Thomas Aschenbrener, founding president of the Northwest Health
Foundation (NWHF), announced today that he will retire from the
Foundation in June 2012. Aschenbrener, 68, has served as the chief
executive since the foundation was formed as a result of the sale of
PACC Health Plans in 1997. Its mission is to advance, support and
promote the health of the people of Oregon and Southwest Washington.
"I am leaving at a time when Northwest Health Foundation has never been
stronger," Aschenbrener said. "The staff is extremely capable and the
board is well-poised to succeed with its individual skills, diversity of
background and experience in working collaboratively. I am very proud of
where the foundation is today and look forward to seeing how future
leadership helps our communities frame their own vision advancing the
health of all people."
During Aschenbrener's tenure as president, the Northwest Health
Foundation has provided more than $65 million in grants and technical
assistance support to communities in Oregon and SW Washington.
Aschenbrener's retirement will be effective June 25, 2012. A transition
team composed of NWHF board members has been established, and a
recruitment process for a new leader will begin in early 2012.
"From the earliest years of its operation, Northwest Health Foundation
has made tremendous investments into the health of this state," said Mel
Kohn, M.D., Oregon's public health director and the current chair of the
NWHF board. "Thomas deserves credit for pushing the boundaries of what
can be done to truly impact the health of the population."
Over the past 14 years, Aschenbrener encouraged the foundtion to
explore new ways to create positive change in the community. He
supported work in building community capacity for advocacy, strategic
policy development and lobbying when necessary to improve health. He
promoted civic engagement as a tool for monitoring community health and
has advanced community conversations about equity and social justice. He
has also been intentional about creating the Foundation's style of
promoting partnerships with community organizations and other funders.
Among these is a partnership with Kaiser Permanente Northwest, which
invests in efforts to address the social and root causes of health
(i.e., social determinants of health) in Kaiser's service area in Oregon
and SW Washington. The fund, called the Kaiser Permanente Community
Fund, has awarded more than 100 grants since it was started in 2005.
Another collaboration, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports
the leadership of local foundations to advance the nursing profession in
communities throughout the United States. The program, Partners
Investing in Nursing's Future (PIN), has established partnerships in 37
"Thomas is a visionary who has long understood that even small
foundations can undertake advocacy and education efforts to influence
decision makers toward social justice and a greater commitment to the
common good," said Tina Castanares, M.D., vice chair of the Foundation
board and a physician in Hood River. "He consistently encourages his
staff and those of us on the board to think outside the box, and he
models that beautifully for all of us."
Liz Baxter, executive director of We Can Do Better, a nonprofit that
creates opportunities for nonpartisan civic engagement in health reform,
said part of Aschenbrener's legacy is helping advance a movement to
redefine health. "Thomas and the Foundation have helped many of our
policymakers and leaders to realize that health is much more than
medical care. The Foundation has pushed relentlessly for a more robust
public health system and for policies that improve everyone's health,
not just the health of those with access to medical care," she said.
"I am particularly excited about making room for the next generation of
leaders," Aschenbrener said. "They are more than capable, and we need to
give them the space, resources and trust to enable them to succeed in
developing their own future."
More information throughout the transition will be available on the NWHF
website. Updates on the search process will also be available through
the foundation's e-news, which can be subscribed to on the site.
About Northwest Health Foundation:
The mission of the Northwest Health Foundation is to advance,
support, and promote the health of the people in Oregon and Southwest
Washington. The Foundation invests in efforts that address the root
causes of health through community-driven solutions and seeks to ensure
that the voices of all people are represented in health policy
discussions. More information can be found at www.nwhf.org.
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