By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
The head of the third-largest health foundation in the U.S. has decided to leave after 10 years in her post.
Anne Warhover, CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, will step down on Jan. 1.
Chief Financial Officer Rahn Porter will take over as interim CEO after Warhover’s departure.
“I just knew it was time for me to make a change. That’s how I’ve lived my life,” Warhover said. “My gut’s been telling me for a few months that it was the right time.”
Warhover has been a stubborn advocate for “making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.”
“Anne has helped to transform health in Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “She leaves the Health Foundation and the state far healthier as a direct result of her leadership.”
On some fronts, like adult obesity rates and fit adults, Colorado is indeed a model for health. On other issues, like suicide prevention and prescription drug abuse, Colorado struggles.
Warhover said she’s proud that what started as the Health Foundation’s slogan has become a cornerstone value for Colorado.
“Frankly, that’s one of the things that I feel really, really good about. The slogan has become more of a slogan for the state,” she said. “People are believing that we can achieve that.”
Dr. Ned Calonge, president and CEO of The Colorado Trust, another large health foundation that focuses on health equity, said he and everyone he knew was surprised at Warhover’s decision.
He said her leadership and vision will be missed.
“Anne was a real force in the philanthropic community in Colorado and across the country,” Calonge said. “This leaves a real vacuum.”
Calonge said Warhover has changed the way philanthropic leaders around the U.S. thought about moving the needle on health issues.
For instance, she urged colleagues to focus on wellness in terms of healthy eating and active lifestyles. She pressed policy makers to think about population health and pushed for school-based health initiatives.
Calonge said Warhover has a reputation for bringing divergent leaders together so they can work together on thorny problems.
“She was a really big proponent of a relatively new strategy called ‘collective impact,’ where the foundation brings together leaders from diverse organizations, such as funding structures (in health care) and encourages them to create a shared vision,” Calonge said.
He said she will be tough to replace.
“It will be both a remarkable opportunity and quite honestly, a remarkable challenge,” Calonge said. “Having that focus and that intentionality to move ahead in a specific direction and not get diverted takes real leadership.”
Warhover said she told the board this morning about her decision to leave and that they’ve already created a committee to launch a national search for her replacement.
In a statement, the foundation’s board chair, Sally Schaefer, said she was disappointed, but understood Warhover’s decision to step down.
“It is with mixed emotions that I and the board are accepting Anne’s resignation,” Schaefer said.
“I admire folks who understand when they have contributed what they can to an organization and pass the baton to the next leader. However, we will miss Anne, who has accomplished an amazing number of successful transitions during her 10 years at the Foundation.”
Warhover came to the foundation as its president and CEO in 2004. Since then, she’s overseen dramatic growth. The grant making portfolio has increased in that time from $3 million to $100 million annually. Only the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California Endowment are larger U.S. health foundations.
In 2011, under Warhover’s, leadership, the foundation sold its 40 percent share in the HCA-HealthONE hospital system.
Warhover said she’s now looking forward to spending time with her husband and their four grown children, along with watching plenty of shows on Netflix, reading, playing golf, skiing and walking.
“This feels like a really nice time to move on to my next adventure,” Warhover said. “I’ve been working all of my life. This is the first time I’ve ever taken time to be, to live and to live in the moment. I’m really trying to stay totally open and not to feel compelled to think in any certain way.”
Warhover said she’s pleased that the foundation and its board and staff are all so well positioned to tackle new goals.
“Health care is a changing landscape. There’s a lot of great opportunity for a new leader in this changing landscape,” Warhover said. “There’s so much more to do. This is not a status quo place and I hope it never will be.”