A Look Ahead: Changes at Northwest Health Foundation

There are few institutions more privileged than philanthropy. Such privilege can make us think we have the luxury of time and an infinite amount of resources. We know neither are true. 

We recognize that when it comes to health, too many of our friends, family and neighbors don't have the luxury of time. Historic and current injustices mean Indigenous and Black people, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, and many others face the biggest barriers to wellbeing and have for far too long already. NWHF has been evolving to focus on the bold steps needed to truly advance health for everyone in our region. 

We’re also evolving because we know our cash assets are not infinite and, in our minds, they don’t belong to us. They belong to our mission. Since 2012, this has meant making structural changes to manage our endowment for perpetuity while still increasing grantmaking. It also means, as I first mentioned back in January, further staff changes as we wind down grant programs that we've managed in partnership with other contributors.

This isn’t news to us, as we’ve been preparing for these changes over many years. But it might be news to you. Over the next ten months, we will reorganize our team. We will say goodbye to beloved colleagues whose impact on our work will last well beyond their time at NWHF. We will also hire for some new roles. 

Regardless of how long we’ve been preparing, these changes are not without difficulty or sadness. We make them with our mission in mind and in our effort to remain a small but mighty foundation focused on action. 


Jesse Beason, President & CEO

Goodbye and Q&A with Laura Nash, our Communications Manager

A few words from Northwest Health Foundation President Jesse Beason:

Laura and Jesse hug. Laura has a blanket draped around her body.

This Friday, we bid farewell to our Communications Manager Laura Nash. Where is she headed? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

From day one, Laura brought a keen eye for improving our communications. She helped crystallize our style to be more plain language and our approach to be supportive of our grantees, not self-congratulatory. But she expanded her role to be way more than we ever imagined. She brought her design savvy to our website and publications. She became integral to program planning. She helped lead our work exploring disability and disability justice, earning national attention in doing so. And she’s been a great friend to so many of us.

In her more than five years at Northwest Health Foundation, Laura has made a lasting impact and we will miss her dearly. But we are so proud of and excited for her next adventures!

Photo portrait of Laura smiling.

Q&A with Laura:

Q. What are you most proud of having worked on during your time at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Our disability equity work. I’ve been part of Northwest Health Foundation’s disability equity journey since I first started working here in 2014, from Learning Together, Connecting Communities to Advancing Disability Justice. I assisted with meeting logistics to help bring members of disability communities together in person and virtually. I also contributed to our Striving for Disability Equity blog series, in which we owned up to our mistakes and shared our efforts to do better. And, with Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative facilitator Stacey Milbern, I supported members of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative to create a recommendations report for advancing disability justice in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Through communications, we held ourselves accountable to our word. We followed through on making our public meeting spaces fragrance-free, supporting disabled leaders of color and disability-led organizations, and introduced disability justice to community partners throughout our region. We also catalyzed other organizations, regionally and nationally, to examine their own practices and consider how they can do better by disability communities.

This work benefited me personally as well. Through learning and building relationships with disability communities, I realized that I feel at home with these communities. I realized that I am neurodivergent. And recognizing this has allowed me to examine my own internalized ableism and become more self-aware and self-confident.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned at Northwest Health Foundation that you’ll carry with you?

A. It would be impossible to name everything I’ve learned at NWHF, because I feel like so much of it has sunk into me and become integral to how I move through and think about the world. I’m not sure I could parse it all out. One lesson I can point to is how important it is for people to have a say in anything that affects their lives. It seems like common sense, but so many groups of people aren’t represented in decision-making positions. When our leaders reflect our communities, laws and policies will work better for all of us. I’ll hold on to this lesson and continue to contribute what I can to making reflective democracy a reality.

NWHF staff, all dressed in denim, stand in a line along a white brick wall with their backs to the camera. They all look over their shoulders.

Q. What will you miss most about Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I’m going to miss the work environment. I know I’ll find jobs in the future that feel satisfying, where I know I’m doing good work. But I’m worried I’ll never find a workplace as supportive or fun as NWHF. Everyone at NWHF believes deeply in health equity and puts so much thought and time into making that vision reality. But we also pause for silliness and enjoy spending time with each other. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to make a music video or organize an all-denim photo shoot with coworkers again.

