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SMG’s Richard Park vows to advocate for better benefits from insurers

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Richard Park, CEO of Ascend Partners, emphasizes that he will keep investing in making Seoul Medical Group (SMG) the best medical group. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Healthcare investment firm Ascend Partners (co-founders In Seon Hwang and Richard Park) has become the majority shareholder of Seoul Medical Group (SMG) and started to take action.

With its stakes in seven medical groups and related technology companies, New York-based Ascend Partners has become an increasingly prominent figure in the healthcare industry. On October 3, Ascend Partners officially announced the partnership through the acquisition of Seoul Medical Group.

The two parties have appointed co-founder Richard Park, MD (51), to lead Seoul Medical Group as the new chairman of the board. Dr. Park, who is currently forming a new board of directors, expressed his ambition to “maximize the capabilities of Seoul Medical Group with the power of capital through large-scale investment.”

In particular, he paid respect to the hard work and dedication that first-generation Korean immigrants have put into settling in the United States.

“We must have a medical group for ethnic Koreans so that they can receive proper care and treatment. We will continue to grow Seoul Medical Group to provide better medical services and various benefits to recipients.

“We also welcome partnership discussions with other medical groups that are looking to make a generational change and take a leap forward,” said Dr. Park.

The following is an edited excerpt of the interview with Dr. Park.

– What is Ascend Partners?
My friend and coworker In Seon Hwang and I founded Ascend Partners in 2019. We wanted to ensure that underserved and underrepresented communities have access to quality healthcare, especially the Korean American community, by advocating for their ‘right to access care and medical treatment’. In Seon and I are Korean American. We want to do what we do best.

– You successfully founded the New York and New Jersey urgent care ‘CityMD.’ 
In the 10 years since I became a doctor, I’ve seen in my practice that immigrants such as Koreans have a hard time going to the hospital or doctor even when they are sick. The sense of authoritativeness that doctors have over patients was also excessive. I wanted to create an urgent care service where anyone can see a doctor as soon as they get sick. Since its launch in December 2010, CityMD urgent care (4 doctors) has grown to 200 locations (6,000 doctors). During the pandemic, 8 million people received care. CityMD also set a record for the largest sale in healthcare history at $8.9 billion.

– Why did you decide to acquire Seoul Medical Group?
I am a doctor. When I founded Ascend Partners, I wanted to leverage the unique experience and know-how I have accumulated over the years. As a physician, participating in a medical group is the business I can do best. I had already grown a Chinese medical group (RENDR) in New York. When my friends and I started Ascend Partners, we said, “Let’s do something for the Korean American community as well.”

– What is the biggest change since the merger?
Seoul Medical Group has undergone a generational change, establishing an organized system with ample capital in relevant fields. This enhancement allows us to dream bigger and improve systems for Korean doctors and patients.

– What is the management policy of Seoul Medical Group?
Seoul Medical Group stands strong today thanks to the relentless efforts of the first-generation doctors, evolving into a pillar of medical support that the Korean community can take pride in. I hold a profound sense of attachment to my Korean heritage. My aspiration is to invest robustly in the Seoul Medical Group, which has been led by Korean doctors, enabling its expansion across the Western and Eastern United States. Armed with sufficient capital and specialized know-how, we aim to stand toe-to-toe with insurance companies. This strategic acquisition is poised to unlock a plethora of benefits for our patients. Additionally, we are committed to fostering an environment that encourages the return of brilliant Korean American doctors to our community.

– What would you like to emphasize to Korean doctors?
We aim to provide the best possible environment for Korean American doctors. By uniting proficient Korean American doctors, a more substantial impact can be made. We will uphold transparency and accuracy through clear incentives and rewards, the disclosure of data, and support for individual leadership.

– What are the benefits for patients of Seoul Medical Group?
We can secure better benefits from insurance companies. Korean American doctors and patients have not been treated fairly by insurers, and it is not right. We will negotiate better terms with the insurers, advocating for Korean doctors and patients. As a second-generation Korean American, I am intimately aware of the lives, experiences, and hard work of Korean immigrants. Let’s collaborate to ensure that you receive the treatment you rightfully deserve.

BY HYOUNGJAE KIM, JUNHAN PARK    [kim.ian@koreadaily.com]