Dr. Mark D. Smith, who has led the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) since its founding, plans to step down as president and CEO at the end of year, the foundation announced today.
"It has been a great honor to lead the California HealthCare Foundation in its mission to improve the quality of health care for all Californians," Smith said. "I leave the foundation knowing it is well positioned to continue this important work."
During his tenure, Smith focused CHCF on catalyzing efforts to improve health care quality, promote greater access, and reduce the cost of care for the state's most vulnerable and underserved residents. The Oakland-based philanthropy makes grants totaling approximately $37 million annually from a fund of $700 million. CHCF has granted over $500 million since Smith became the founding president and CEO in 1996.
"Mark Smith's remarkable leadership over the last 17 years has focused the California HealthCare Foundation on a vision to improve the health care system where it matters most: in the clinics, the hospitals, doctors' offices, and wherever Californians go to find care," said Ian Morrison, PhD, chair of the CHCF Board of Directors. "While he recognized that the problems in health care are huge, Mark and his team were smart and innovative in targeting the foundation's resources where they could most make a difference."
Smith, 61, a physician and expert on state and national health policy, will continue his work as a member of the clinical faculty at the University of California, San Francisco, and as an attending physician at the Positive Health Program for AIDS care at San Francisco General Hospital, where he has practiced since 1992, including during his tenure at CHCF.
Under Smith's leadership, CHCF focused on improving the way health care is delivered and financed in California through a number of initiatives, including:
Promoting research and policy analysis. From its founding, CHCF has supported sound decisionmaking using evidenced-based research and nonpartisan policy analysis. CHCF has become a prolific publisher on issues of quality, access, and the financing of care covering both the commercial and public sectors.
Promoting transparency. The foundation has made significant investments in supporting transparency in health care delivery through publicly reporting quality data on hospitals, nursing homes, and long term care facilities, and building public websites that allow consumers to compare local facilities and provide health care leaders with benchmarks for improvement.
Improving clinical care. Smith focused attention on innovative ways to improve care delivery, including being an early proponent of using information technology at the point of care, challenging providers to deliver high-quality and cost-effective care, and promoting disruptive innovations like retail clinics and process redesign. He has also championed redefining the scope of work among clinical team members, to help ameliorate the need to train more doctors to do work that lower-cost members of the clinical team can deliver safely and effectively.
Training new leaders. The foundation initiated the CHCF Health Care Leadership Program at UC San Francisco in 2001. The two-year, part-time fellowship has trained 355 clinicians in management and leadership skills required to lead the state’s health care institutions in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. The program’s alumni now occupy leading positions in hospitals, clinics, medical groups, and government throughout the state.
Fostering innovation. The $10 million CHCF Health Innovation Fund helps accelerate innovation in care delivery by investing in new and emerging companies focused on lowering costs and improving access to care. While supporting improvements to the health delivery system, CHCF also has focused on the rise of alternative care delivery models such as retail clinics and the adoption and effective use of information technology.
Modernizing enrollment. CHCF has been a leader in promoting more efficient and consumer-friendly ways for eligible Californians to enroll in public programs. In 1999 the foundation supported the development of the first web-based eligibility and enrollment application in the United States, which it licensed at no cost to the State of California. More recently CHCF led the successful national public-private development of a first-class user experience design to streamline enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The foundation has also recently focused on supporting the implementation of the ACA in California, and continues to monitor and report on its progress.
Supporting health care reporting. Recognizing the important role that the media has in promoting improvements in health care, CHCF has devoted significant resources to supporting health care journalism. Since 1998, the foundation has produced California Healthline, a daily digest of news, analysis, and opinion on the state's health care system. In 2009, the foundation established the CHCF Center for Health Reporting at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, which collaborates with media across the state on in-depth, explanatory journalism on critical health care issues.
"Mark has built a strong staff that is set on a steady course, focusing on the medical delivery and financing systems in California, with an emphasis on quality improvement, increasing both access and efficiency, and addressing the unsustainable cost of care to individuals and society," Morrison said. "The board expects the foundation to continue building on its successes in these areas."
"There is still a lot of work to be done. While I will assist the board and staff in making a smooth transition to a new leader, I will also continue to look for ways to make our health care system work better for the people of California," Smith said.
A native of New York City, Smith earned his bachelor's degree in Afro-American studies at Harvard (1979), his medical doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1983), and a master's in business administration with a concentration in health care administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (1989).
Prior to joining CHCF, Smith was executive vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. He previously served as associate director of the AIDS Service and assistant professor of medicine and of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University. He has served on the board of the National Business Group on Health, the performance measurement committee of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and the editorial board of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
He was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 and recently completed service as the chair of an IOM committee on "The Learning Health Care System in America," which issued its report Best Care at Lower Cost in September 2012.
Read a statement from the CHCF board of directors on Dr. Mark Smith's legacy.
Smith will continue serving as CHCF's president and CEO until a new leader is in place, which is expected by the end of 2013. The search for Smith's successor will be conducted by the foundation’s board of directors. Inquiries should be directed to Carol Emmott of Russell Reynolds Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-352-3363.
About the California Health Care Foundation
CHCF is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.
CHCF informs policymakers and industry leaders, invests in ideas and innovations, and connects with changemakers to create a more responsive, patient-centered health care system.