Ph.D. Candidate, Health Care Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carey Business School

I study how health care professionals and managers think and act when encountering
complexity, ambiguity, opportunities, and threats at work so as to improve health service

Alden Lai is a PhD Candidate in Health Policy and Management (organizational behavior focus) and Sir Arthur Newsholme Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on organizational cognition and workforce issues in public health and health care. He investigates the ways health care professionals and managers think and act in the face of complexity, ambiguity, opportunities, and threats when delivering care, and how these processes contribute to organizational performance. He is also interested in how health workers derive meaning and foster resilience in their jobs so as to address training, burnout, and retention issues. Some of his current research includes: the use of futuristic thinking to avert unwanted safety events in primary care; medical error recognition and detection processes among health care professionals; and developing programs to enhance job satisfaction, performance, and team work for high-performance primary care.

At Johns Hopkins, Alden collaborates with faculty at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carey Business School to teach executive education as well as graduate and undergraduate students on health care management and leadership, patient safety and quality improvement, and health policy.

Alden has worked with research institutions, federal and state governments, and health care systems across Asia and Europe. His professional experiences include being an education researcher for a health system, human capital management consultant, and strategist at a social enterprise. He was also Visiting Fellow at Fukushima Medical University (Japan) and Ho Chi Minh City Medicine & Pharmacy University (Vietnam), Chair of the Early Career Researcher Division at the European Health Psychology Society, and an executive board member of the Health Care Management Division at the Academy of Management.

Alden received a Master of Public Health from the University of Tokyo as a Japan Monbukagakusho Scholar, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the National University of Singapore. In 2018, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health awarded him the inaugural Show Chwan Scholarship in Health Care Management.

Current Work

Managing the Unwanted:
Medical Errors in Primary Care

Sensemaking is core to organizational life. It explains how organizational members act and think when confronted by events that are ambiguous, complex, or unexpected, in the process of which shaping the outcome(s) of the events themselves. Through 1) generating the meaning that health care professionals and managers ascribe to patient safety in primary care, 2) examining how primary care clinics manage errors proactively, and 3) conducting an experiment to test the information that physicians use to recognize errors, my dissertation research takes an organizational cognition approach to the study of patient safety.

I anticipate my dissertation to shed insight into how we can proactively manage errors and improve the design of error-reporting systems, and in doing so, facilitate continuous performance improvement for people and organizations.

Previous Work

Professional Development of the Health Care Work Force

The health care workforce has multiple professional development needs that are often neglected in their formal training, ranging from self-care for the prevention of burnout, providing care that meets the health literacy needs of patient populations, to organizational-level change to make their workplace better care providers. From a management perspective, talent recruitment and retention are also especially pertinent in developed economies, as stakeholders strive to provide adequate and cost-effective elderly and social care.

I have advised Japan and Singapore's ministries of health on talent management and job design strategies for home nurses and social workers. I have also worked with a large health care system and medical school in Singapore on faculty evaluation, training development for medical students, and inter-professional education. As Guest Lecturer and Visiting Scholar, I have also conducted seminars on self-care and organizational change to practicing doctors in Vietnam and nursing students in Japan.

Behavioral Medicine for End-Stage Renal Disease Patients

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a debilitating condition that requires a complex treatment regime of regular dialysis, drastic changes to diet and fluid intake, medications, and physical activity. ESRD and its treatment also constitute substantial spending in health care both for the patient and society. From 2008 to 2014, I was involved in a mix of qualitative, quantitative, reviews, and randomized controlled trial studies that sought to reduce psychosocial stress, improve health outcomes of ESRD patients, and further our understanding of behavioral aspects for the design and implementation of effective interventions. With these works published in Patient Education & CounselingPeritoneal Dialysis InternationalPLOS ONE, and Psychology, Health & Medicine, they have collectively informed Singapore's largest dialysis provider, National Kidney Foundation's care provision and patient engagement protocols.


Having worked with Alden for years on international research projects, I can attest to his exceptional capacity for research, his keen insight into the nature of things, outstanding gift for academic writing, and the perfect blend of academic integrity, commitment, speed, and good sense that guides his actions.
— Aya Goto, Professor of Health Information & Epidemiology, Fukushima Medical University, Japan
Strong conceptual ability to simplify complex information into succinct insights. Approachable and empathetic manner makes him a joy to work with. Passionate about life and new perspectives.
— Li June Han, Senior Client Partner, Hay Group Korn Ferry, Singapore
Alden impresses me as a young man who is passionate about life and his work, who has an immense capacity for academic work, and tremendous ability to join the dots. Conversations with him are never boring. I always learn something new.
— Yvonne Ng, Senior Director (Education), National Healthcare Group and Executive Director, NHG College, Singapore
Alden’s dedication and passion for research, education and policy devoted to improving health and wellbeing, have been evident through the years I have known him as a member of EHPS. Alden espouses the values of promoting health and has been creative in organizing educational forums in health globally. Alden has excellent vision for his field and a contagious excitement for all activities he is engaged with.
— Irina Todorova, Past President of the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS)
Resourceful, imaginative, and diligent. These are the three words that come to mind when I think about Alden. Alden was in my team and we worked together closely for more than a year. I was impressed with his keen eye for interesting and important topics, in which he frequently shared his unique perspectives that shed new light on seemingly hackneyed issues. An emerging scholar working in the intersection of health and management; should definitely be on the radar of health management scholars!
— Issac Lim, Head, Health Outcomes and Medical Education Research Unit, National Healthcare Group, Singapore