At this month’s Health Forward Board of Directors meeting, I gave a tribute to Landon Rowland, inaugural Health Forward board member, who died on December 29, 2015.
Landon was a true visionary who contributed to every aspect of what the Health Forward Foundation now means to our community.
Throughout his life Landon was dedicated to helping disadvantaged and underserved populations. His dedication was far more to him than an obligation of his wealth. His father died when Landon was young, which left Landon’s mother and her children in very difficult financial circumstances.
As the oldest child in his family, Landon worked at whatever odd jobs he could find that would help his mother and siblings scrape by. One of those odd jobs was cleaning the coal burning furnaces in the apartment complex where they lived. As so often happens with disadvantaged youth, that job exposed Landon to the hazardous conditions that took his life many years later.
His early hardships shaped Landon’s lifetime compassion for and dedication to helping disadvantaged and underserved populations. That dedication was evident not just here, but in his generosity and many years of service to the LINC Commission, Swope Ridge Geriatric Center and many other organizations and institutions in our community that share our mission.
As chairman of the LINC Commission, Landon led and organized the many concerned citizens and interests that were instrumental in the formation of the Health Forward Foundation.
In 2002, when Health Midwest announced it planned to sell its assets to HCA, Landon promptly recognized the potential threat that sale represented to the underserved members of our community who relied on Health Midwest for a substantial amount of their charity care.
In his role as LINC’s Chairman, Landon requested that Jay Nixon, then the Missouri Attorney General, determine what impacts that sale would have on that underserved community through a series of public hearings.
The Missouri Attorney General granted Landon’s request and eventually the Kansas Attorney General joined in the process.
Landon led LINC in the development of a set of principles to evaluate the potential impact of the proposed sale, most of which were realized. Those principles included:
- the broadest possible community participation in the proposed sale
- a full opportunity for all community voices to be heard
- the formation of a new charitable foundation that was transparent, followed public meeting laws, subject to community oversight, accountable to community needs and that would continue “as close as possible” Health Midwest’s many charitable activities that benefitted the less fortunate
- public review and discussion of the of the proposed sale terms that HCA would be required to submit to the Attorney Generals for approval
During the Attorney General’s hearings, the public learned that the deal that HCA had struck with Health Midwest gave HCA a substantially reduced purchase price in exchange for over a billion dollars worth of promises it made to substantially upgrade the hospitals they were buying and to continue, for 10 years, to provide the same level of charity care at the Health Midwest hospitals.
The attorney generals ultimately approved the proposed sale, but only on the condition that HCA keep its promises to improve the hospitals it had purchased and to deliver substantial charity care. Another condition of that approval was that all of the proceeds from the sale be used exclusively to create and fund what became two health care foundations – Health Forward and the REACH Healthcare Foundation.
After the formation of the two foundations, Landon was appointed to the initial Health Forward board, where he served on the Executive Committee and as the first chairperson of the Finance and Investment Committee. Landon continued to be actively involved with Health Forward until his death.
One of Landon’s many lasting contributions to the work of the Foundation was his encouragement and support for Health Forward’s lawsuit against HCA for a court-supervised accounting of whether HCA had kept its many promises at the public hearings and in the sale documents approved by the Attorney General.
Although hundreds of people and organizations have made important contributions to Health Forward’s mission and service, without Landon’s many contributions, there would never have been be a Health Care Foundation or REACH Healthcare Foundation. He will truly be missed by many throughout our community. His legacy will serve as a model for our all of us.