At Neighborhood, we are fortunate to have some of the most talented, hard-working employees of any organization around. What you may not know are the intricacies of your fellow employees’ jobs or the wide array of talents, hobbies and interests outside of their day jobs that make each employee truly unique. That’s why the Human Resources department in collaboration with the Corporate Communications team created this special series. We want you to get to know the amazing people you work with! To achieve this, we use a Q&A format paired with photos to spotlight employees.

Our August Spotlight features Risk Adjustment Coding Specialist Roth Khea. Enjoy “meeting” Roth!

Young woman head shot
Roth Khea

How long have you worked at Neighborhood, what do you do here and what part of your job do you most enjoy?
It’s hard to believe but August 25will mark my 6-year anniversary here at Neighborhood! I have been a risk adjustment coding specialist for the organization for over a year-and-a-half. Some of my responsibilities in this role include performing medical chart reviews, ensuring coding adherence to the risk adjustment models, and collaborating on projects with other members of the Risk Adjustment team. Since taking on this position, I enhanced my skill set by obtaining three certifications: Certified Risk Adjustment Coder, Risk Adjustment Practitioner, and Advanced HCC Auditor (the latter is someone who transcribes a patient’s medical history into a database using standardized “hierarchical condition category” codes). I am so thankful to Neighborhood for providing financial and moral support as I earned these certifications – our organization’s Education Reimbursement Program was a big help!  

Before joining the Risk Adjustment team, I served for four years as a clinical coordinator in the Medical Management department. Some of my responsibilities in this role included managing prior authorization requests coming in from providers, educating providers on prior authorizations, and implementing the medical review process. Again, thanks in large part to Neighborhood’s Education Reimbursement Program, I also had the opportunity during this time to advance my education and earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. At the same time, I earned certification as a Certified Professional Coder. I am beyond grateful for Neighborhood’s support of my education.

What did you do before joining Neighborhood?
Before joining Neighborhood, I was a receptionist for nine years at an urgent care facility and, over time, took on additional responsibilities such as supervising the second shift and coordinating orthopedic care and referrals, which included managing patients’ appointments, medical records, and coding. During my time there, the billing department offered me an opportunity that allowed me to apply my skills in medical coding. This work sparked my interest and led me to pursue a path in medical coding – ultimately bringing me here to Neighborhood.

Of all the projects you have worked on at Neighborhood, which one stands out as being especially meaningful to you?
Quite honestly, all the projects I have worked on at Neighborhood have been meaningful to me because I know they have all had an impact on our members in one way or another. Whether it was reviewing prior authorizations in a timely manner to ensure our members get the services they need without any disruptions to their health care or making sure that we are appropriately compensated in order to continue to provide the best delivery of health care to our members – all of my work has been, and continues to be gratifying.

When I joined our Risk Adjustment team as the first medical coder, I feel that this was an important milestone in and of itself. It gave me the opportunity to tap my skills and contribute to Neighborhood’s mission by playing a key role in creating guidelines for best coding practices and developing procedures for chart review and coding as we were forming a team. This gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.    

Tell us a little bit about the years you spent growing up – sharing what helped shaped your future.  
I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after my parents and extended family fled Cambodia under the rule and terror of the Khmer Rouge. Tragically, my paternal grandfather didn’t make it out of the country. He was taken from his home by the Khmer Rouge in the middle of the night. My grandmother woke up the following morning to learn from the village they had taken her husband away and killed him. When I’m having a bad day, I think of how horrific and frightening all of this must have been.

I was 3-years-old when my parents immigrated to the United States. I grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island but unfortunately, not as a complete family unit. My mother wound up raising five children as a single parent, so growing up was tough. She did not speak any English – just Khmer – thus, English was my second language. I learned how to speak English during elementary school with the help of my school’s English as a second language (ESL) program. I became more proficient in English from watching cartoons. My education was a constant challenge because I did not have anyone at home who could help me with schoolwork. I enjoyed everything about school because that was the only place I had an opportunity to focus on learning and to socialize with friends. You see, at a very young age, I took on a big part of parenting responsibilities along with my sister Sarim who is two years younger than I am. We helped raise our three younger siblings. We did not have a typical teenage life and struggled financially. My mother was always working so Sarim and I needed to step in every day to babysit our younger siblings.

