The Health Forward Foundation, which distributes more than $20 million in grants annually, has named Qiana Thomason as its new president and CEO.
Thomason succeeds Bridget McCandless, who announced a year ago that she would be stepping down after six years as leader of the organization.
Formerly known as the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the foundation changed its name 14 months ago to better reflect its forward-looking focus on mental health, safety-net institutions and fostering healthier communities.
The foundation, which has about $725 million in assets, was created after hospital giant HCA purchased 12 area hospitals and clinics from Health Midwest for $1.125 billion in 2003. The hospitals included Menorah Medical Center, Research Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
Because Health Midwest was a non-profit institution, proceeds from the sale were used to set up two foundations – the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City on the Missouri side and the REACH Foundation on the Kansas side. The former got 80 percent of the proceeds and the latter 20 percent.
In 2018, Health Forward distributed 199 grants totaling nearly $21 million to 143 organizations in six counties in the greater metropolitan area, according to its annual report. The grants were used to promote healthier eating, more active living, tobacco use prevention, mental health, improved access to healthcare and child development programs, among other initiatives.
For the last year, Thomason, 42, was vice president, community health and health equity, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, where she worked for eight years. She was previously vice president of population health at Blue Cross. Before that, she spent eight years at Swope Health in various capacities, including director of clinical operations.
The Kansas City native and mother of two said her first order of business at the foundation will be spending time in the community “to assess what adds value and what doesn’t.”
“I'm really going to continue to work with the staff and the board and the community advisory council to be laser focused on our mission, and that is to provide leadership, advocacy and resources that promote quality health and eliminate barriers for those most in need,” Thomason said. “And to that end, we'll spend some more time focusing on health equity. So expect to see more from us in that regard.”
Thomason was hired after the foundation conducted a national search to replace McCandless, a physician, who is stepping down to devote more time to care for her parents. Thomason begins working at the foundation on Jan. 21.
Editor's note: The Health Forward Foundation provides funding for KCUR and for KCUR's Kansas News Service.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.