Moving on from a role I have enjoyed is always difficult because I am flooded with so many memories of meaningful experiences, even as I feel a sense of excitement for what comes next. So it is with those mixed emotions that I share that I will be leaving FSG to start in a new role as Chief Health Equity Strategy Officer for the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. The CDC Foundation is an independent organization whose role is to mobilize philanthropic and private sector resources to support the CDC’s goal of protecting and promoting the public’s health. I will be responsible for determining how to integrate a cohesive equity strategy across the foundation, especially in its COVID-related efforts.
In considering what I was being invited to do at the CDC Foundation—to contribute specifically to addressing the deep inequities that the COVID pandemic has illuminated, and to do so through developing a strategy for transformational philanthropy at a national scale—I began to understand that everything I had done so far in my life, as a clinician, public health official, and as a managing director and then co-CEO over the last 5 amazing years here at FSG, had prepared me to step into this responsibility.
But feeling called to take on this work at this crucial time doesn’t make departing FSG any easier because there is so much important work that lays ahead. It is with a big dose of humility and an understanding that there are undoubtedly things that we could have done differently, that I can still feel a measure of quiet satisfaction about how my trusted colleague, Greg Hills, and I have approached leading the firm over the past two years. I am thrilled that he will be continuing as sole CEO. FSG will have an experienced and committed leader in Greg, whose dedication to meaningful social change that centers equity is unquestioned. I am also honored that FSG’s board has asked me to join them, so I will have the opportunity to continue to support the important work that lies ahead that my colleagues will be engaging in.
I believe that being clear about one’s purpose in life provides a reliable compass. My time at FSG has been transformative for many reasons. First, I have relished the opportunity to learn and grow with a terrific group of committed and knowledgeable colleagues, adept at both the careful analysis and the important relationship building that are critical to our work. These talented folks could choose to work anywhere, yet they choose to be at FSG because of their deep interest in contributing to meaningful and equitable social change. I have been fortunate to be able to work in an organization where my co-workers are not just colleagues, but teachers and friends. In leading FSG’s U.S. Health practice, I have also had the wonderful opportunity to work with dozens of foundations, community partners, and social sector leaders in both place-based and national work, who have inspired me with their innovation and passion. I am indebted to them for allowing me to participate in their change-making and pleased that there is such a strong team who will be continuing our U.S. health work.
As I make this transition, I have a few reflections and hopes for the work of FSG and all of our partners in the social sector, including the organization I am about to join:
- I urge all of us not to squander the promise of this particular moment. The multiple, intertwining crises of a global pandemic, continuing social protests of injustice, and climate change disasters we are experiencing are forcing us to stretch our thinking and understanding of the root causes of these persistent problems and how to solve them. We must challenge ourselves not to snap back into our prior comfortable positions within the systems in which we operate. This means we have to keep applying the force of compassionate inquiry to ourselves and our work.
- Given that our communities and our environment are ailing, we have to ask what we can do to increase our collective and individual resilience so that we can thrive together. My hunch is that the principles of equity and inclusion are exactly what we need to embrace now because they will promote that increased resilience and our capacity to weather actual and figurative storms. Our shared capacity to buffer major stresses is related to how healthy and well-functioning our organizations and institutions are ahead of time. Systems depleted by inequity and exclusion do not have the robustness, endurance, and nimbleness needed to be truly resilient.
- I encourage us to see ourselves and the relationships we nurture with clients, partners, and communities as the instruments of influence and change. Combined with ideas and experiences of impact, justice, and inclusion, our relationships help create the conducive environment for those ideas and the wisdom born of those experiences to take hold, be understood and refined, and most importantly, be made real and lasting.
Finally, let us reject the false notion that inquiring about and confronting our complex history, in the U.S. and elsewhere, is incompatible with a profound commitment to our communities, our countries, and our world. The need for a more complete understanding of our individual, community, organizational, national, and even global history, including the painful or even shameful parts, like the many legacies of structural racism and systematic “othering” embedded in our societies, stems not from a desire to diminish the humanity of those who have been well-represented in that history. Rather, it is to make room for those who have been excluded.
The decision not to charge police officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor is only the most recent evidence of the need for systemic change. We need to be clear that by undermining the humanity of our fellow human beings and conveying that they are expendable, through systemic inequities that go unchallenged, we unknowingly but inevitably diminish ourselves and our own humanity. Our social fabric is stronger, more resilient, and more sustainable when all of us are knit together and none are left dangling, without the opportunity to weave in their full potential. It is gratifying to know that FSG will continue to be unabashed about its mission, purpose, and the opportunity to be of service. I look forward to applying that same spirit in my new role as well. Onward!