During this time, we were not allowed to take part in any after school activities or to socialize with friends outside of school hours. We had to go directly home to tend to our siblings. We did not really have great emotional or moral support during our childhood. However, having such a challenging upbringing is what motivated me to strive for better and to be who I am today. Growing up, whenever I thought my life was tough, I tried to keep in mind that there are and were others out there – including my grandfather and grandmother – who had to endure much more than me. For example, even after all my grandmother had been through, she made it a point to stay connected and be a positive force in my life. She was one of the few role models I had in my formative years.

two photos side by side with two young khmer girls on left and the two girls older with grandmothee
Photo on Left: A 5-year-old Roth (in white dress) sits with her 3-year-old sister Sarim at a Khmer temple near their grandmother’s home in the Bronx.
Photo on Right: Roth (on right) with her sister Sarim and their beloved grandmother in 2003.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Why?
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, once said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This quote best reflects the advice that a mentor gave me on being proactive about learning new skills and on furthering my education because both will come in handy someday. This guidance influenced me a great deal. I feel that it is important to continuously expand my knowledge in order to create new opportunities.

quote by philosopher

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy every minute I can with my family. Family time is incredibly valuable to me. I want my children to have a much different experience than I did growing up. It’s important to me as well as to my husband that they feel loved, nurtured and supported and have opportunities to discover and engage in what they are passionate about. My husband and I work opposite shifts so that one of us is always around for our three boys.

family photos side by side
Photo on Left: Roth and her husband Khan at their 2010 traditional Khmer wedding, which took place over a day-and-a-half.
Photo on Right: Roth and Khan’s boys: Eli (on left), Logan (sitting in front) and “JJ” (sitting on table).

Our eldest, J’ly (JJ), is 17 and has always been incredibly mature and inquisitive for his age. He is a rising senior at Cranston High School East where he plays violin in the school’s orchestra and where he has discovered a passion for cell biology and anatomy. In fact, he has already expressed interest in becoming a physician assistant and earned a scholarship to take part this summer in Brown University’s Medical Pathways and Science Preparation program. Our second child, Eli, is 10 and in addition to playing piano, has a huge obsession with cars. He will talk to anyone who will listen about cars – antique cars and new cars and everything in between, and he knows his stuff! In fact, during a recent trip for ice cream, a man pulled up in an antique car and Eli had his ear for a good 15 minutes. So it’s no surprise that he wants to be a car engineer. Then there’s the “baby” of the family, Logan, who is 9. All I can tell you about Logan is that he is waiting to flourish. For now, he enjoys piano, loves video games and is an extremely empathetic child. He says he wants to be “a boss” someday. We’re looking forward to seeing him follow his dreams, whatever they may be.

3 photos side by side of 3 boys
On Left: JJ: Future Physician Assistant; In Middle: Eli: Future Car Engineer; On Right: Logan: Future “Boss”

I love taking my boys to all of their music lessons and extracurricular activities. It feels so good to be so involved in their lives. I also enjoy spending rare moments with my husband and helping him with some of the photography work he does. Sunday is our big family day – the day we’re all together. Our time with one another can be as simple as enjoying a barbecue in our back yard to going on a nature walk, heading to a car show or visiting my mother and Khan’s mother.  

Share a “Fun Fact” with us. Something about you that others might find surprising or intriguing?
I’ll share two funs facts since they are very different. First, I sing my heart out especially when I am stressed. I cannot sing well but I do it anyway when no one is at home. I sing songs in Thai, Khmer, and Mandarin. Although I do not speak Thai and Mandarin, I enjoy exploring other languages. Nothing works better than music therapy. I recommend everyone try it sometime. It’s like deep breathing exercises.   

Also, I have been interested in Feng Shui lately. I try to maintain my living space according to Feng Shui. I believe it helps attract positive energy flow within my surroundings.

What advice or recommendations would you give to someone interested in the type of career you are in?
Work hard towards achieving your goals and never give up. No matter how difficult the obstacles in front of you may be, keep your eyes on the prize, utilize every resource available to you, and value education because the more knowledge you obtain, the further you will progress.