Q. What’s your communications advice for the philanthropic sector?

A. Foundations and other philanthropic institutions should focus less on marketing themselves and creating shiny communications materials. As foundations, we of course need to put ourselves out there so people know we exist and what we’re about. We don’t need to be salespeople; grantees will come to us regardless. Instead, we should use our influence to tell truths, uplift our grantees’ stories, and educate and advocate on the issues we care about.

Q. What’s next? 

A. Grad school! I started a master’s program in fall 2018 at Pacific Northwest College of Art. In fall 2019 I’ll continue working on an M.A. in Critical Studies, and I’ll start working on an M.F.A. in Applied Craft + Design. That means I’ll spend the next two years reading, writing and making, three of my favorite things. I’ll also continue to do some freelance communications work. Oh! And wedding planning. My partner Teddy and I are getting married in 2020.

Q&A with our President Jesse Beason

Jesse sits in the audience at a crowded event.

Q. What first drew you to work at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Honestly? The chance to work with our previous president, Nichole June Maher. I believed in her leadership and commitment to equity. Still do.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned working at NWHF?

So much. It's my first look at philanthropy from this vantage point. Before that, I was an executive director focused on getting philanthropy's attention and resources, trying to make payroll and advance the mission of my nonprofit through policy and programs. Now, I've the luxury of money and a broader perspective. And yet, I've learned that the work is similar in so many ways. I just don't worry about payroll—which, I'll repeat, is a luxury.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

More meetings! Just kidding. I'm looking forward to working with partners on building more reflective democracy and decision-making practices. We know a big part of health stems from public policy decided by voters and elected officials, so the ability for everyone to participate in that policymaking is fundamental to our mission.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest obstacle to health?

I think our greatest obstacle is the ahistorical and individualistic narrative that dominates the context of our civil society. We like to pretend all policy begins from this point forward (as if history is irrelevant) and that hardworking people are more in charge of their opportunity than they really are (as if they simply must choose to be successful). But, in reality, we begin with so many wrongs from our collective past that require repair and a false sense of individual choice for too many of us. To create opportunity for ourselves and our neighbors, we have to keep this true context in mind.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

We have no shortage of amazing leaders across our communities. Compared to plenty of other regions, our bad behaviors are less entrenched and our politics are milder. Plus, we have an abundance of resources and a strong sense of possibility.

Q. What do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t work for a nonprofit or philanthropic organization?

I'd probably be fixing computers and gadgets. Don't get me wrong, I love working with people on big, thorny, intractable issues. But I also like tinkering with problems that I can solve with just my brain and my own two hands.

Q. Are you looking for someone to fill your prior role—Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs?

We don't have plans to fill my old position as of yet. In fact, we're taking the next six months or so to figure out what's the right size staff for us, given the winding down of grant programs we've run on behalf of other donors. That simply means less money, and so we have to figure out what we want to do about that. We've got time to figure it out, but also the responsibility to get it right.

Announcing our New President

photo portrait of Jesse Beason smiling

On behalf of the board of directors and staff of Northwest Health Foundation, I'm excited to announce that Jesse Beason has been named, effective immediately, our new President and Chief Executive Officer. 

Jesse has been with Northwest Health Foundation since August 2013, most recently as Vice President of Strategy and Public Affairs. He was selected to be our next president after a thorough national search conducted by Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group with guidance from the NWHF board of directors' Presidential Search Committee. NPAG connected with hundreds of community partners and potential candidates before developing a short list of finalists.

Jesse's experience and expertise in policy and electoral work, his established relationships with community leaders and organizations throughout our region, and his bold vision for the Foundation's future, among other qualities, distinguished him as the best candidate to lead NWHF.

As we start 2019, the board and staff of Northwest Health Foundation will follow and work alongside Jesse in pursuit of our vision of health for everyone in Oregon and Southwest Washington.



