There is always time to succeed, and maintaining a happy, healthy life is just as important as career advancement.
Dr. Peera Hemarajata, an American Board of Medical Microbiology Diplomate, graduated with an M.D. with First Class Honors, from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Since receiving his M.D., Dr. Hemarajata has earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Virology and Microbiology from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and a fellowship in Medical and Public Health Microbiology at UCLA. After his fellowship, he joined UCLA as a Clinical Instructor, responsible for clinical microbiology training for medical student, pathology residents and infectious diseases fellow. Most recently Dr. Hemarajata joined Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratories as an Assistant Director, where he oversees technical operations and give clinical consultations to health providers and other programs in Los Angeles Public Health Department. Besides the accomplishments in his career of clinical and public health microbiologist, Dr. Hemarajata is a prolific scientific writer and researcher. He authored or co-authored over 38 primary research and review articles, and serves as a contributor for the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) popular clinical and public health microbiology blog, “Bugs and Drugs.” He is an expert in next-generation sequencing as a tool for genomics studies in bacteria.
While at UCLA, Dr. Hemarajata used his expertise in whole genome sequencing to assist an investigation of a superbug outbreak transmitted via a duodenoscopy procedure. He is also an expert on multi-resistant bacteria and a strong advocate for awareness of antimicrobial resistance, especially among bacteria in the Enterobacteriaceae family. His vision on strategies to stop antimicrobial resistance led to his work in creating a rapid molecular test to determine susceptibility of gonorrhea to ciprofloxacin, a drug once thought to be obsolete for the treatment of uncomplicated gonococcal infections. He also designed a novel test to determine resistance among bacteria commonly isolated in a hospital setting to colistin, which is one of the few remaining antibiotics available for treatment of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Dr. Hemarajata has also studied human’s immune response to beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms, and has published a novel mechanism by which probiotic bacteria suppress inflammation. In his current position as an Assistant Director of Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratories, Dr. Hemarajata believes that all Angelenos, regardless of gender, age, religion, and immigration status are deserving of health equity. He is determined to making sure that everybody in Los Angeles County is healthy and protected from emerging infectious diseases.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
As LA County is not of my creation, I’ll just explain why public health is important to me. As a physician, clinical and public health microbiologist, and a biomedical science researcher, I believe that everyone deserves to be healthy and protected from anything that could harm their physical and mental well-being. I decided to pursue a career in public health because I want to make a difference on a community scale and not just for my own patients. Health equity is very important to me, and I strongly believe that all members of society deserve to be treated with kindness and sympathy regardless of who they are.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
One of the things I love the most about being in public health is that no day is ever the same when it comes to dealing with public health problems. I thrive on challenges and I enjoy solving new problems I’ve never seen before. As a public health laboratories assistant director, I work closely with my director to handle any situation that comes our way. There are approximately 11 million people in Los Angeles, and there is always something going on that needs immediate attention. With all of these responsibilities, my day at work is extremely busy that sometimes I forget to eat or drink water. In my former graduate school years, I had tried to power through the day with no significant sustenance, but I quickly learned that my brain also needs nourishment and my work could be in jeopardy if I am not taking good care of myself. To stay productive, I keep my work organized and stay on top of my schedule and to-do-lists to make sure things get done efficiently at work without delay.
I also need to spend at least half an hour before to eat and rehydrate.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I consider myself a creative person, and I enjoy solving new problems with new solutions. As a molecular microbiologist, I am always thinking of a better way to detect an infection in patients before it is too late to save their lives. If I have an idea, I will research my potential solutions very carefully and thoroughly. I like to put my idea on paper, and clearly outline each component needed to make my ideas come alive. I like to collaborate, and always asks for help on projects that need expertise.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about the trend in healthcare, where health protection and promotion plans are more individualized. Everyone is different and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for the health challenges that we are facing nowadays. Technological advancements allow us to be able to customize and better accommodate the need of our patients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to plan and organize my projects. I can function independently and am still able to excel and be productive as a team player. I expect a lot from my staff. I hold people accountable for their actions and ensure they take full ownership of their work, while giving them the respect they deserve as a member of the team. I am proactive about making sure productivity is maintained throughout the whole workflow.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To take my time and smell the roses along the way. There is always time to succeed, and maintaining a happy, healthy life is just as important as career advancement.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That all people still deserve a second chance no matter how bad their mistakes were. If they are given an opportunity to improve but fail to do so, then a more drastic measure may be undertaken.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always try to find new and creative way to solve a problem. I do not let my defeat define me as anything else but an intelligent and compassionate person who deserve a second chance after things do not go the way I have planned.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My strategies are setting my goals high, not giving up upon failures, and being persistent. Of course, before I would try something again I would have to figure out what was wrong and how can I do things differently in order to succeed.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I used to be very anxious whenever my work was being evaluated. I would always think that my deliverables were not of good quality and I was going to get caught for being a fraud. With my experience I now feel more confident about my work and the decisions I make, but it’s still pretty much a work in progress.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Right now, there is a lack of home tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It would be a good idea to come up with a sensitive molecular test for multiple STIs that people could use at home. The technology must not depend upon the use of sophisticated testing instruments and should provide results that are easy to interpret.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Application for Global Entry. I do not fly that much, but the occasional convenience at the airport is totally worth the small investment.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use Trello to organize my projects and to-do-lists. I was introduced to this platform a colleague and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I have all of my projects on it with responsible team members for each task, and assign a deadline. I can also communicate directly with a team member. It is free, and very intuitive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George and Peter Sims. This book helped me self-reflect to find my own qualities that could make me a strong leader, and identify my weaknesses to allow for opportunities for improvement.
What is your favorite quote?
“Stop worrying if your vision
Let others make that decision
They usually do
You keep moving on”
– “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim
I am a musical theater nerd, and most of the quotes I love are from musicals. Sunday in the Park with George is one of my all-time favorites and this verse is the most relatable to who I am, with my anxiety and my desperate yearning for approval. The main character, distraught from realizing he cannot establish a connection with people in his life and unsure of his capability as an artist, is being told to stop worrying about his ability to create and whether the choices he made were wrong. This verse from the song really helps me realize that there is not much I could do to make people like me as a person and appreciate what I do. It tells me I just need to keep going and do the best I can.
- Always think about what you do and the impact of your work on the well-being of your community. The more people you help, the better.
- Be a good leader and a team player. Treat your staff with respect to make them feel they are part of the team so they can contribute more high-quality work.
- Keep track of your milestones and goals. Use technology as tools to help you organize priorities and tasks, and always communicate with members of your team.
- Be persistent and do not give up upon failures. Try to tackle each challenge with a different approach. You are bound to succeed no matter how difficult the problem is, but this is true only if you keep trying.
- Continue to move on and produce more work to your best abilities. There is no use lamenting over disapprovals, as there is nothing you can do to make sure everybody appreciates you and your contribution.