Reverend Dr. Clyde Oden, Jr., Class of 1968
This year’s Alumnus of the Year is Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden, Jr. Class of 1968. Dr. Oden has four degrees including a Doctorate of Optometry and a Master of Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley. He has also earned an MBA from Pepperdine University and a Master of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology.
He arrived at Berkeley intending to become the first Black optometrist in his hometown of San Diego with the expectation of becoming a successful practitioner; he left Berkeley with a determination to be part of the solution addressing health disparities in low-income communities. After working as a successful optometrist, he enrolled in Berkeley’s Public Health school, where he earned his MPH.
He was offered an opportunity to serve in an administrative capacity at Watts Health Systems (WHS) in Los Angeles, where he served for 33 years, and became its President and Chief Executive Officer. The organization experienced phenomenal growth under his leadership, and eventually operated an HMO, 12 community health programs, including substance abuse, home health agency, and school-based health clinics. By the end of his service at that institution, WHS served about 250,000 persons per year.
As a person of faith, Dr. Oden felt compelled to serve people in need: spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, and medically. While leading the Watts Health Systems, Inc., he enrolled in the Claremont School of Theology and pursued a Master of Divinity degree, became an ordained minister, and was appointed pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Long Beach, eventually serving as senior pastor at three different churches in Southern California. Beyond his church-based activities, Oden serves on the board of directors for Community Build Inc., and is co-chair of an advisory committee at the RAND Corporation which is examining health problems and the roles that faith communities can play in reducing health disparities.
After serving at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in for nearly 25 years, he retired and is now the Assistant Director of the Alameda County Collaborative Alliance (ACCA-AICP), a faith-based, person-centered, lay care navigation intervention serving predominantly, but not exclusively, African American adults with advanced illness and their caregivers in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and San Francisco County. Today, with over 40 churches in its network, including partnering with health systems and community organizations, the ACCA program is designed to help to bridge the gap between health delivery systems, community organizations, faith-based communities, and communities of color in managing advanced illness.
Rev. Dr. Oden is a member of UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s anti-racism working group and serves on Berkeley Optometry’s Council for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). Congratulations again, Dr. Oden!Q&A with Dr. Oden