos, next year Tina hopes to run in her fifth marathon. Her challenger Nov. 6 for Trustee Area No. 6 is another physician, Dr. Sandra Salazar.

********** Published: November 1, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 29