Phil Wu’s signature

Phil Wu, NWHF Board Chair


Updates on our Executive Search

August 22, 2018

As many of you know, Friday, August 3 was Nichole June Maher’s last day as Northwest Health Foundation’s president. In case you didn’t know, here’s our original post about her transition to a new role.

Since Nichole’s departure, we’ve received a lot of questions about what this means for Northwest Health Foundation. We’re writing this post to answer some of those questions.

1.     Do you have an interim president?

We do not. Our board and staff agreed on a shared leadership model during the transition. Our Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs Jesse Beason and Director of Programs Jen Matheson are leading program operations, and our Vice President of Finance Jason Hilton and Operations Manager Stephenie Smith are leading internal operations.

2.     How are you going about hiring a new president?

Northwest Health Foundation’s board of directors formed an ad hoc search committee to guide our search for a new president. The search committee solicited and reviewed proposals from executive search firms and selected Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group LLC. NPAG will conduct a search for NWHF’s next president with input and support from our board and staff.

3.     Are you accepting applications yet?

Not quite yet. Right now, the search firm is drafting and editing a new position description. They plan to open the position to applications in September and conduct outreach and interviews through December. [Now we are! Please see below. - 9/10/18]

4.     When will the new president start?

We hope the new president will start in early 2019.

We’ll continue to add updates to this post as we have them. Thank you for your patience as we work through this transition!


September 10, 2018

Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group is now accepting applications for Northwest Health Foundation's next president. The position description is available on their website.


November 19, 2018

The executive search is going well, and we hope to name our new president in early 2019.

January 2, 2019

Happy New Year! We’ll announce our new president on January 22.

January 23, 2019

Our new president and chief executive officer is Jesse Beason! Read the announcement from our board chair.

Our President & CEO Prepares for a New Role

Nichole June Maher from the shoulders up, smiling.

We are sad, proud and thrilled to announce that Northwest Health Foundation’s President and CEO Nichole June Maher has accepted a new position as President and CEO of Group Health Foundation.

Group Health Foundation was founded in 2015 and funded in 2017 with the profits from Group Health Cooperative’s sale to Kaiser Permanente. GHF is a 501(c)(4) with $1.72 billion in financial assets. Their mission is to shape and accelerate efforts to improve health equity and advance community aspirations for a vibrant, healthy future in Washington.

We know Nichole is the right person to lead GHF’s work. Over the last six years at NWHF, Nichole led the Foundation through a significant transformation. After years of giving to healthcare systems, mainstream nonprofits and research institutions, we shifted our approach to partnering with community-led organizations that focus on changing policies and systems. We increased our giving to communities of color, rural communities and disability communities significantly, and started to make better use of our 501(c)(4) resources.

We will miss Nichole so much, and we’re incredibly thankful for all that she’s accomplished in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Health stems from all aspects of our lives: education, economic opportunity, a sound environment, a connected community and loving family and friends. I have been so fortunate to experience all of this here in Oregon.

It is hard for me to leave Northwest Health Foundation and for my family to leave the place we’ve called home for so long. I also know that while a river may separate us, Washington and Oregon face many challenges in health equity together. I look forward to working on those challenges in my new role at Group Health Foundation. And I know that the many friendships I’ve forged, and community partnerships Northwest Health Foundation has created throughout our region, will endure. The staff and board at the Foundation are such an inspiration to me. I’ll miss them all dearly.
— Nichole June Maher

Nichole’s last day at NWHF will be August 3rd. Northwest Health Foundation’s board will work with an executive search firm to select a new president and CEO over the coming months. Please stay tuned for more information.

We're making some staffing changes

We like to say that we are a small but mighty foundation. After a bittersweet goodbye to our friend and colleague Suk Rhee, we set about retooling some roles to make Northwest Health Foundation that much mightier.

Today, we're excited to announce those changes.

Jesse Beason

Jesse Beason

Jen Matheson

Jen Matheson

Eduardo Moreno

Eduardo Moreno

Jesse Beason is now our Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs. Jen Matheson is our Director of Programs, providing oversight for NWHF's grantmaking initiatives and programs. Michael Reyes Andrillon and Eduardo Moreno will be our Community Engagement Officers, and Laura Nash, Communications Manager, will increase her hours, joining us full-time to lend support to our program team.

