CFO celebrates 10 years with Health Forward

I recently celebrated my 10th anniversary as CFO at Health Forward. The time has gone by in a flash.

My career has now spanned 42 years. Over those years I have been blessed with opportunities to work in a government agency, the corporate private sector, higher-level education, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit organizations. Each career stop has allowed me to grow and learn a new industry sector and interact with a diverse group of people and passions.

These past 10 years at Health Forward Foundation have been among the most enjoyable and rewarding because of the mission we serve, and my colleagues. The dedication and leadership our board and staff have toward eliminating barriers to quality health care to those most in need in our communities is impressive and inspiring.

My initial interest in Health Forward began in 2004 when I learned of the appointment of the leadership team that included Steve Roling as CEO and Rhonda Holman as COO.

Our career paths had crossed in earlier community work and much of our business values and beliefs were shaped by a common denominator, Mr. Ewing Kauffman. I knew the culture Steve and Rhonda would create at Health Forward would be based on treating individuals with dignity, respect, and honesty.

I wanted to be part of a culture like that. 

My opportunity came several years later when I began my Health Forward journey on Jan. 6, 2009. The country was in the midst of the Great Recession. Our foundation’s endowment had dwindled to $330 million, and well below our corpus of $445 million at that time. 

We have had to make difficult but prudent spending policy decisions to assure that future Health Forward leaders have the same ability to address health inequality issues of their time, while we still tend to the high-priority needs of today.

Rick Zimmer, CFO

Even during the economic uncertainty and a substantial decrease in endowment, my memories of that time include the conviction and compassion of the board and Health Forward leadership for the vulnerable population we serve. Our leadership not only maintained, but significantly increased our gifting when our community partners needed it the most.

I was proud of how we responded when other funding sources for our valued community partners were declining during this difficult period. 

Over the past decade, I have witnessed a steady stream of qualified and energetic board members willing to serve Health Forward. I have worked with and supported seven Finance and Investment Committee chairs and six Audit Committee chairs. Each of these individuals shared their unique talents and experience.

With their support and leadership strength, our stewardship and investment program has grown in its effectiveness over the years. We have had to make difficult but prudent spending policy decisions to assure that future Health Forward leaders have the same ability to address health inequality issues of their time, while we still tend to the high-priority needs of today.

I am so proud of the balance we have been able to strike as a foundation structured for perpetuity. I have enjoyed working with every one of the Finance and Audit Chairs over the years and will always be appreciative of their support and counsel.

In 2013, the foundation’s first CEO Steve Roling retired. Steve was a popular and effective leader so it was difficult to anticipate what the next phase would look like. We were extremely fortunate to find Steve’s replacement with the appointment of Dr. Bridget McCandless. 

Bridget was one of Health Forward’s founding board members and therefore was well versed in the mission and principles that guide us. She has brought energy, ideas, and passion to advocating and working to improve the health conditions of those most in need in our communities. Bridget’s background as a leader of a free health clinic in our service area, her familiarity with the foundation, and her knowledge of the medical system as a physician made her the perfect successor to take the foundation to its next level. 

Those in the community know Bridget will be retiring this year. We will now be welcoming a third CEO in our short history.  The community and staff have been served extremely well with the first two CEO appointments.

I have been involved in the community long enough to have witnessed many foundations and charities who lose their sense of mission with leadership changes. However, I have never been more confident that Health Forward will be in good hands with the selection of a new CEO. The selection and search process established by our board under the leadership of Jim Pryde is impressive. The search process will be inclusive and comprehensive. It will find the right person to lead Health Forward.

Finally, as I reflect over the past 10 years, I have been blessed and truly grateful that I will be able to close my career being associated with such an ethical, caring, and hard-working group of colleagues. We have accomplished a lot and had fun along the way. Looking beyond the 10 years that I have completed at Health Forward, I am sure the relationships formed with my colleagues will be what I treasure the most. 

By the way, I am not retiring yet!!


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Health Forward Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact Health Forward Communications Officer Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006