A Look Back at My First Year as President/CEO of HCF

Two years ago, I was running a small, free health clinic in Independence, Missouri, sitting at my computer and working on a grant application to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. My Shared Care Clinic was blessed to have received support from HCF. Those dollars were transformative to the growth of my clinic. It gave it the breathing room it needed to evolve into a high-quality, patient-centered organization.

It is a transformation that I believe HCF has ensured for so many organizations in Greater Kansas City and beyond. So when an opportunity arose to follow the great Steve Roling as President/CEO, I found myself dreaming.

I loved my job. I loved my patients. But I realized that while I could help diagnosis and prescribe medications and treatments for them, so many of the barriers they were facing to quality health were societal. It became my passion to work toward improving systems of care and change policies for not only my patients, but for so many more.

And so, I was privileged, a year ago, to be selected as President/CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. My patients sent me off with the instructions that I was to work on their behalf. In a role reversal where I have become the patient and they, the practitioner, they now call ME regularly for an update to see how we are doing at HCF. That check-up is invaluable in reminding me of whom I serve. It is my intent that they will be proud of what we do and how we do it.

The first leg of the journey

These last 12 months have been such a privilege. With a brilliant team of associates and talented community partners, I get to wake up each morning and not only dream of change, but also go to work on the issues of wellness and health equity.

It’s been a year of great learning. I am grateful to Steve for his positive example as former President/CEO of the Foundation. His strong leadership made it that much easier for me to come into the organization and the community.

From Humboldt, Kan., to Harrisonville, Mo., I have been welcomed to the many communities that make up our six-county service area. I have appreciated the frank conversations people were willing to have around obstacles, challenges and opportunities for everyone to reach their health potential.

I’ve been humbled by your inspiring examples of innovative thinking and hard work in communities that are bearing great fruit.

I have seen a marked shift in the nation — our health no longer just depends on us as individuals but on each other. Whether they are living in a rural, urban or suburban area, people want to be involved in making their community a better place to live.

But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. As easy as foundation work may look from some the outside, the truth is that it is hard. While our mission is great — eliminating barriers and promoting quality health — it certainly isn’t easy.

It is a privilege and obligation to work toward this mission, but it is hard to know how to best go about the work. How do you strike the best balance? How do you balance investing in proven programs and yet encourage innovation and creative problem solving? How do you balance the different needs of urban and rural neighborhoods? How do you balance prevention vs. intervention? How do you make finite resources result in long-lasting, health-supporting opportunities for the most people?

The great problem we face is that those finite resources also means declining so many promising ideas and services.

But as I think of these problems, I think back to my patients and how they’ve showed me that there was no end to the determination and perseverance needed to get through the challenges that they face every day. Our partners work to capitalize on that determination. Our job is to facilitate that with grant dollars and other forms of support.

We are working to understand the changes underway in our communities and to anticipate the changes yet to come. Simply put, the greater the challenge, the greater our determination to meet it.

Looking ahead

As I look ahead, I commit to continuing the values of the Foundation of openness, integrity, partnership and stewardship. At our core, we remain committed to serving the underserved and uninsured. We are committed to hearing the needs of those that we serve so that we can see where opportunities exist to do that better.

Recently, HCF published a blog post from Jennifer Wilding, director of Consensus, about an event we are hosting to do just that: hear the needs of those that we serve. We hope that you will join us in promoting this event so that we can always have that connection to our community to hear their needs and ideas. It is our collective check-up and check-in with the people we are privileged to serve.

Every single day, I am privileged to work with an exceptional group of associates, board of directors, CAC members, grantees and partners on such a worthwhile cause. We still have much to do, but I could not be prouder of our accomplishments this year.

I look forward to continuing working toward the mission of eliminating barriers and promoting quality health for our service area.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.


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