We can't think of a better team of ten to drive our vision for health and our foundation for action!

Goodbye, Suk Rhee

Photo portrait of Suk Rhee, sitting in front of a window.

Friday, August 11, is our Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership Suk Rhee's last day at Northwest Health Foundation. Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly recently appointed Suk to direct the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and she begins her new job in two short weeks, on August 21.

Here at NWHF, we couldn't be more proud of and excited for our friend and colleague's next step. Suk is deeply committed to the health and well-being of everyone in our region; always asks difficult, big-picture questions; fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment wherever she goes; and understands the importance of community-led change. We know she will impact the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the whole City of Portland, in positive and meaningful ways.

Suk started working at Northwest Health Foundation in January 2005, more than twelve years ago. She's been a part of some big decisions and transitions here, as well as most of our favorite memories. We are sad to see her go, but we're happy she won't be moving far!

A few words from Suk:

When my family immigrated to this country, we landed in North Carolina. There are many reasons to love NC, yet, I never gained a sense of belonging or home there. This feeling is captured in a passage in The Moon and Sixpence (by W. Somerset Maughn): 

I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not...Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.

Suk and the rest of NWHF's Program Team take a selfie next to a river.

There have been a few places where I have found such rest. This region, its communities and the work we have pursued together through my many years here at Northwest Health Foundation have felt like home. 

I leave NWHF this month to join the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement as its Director. Thank you to everyone who has walked some part of this journey with me—for the actions you have taken, the lessons you have taught me and simply, for being your brilliant self.  You have graced my time here with your leadership, humor and optimism, for which you have my endless gratitude and love.


Q&A with our SummerWorks Interns, Hawi and Elisa

Hawi Muleta

Hawi Muleta

Q. How do you relate to Northwest Health Foundation's mission and vision?

Hawi: When I was a kid, I used to tell my parents I wanted to open a hospital one day in my country (Ethiopia), so people would have access to healthcare whether they could afford it or not. I even made a poster with little drawings of what my hospital would look like. My parents kept the posters to push me in my dreams. Even though I don’t have that exact dream now, I still feel very passionate about working with others to improve the societies we live in. I thank my parents for teaching my siblings and I from a young age that what we have in this life, however big or small, is a blessing, and to appreciate it, as well as work hard to change the things we want to see. Those lessons lessons they were taught from their parents, passed down from the generation before them, which were finally passed down to us  showed us the importance of learning from the past, the value of community and doing what we can to help each other grow and thrive. Northwest Health Foundation's promotion of health for everyone, including physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being, easily ties into my own values of advocacy, equity and opportunity for everyone in our communities near and far.

Elisa: I’ve always felt compelled to do everything in my power to improve the quality of life for the members of my community. Growing up, I wasn’t sure how my actions could directly influence the world around me, but through my high school years I have realized that my voice matters, and there are many different ways to get involved in social justice and advocacy. Northwest Health Foundation’s work to build connections between individuals and groups who seek to affect change resonates with me profoundly. I admire the fact that NWHF uses its platform to work with different regional communities and uplift local advocacy groups working for health equity. Many people (myself included) want to make a difference in the communities they call home, and NWHF not only understands this, but encourages the involvement and leadership of community members in their work towards health equity.

Q. What have you learned from your experience at Northwest Health Foundation?

Hawi: What I have learned from working with the staff at NWHF is looking at all the ways in which health can be promoted, as well as pushed to another level, as we learn new things. Life is not static, nor should health be or how we work with others to change, inspire, build and provides different avenues to support one another.

Elisa: My experience here even though it’s not over yet  has given me so many opportunities to learn about social justice issues present in Portland and the world as a whole. It has also been amazing to work in a building that houses so many other nonprofit organizations. Even through just daily activities, I have been able to meet and speak with so many people from so many different walks of life, and learn about what their organizations are working towards. Interning here is also the first job I’ve ever had, so I’ve learned how a real office functions, and how to dress and act in a professional environment.

