How The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Has Influenced Health Policy – And My Own Life – For Five Decades (Forbes)

FORBES | Private foundations in America play a unique and vital role in advancing social progress. That is well known.  What is less recognized is the impact such Foundations have on individuals who work within them. This story is a personal one.

In January, I completed a decade of service on the Board of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, America’s largest philanthropy devoted to health. While many Americans may not be familiar with this organization, it has made a major impact on U.S. health policy and on the health of all Americans. More personally, it has transformed my own life and thinking as well.

Understanding the Impact of the Foundation

My experience with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) began in 1975. Almost 50 years ago, it was my first time in the RWJF board room. I was accompanying Anne Somers, professor, healthcare expert, and co-author with her husband Herman Somers of the classic Doctors, Patients and Health Insurance: The Organization and Financing of Medical Care. I had spent a year with her while a student at Princeton, assisting with research in updating her book.

Entering the striking new Foundation building, I was in awe of the place. I met Gustav O. Lienhard, the storied Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who had served for years at Johnson & Johnson with CEO Robert Wood Johnson, and was personally selected by Mr. Johnson to head the Foundation. The Foundation had been “propelled to full growth” as explained in its 1972 annual report, transitioning from a local philanthropy to one of national importance nearly overnight as Mr. Johnson left a bequest of over 10 million Johnson & Johnson shares (valued at about $1 billion) to launch the Foundation to new heights. The report explained, “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s resources represent the largest single source of private capital to support new efforts in the health field.”

Read more at Forbes:–and-my-own-life–for-five-decades/?sh=71a684aa36dd

Thank you and best wishes to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Earlier today Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, the first woman and the first African American to lead the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), announced that she was stepping down from her role as President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I have been honored to serve with Risa on the RWJF Board. Her leadership is unparalleled: visionary and strategic, but with compassion and strong conviction. Risa is the origin of the “Culture of Health” movement that is sweeping the country now and will continue for years to come. She has put a face on the public health needs of the most vulnerable in this country, and made clear the essential role the private sector plays in building healthier, more equitable communities.

As an outspoken advocate of looking at health not just as healthcare, but as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and play, Risa and RWJF are transforming our nation’s approach to wellness. Her work as CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has personally touched thousands and will impact millions. She will be sorely missed, but her legacy will live on in the countless life-changing initiatives she has cultivated at the Foundation.

I wish her all the best.

Risa’s inspiring good-bye letter and charge for the future.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release