A true champion of public health recently retired from San Diego County Public Health Services after 25 years of service. AMETHYST CUREG MD chief of the Maternal, Child and Family Health Services (MCFHS), has indeed left her mark. Her legacy includes being a key player in developing and sustaining many of the maternal and child health programs in existence today, as well as policies and procedures that have had a direct impact of the health of children of San Diego County.She was responsible for the management and administration of MCFHS that included Maternal Child and Adolescent Health, Child Health and Disability Prevention Program, California Children Services, and the Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit. She oversaw a budget of $32 million and total staff of over 200.
Dr Cureg grew up with her parents and six sisters in Manila. She idolized her dad who named his seven daughters after precious stones. He said he did that because we were all precious to him, and he wanted us to be hardy and to shine.
And shine Dr Cureg did.
She belongs to Class, initially trained as a pathologist, and served as academic faculty at FEU. She immigrated to the United States in 1978. When she arrived in Iowa, she was in complete culture shock. I didn’t know how to cook anything and was ready to go back home!
Eventually she settled in, getting another specialty in pediatrics at Iowa Methodist Hospital Raymond Blank Memorial Hospital for Children. She moved to Tennessee to train as a subspecialist in developmental behavioral pediatrics, where she worked from 1980 to 1987 as an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Memphis. During this time period, she also worked as a pediatric staff member at the St. Joseph Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
She married, had a child and moved to San Diego in 1987, and worked with Dr Donald Ramras, Dr Nancy Bowen and Phyllis Elkind on developing needs assessments and policies and procedures. After discovering many access to care issues, she and her co‐workers led efforts to create programs that address pediatric needs.
There was a time when she considered going back to a clinical setting. It was her dad that convinced Dr Cureg those key strengths include maximizer, to stay in public health. My dad, who inspired me in so many areas of my life, told me creating programs and making policies and procedure changes can have a profound difference in thousands of children’s lives, much more than I could have effected in a clinical setting. And he was right.
She worked as director of maternal and child health until 2011, when she was named chief. Her latest academic achievement was obtaining her master’s in public health from San Diego State University in 2005. During her San Diego County career, Dr Cureg has received numerous awards and recognitions. These include being recognized by the National American Academy of Pediatrics for her work in providing access to children, an award from then Vice President Al Gore for reinventing government, and being inducted into the American Academy of Pediatrics Hall of Fame.
Other achievements include having written articles for several medical publications and having presented at many important public health meetings. She is active in many professional organizations. Despite her many academic and professional achievements, she considers being a mother and balancing her career while bringing up their son to be her most cherished accomplishment. When asked to talk about her life philosophy, Dr Cureg kept coming back to her love for nature. On the wall in her office is a sign that reads Bloom where you are planted. Dr Cureg said she uses that phrase as a guide. I prefer to be a bamboo rather than an oak. The oak may fall down during a strong wind, where as the bamboo bends but doesn’t break. This doesn’t mean I give in on my values. It means it’s important to be flexible when faced with life’s problems.
Dr Cureg’s retirement plans include spending more time with her family and friends, redecorating her house, traveling, gardening, reading, doing volunteer work, and reclaiming ancestral farm lands. I also love to shop until I drop!
Thank you Dr Cureg for all your great work!
Reprinted from San Diego County Public Health Services Newsletter