Dr. William Henning is putting his osteopathic training to use as the recently-appointed chief medical officer of the San Bernardino-based Inland Empire Health Plan.

Henning, who earned his DO degree from the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, now part of Western University of Health Sciences, directs all medical services for more than 320,000 members enrolled in a Medi-Cal managed care health plan. The Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) is a public, not-for-profit local initiative plan covering Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

IEHP members need help accessing high-end services and making their way through a complex medical network, Henning said. The focus in medical care over the past few years is shifting away from acute care management – where a doctor treats a patient for a particular illness or problem and then doesn’t see them until the next problem arises – toward a more holistic approach, he said.

IEHP’s philosophy is to assist the doctor and patient in activities like making appointments, medication refills and providing complete check-ups.

“We believe in preventative health care,” Henning said. The new model says, “don’t just handle the problem today, let’s also focus on overall health.”

Embracing a holistic philosophy comes naturally as one of the tenants of osteopathic medicine, Henning said.

“Another thing that really helps is a feel for humanism,” he said. “I was in family practice for many years. I can now partner with our physicians to impact the care of 320,000 patients the same way. I think the philosophy of holism and humanism is an important part of being a medical director.”

IEHP has a strong relationship with WesternU’s Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions (CDIHP), which has been helpful in understanding the needs of individuals with disabilities and educating providers about these needs, said Brad Gilbert, executive officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan.

IEHP is a very forward-thinking organization, said Brenda Premo, director of the CDIHP.

“They came to us proactively because they wanted to identify better ways to provide access to care for their members who were seniors and people with disabilities,” she said. “As a result of their collaboration, which is ongoing, they have identified and implemented strategies that have enhanced access to care to specialists, communication and transportation.”

IEHP created a curriculum to help people with disabilities, and they have always had DOs working with them on the medical staff, Premo said.

“Dr. Gilbert is a very forward-thinking clinician in terms of total health and wellness and prevention,” Premo said. “I would say IEHP holds the same values as Western University in terms of a compassionate, competent physician and health care team.”

Gilbert, who served as chief medical officer prior to selecting Henning as his replacement, said the CMO serves as the lead physician for medical policy, for developing criteria and guidelines for treatment and guidelines to help physicians around standards of care and quality issues.

“Bill brings a strong clinical background in talking with doctors and reviewing medical policies,” Gilbert said. “He brings a very calm and positive demeanor in terms of working with others and working with partner hospitals.”

When an osteopathic physician attains a highly visible position, it provides exposure and shows that DOs are very qualified and skilled, said Kathleen Creason, executive director of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons of California, a Sacramento-based chartered divisional society of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

“Dr. Henning is really a shining example of an osteopathic physician who is very well skilled and talented and will reflect very well on the osteopathic profession,” she said. “Any time you’ve got an osteopathic physician in a highly visible position like that, that will provide exposure to a variety of individuals and entities about osteopathic physicians and how very qualified and skilled they are.”