Esteban López, MD, has a story that fits into the tradition of upward mobility by the sons and daughters of immigrants. His parents emigrated from Mexico. His father was a farm worker who became a meat packer. His mother was a factory worker. He is the youngest of six children, two of whom are doctors and one a dentist.
“Two of my brothers are 13 and 12 years older than me. I wanted to be like my big brothers. I wanted be a doctor. When I was entering kindergarten my oldest brother was entering pre-med at UCLA,” says López.
López, 44, earned his undergrad degree in biology at the University of California–Santa Cruz and his medical degree from Michigan State. To meet his service commitment as a National Health Service Corps scholar, he practiced internal medicine on the west side of San Antonio at the Texas Diabetes Institute to finish his residency in 2003. He then joined the University Health System practice in San Antonio and decided in 2005 to earn his MBA.
Why an MBA? “I realized that I wanted to be a physician leader. I wanted to have a word at the table for physicians and for patients,” López says. “There weren’t a lot of physician leaders. There weren’t executives that I saw who were docs.
“To better understand and have a physician at the table, I had to understand the business of medicine,” he continues. “So I took the MBA route. I thought that having the business degree would help me be able to understand the business world earlier than waiting to have 10 or 15 years of experience under my belt.”
López joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas three and half years ago as its president for Southwest Texas.
Recently, he was promoted to CMO for the entire organization, reporting directly to Dan McCoy, MD, the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. “I am essentially the chief doc for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, responsible for monitoring medical issues within the company, advocating for our members.”
López also leads the Blues’ Community Investment Department, aiming to align corporate goals with public health ones.
He has continued to see patients, working two to three shifts a month in the emergency department at a local hospital. “For me, seeing patients keeps me grounded in the patient care that’s happening across the state of Texas. It gives me insight and visibility to the trends of public health issues.”