Marlon Zambrano thrives on solving complex problems, on taking a bird's-eye view of issues and finding the right people to recruit for think tanks to dream up new solutions.

In fact, helping to make things easier for his coworkers is what he likes best.

"They look at you like, hey man, he can figure it out," Zambrano said, who works with the California Medical Detachment's Clinical Informatics section. "He can find a faster way to do it, or he's going to build up a project and make this better."

It's what earned him the title of Regional Health Command-Pacific (Provisional) Civilian of the Year for 2015, and the chance to compete for the next level at U.S. Army Medical Command. Although he since got promoted to the quality management chief, Zambrano was recognized for his work as a clinical systems trainer and clinical work flow analyst. He gives credit for the award to the hard work of his fellow staff members and support from his leadership who give him the leverage to take on projects.

Zambrano called the award itself "very humbling. I work with what I call my second family here, and I feel they all deserve it."

His focus on project management and process improvement helped lead to CALMED becoming top in the region when it comes to patients signing up for RelayHealth. Zambrano found the right group of people to examine how to improve their registration rates, who then decided to allow new service members to sign up for RelayHealth at base in-processing.

They tacked TRICARE online registration on at the same time for good measure.

"We were registering people as soon as they got here before their medical appointments started," Zambrano said.

He used the same approach with many of the issues he tackled: think at the strategic level and network to find the right people to brainstorm solutions. This strategy, and determination, worked to get permissions for CALMED to use coding compliance editor software, which works with electronic health records to make coding more accurate.

While it was already being used across the Army, working with Air Force regulations at a joint location meant more red tape. Zambrano broke through it by working with staff at Regional Health Command-Pacific (Provisional) and the Air Force to get the software approved before the International Classification of Diseases-10 rolled out.

"We got the system in, our coders are being trained, our accuracy is improved, and we're showing a lot more money," Zambrano said.

He acquired "as-you-type" technology (with assistance from RHC-P's chief medical information office) to make CALMED's flu drive run faster. Under his emergency management hat, he went on to develop CALMED's first emergency program and protocols, and created ties with local hospitals through joint exercises.

CALMED now has liaison officers who will deploy to local hospitals during mass casualty emergencies to help with patient tracking.

Zambrano brings with him experience as a former Marine, having served 14 years on active duty in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm days before becoming a civilian hospital operations manager.

"His prior service experience I think really shines through because he still displays that (noncommissioned officer-ethos) of making sure everything gets done and not letting things fall through the cracks," said Lt. Col. Kathleen Richardson, CALMED deputy commander, who added that Zambrano was well-respected by everyone, very personable and very engaged. "He has pushed a lot of our major changes and process improvements. Every time he's up for the challenge."

Zambrano came back to military service after 9-11. He was living in New York City at that time and saw the crashes.

"(During) 9-11, I was a responder and I was out on ground zero," Zambrano said. "When the first tower fell, I just started running (toward the tower). I knew what was going on."

After four days of joining in the search and rescue team, he realized he missed the military and the camaraderie. Joining the Army Reserve as a patient administrator led to a deployment at a combat support hospital in Iraq and a Bronze Star. Eventually, he arrived at CALMED and decided to retire from the Army there.

"I got to stay here, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made because I got to be around military and help military people out," Zambrano said. "It feels good."