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Community college is a family affair for Molina Healthcare


Editor's note: The Molina family is one of the recipients of the American Association of Community Colleges' 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award. They will be honored April 19 at the annual AACC convention in Seattle. 

Dr. C. David Molina was working in the emergency room at a busy hospital when he noticed that the needs of his community’s less fortunate were being woefully underserved. In 1980, he opened a primary care clinic in Long Beach, Calif., to care for patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Two more primary care facilities followed, and in 1985 his company, Molina Healthcare, obtained a license to operate as an HMO in California.
Today, Molina Healthcare serves more than 1.2 million people in 10 states. Fortune lists Molina Healthcare among the 1,000 largest U.S. corporations, the national managed-care research firm InterStudy named it one of the top 15 national managed care firms and Hispanic Business Magazine lists it as the second-largest U.S. Hispanic-owned business in terms of revenue and growth.
It’s no coincidence that Molina attended Long Beach City College (LBCC) in California. So did all five of his children—Dr. Joseph Mario Molina, Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett, John Molina, Janet Molina Watt and Josephine Molina Batiste.
"As the fourth one in line, I went where everybody else went. It was kind of a tradition at that point," says Janet Molina Watt.
She says her father had a variety of reasons for sending all his children to the college—it was close to their home, it had a tradition of academic excellence that eased his kids’ transition to four-year colleges and it accommodated the family’s "bottom-line realities of having to put five kids through college."
Molina died in 1996, and his children, some of whom now work for Molina Healthcare, are still the company’s principal stockholders. The oldest child—and first to attend LBCC—was Dr. Joseph Mario Molina, who is now the heath care company’s president and CEO.
After graduating from LBCC in 1978, Molina received a baccalaureate from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and his medical degree at the University of Southern California (USC). He worked his way up the ranks at Molina Healthcare, for a while serving as medical director in charge of medical and risk management issues while working with providers and clinics. Later, as vice president, he was responsible for contracting with providers, supervising member services, marketing and quality assurance.
Since becoming chief executive upon the death of his father, Molina has received the Ernst & Young Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2002. In 2005 Time named him one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in America.
Martha Molina Bernadett graduated from LBCC in 1983 and went on to get a B.S. from CSULB, a doctorate of medicine from the University of California, Irvine, and a master’s of business administration from Pepperdine University. She started at Molina Healthcare as a family physician, later becoming an associate medical director and vice president in charge of provider contracting and relations, among other functions.
Now Molina Healthcare’s executive vice president of research and development, Bernadett is a member of the California Health Manpower Commission and principal investigator of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to improve health care access for Hispanics.
Although he’s worked for Molina Healthcare since its inception, John Molina chose law over medicine, graduating from LBCC in 1984, and getting a baccalaureate in economics from CSULB and a law degree from USC. As Molina Healthcare’s chief financial officer, Molina oversees corporate finance, investor relations, accounting, treasury, actuarial functions and just about every other financial activity.
Away from the office, he serves on the boards of the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach Community Foundation, Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau and the California State University Foundation.
The two youngest siblings work only part time for Molina Healthcare and are otherwise involved with raising families and a plethora of community service activities. Janet Molina Watt, who met her husband at LBCC and graduated in 1987, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in interior design from CSULB and a master’s degree in architecture from Cal Poly.
Currently in the process of designing a preschool, Watt also serves on the board of the Fairfield Family YMCA, Los Cerritos PTA and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.
The only Molina sibling who didn’t graduate from LBCC is Josephine Molina Batiste. But she spent a year at the college before transferring to California State University, Sacramento, to work in a branch office Molina Healthcare had opened. Batiste serves on the boards of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, Fairfield Family YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach.
The Molinas remain very involved with LBCC, with Bernadett serving as a governor of the LBCC Foundation, and they all generously contribute to fund-raising initiatives. Some members of the family’s next generation have started especially early at LBCC by enrolling in the college’s Child Development Center.
While the Molinas have for the most part continued their education in specialized fields, they esteem LBCC for the foundation it provided.
"Some people know right away what they’re going to do with the rest of their life, but in reality most of us going into college need to try a lot of different things to see what’s out there," Watt said.