Elisa Suarez

Elisa Suarez

Q. If you could make one change in your community, what change would you make?

Hawi: If I could make one change in my community, I would make higher education more accessible for students from all walks of life. Education in any form is important, but due to the rapid increase of tuition, many are unable to pursue higher education, especially people of color who are tokenized for “diversity” purposes instead of seeing the systemic issues that have played a part in their lives in seeking education.

Elisa: If I could make one change in my community, I would make it possible for the students at my school to remain in the district, as opposed to being forced out due to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. I transferred into my school from a different neighborhood, but I have witnessed too many of my friends from around Northeast have to leave their childhood homes and move to Troutdale, Fairview, or Gresham (a.k.a. “The Numbers”). It is enraging when the infrastructure of a neighborhood improves, yet the original members of the community are unable to reap the benefits, because it is no longer financially possible for them to lay claim to the place they call home.

Q. What are you going to do next, after this internship?

Hawi: After this internship, I will return to Willamette University to finish my last year of undergrad and see where life takes me next.

Elisa: After this internship, I will be going into my senior year of high school and dancing full-time when I am not in school. I will also be taking courses at Portland Community College in order to complete some of my prerequisites for my freshman year of college. I plan on majoring in English and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies at a four-year university, most likely somewhere warm and sunny.

Q. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would you choose?

Hawi: I don’t think I could only eat one food for the rest of my life. Life would get boring, at least food-wise.

Elisa: If I had to eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food for sure. But if I had to pick just one actual food item, I would probably go with rice, because it’s very versatile and gluten free!

Meet more of Northwest Health Foundation's staff.

Thoughts from NWHF Staff on National Voter Registration Day

September 27, 2016 is National Voter Registration Day!

"On September 11, 2001, I, along with the rest of the nation, watched the events of the day unfold. I was living in Los Angeles, and it was around 6 a.m. when I first heard of the attacks on the news. That was a tragic and confusing day. There were so many important things to prioritize: calling our friends in New York, being with and being there for others, and just trying to understand what was happening. It was also an election day. I remember going to my neighborhood polling place and casting my ballot for our local elections before going to work. There are so many things we are called to do—and have the privilege and right to do—in this country. The issues on the ballot that day paled in comparison to national and global events, but we were voting on issues that would impact children, families, workers, residents…everyone… in our corner of the world. I never take that for granted, even on historic days like that." - Suk Rhee, Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership  


Stephenie Smith, Executive Support & Operations Manager


"I have vivid memories of accompanying my father to the polls as a little girl and being in awe of the ritual of it: the curtained cubicles, the sharpened pencils and the punch cards. Even though we only vote by mail in Oregon now, I still love participating in the democratic process, because it’s a way of joining my community to make a collective decision. I’m also playing a small but critical part in our country’s democratic process, while briefly setting aside my social status and identity. By voting, I am an equal citizen among many others." - Shannon Duff, Grant Administrator


Eduardo Moreno, Health & Education Officer


"So many of us use social media to let our voices be heard. Now it’s time for us to let our voices be heard where it counts. Get out and vote!" - Michael Reyes Andrillon, Community Engagement Officer


Nichole June Maher, President & Chief Executive Officer


"My family took their responsibility to vote very seriously. As a child, I remember watching my mom enter the voting booth. With the curtain and levers it all seemed so mysterious. Now, as an adult, I love Oregon’s ‘Vote-by-Mail’ system, it allows me time to consider my options and to vote with my friends and neighbors. We can inform and challenge each other. I know my vote also counts for those who cannot vote, such as our children or people with different citizenship or legal status. Voting makes me feel like we are in it together." - Jen Matheson, Community Engagement Officer


Laura Nash, Communications Coordinator


"I vote because of the passion of my 5th grade teacher from Jacksonville, Oregon who stressed the importance of our civic duty to vote and the sacrifices that were made to make it possible. So basically I'm afraid of the heartbreak my teacher would feel if I wasn't doing my part in democracy. That's why I vote." - Jason Hilton, Vice President of Finance


Jesse Beason, Director of Public Affairs


“Voting is empowering as it makes me feel like my voice matters. I always get a sense of hope and excitement when dropping off my ballot, a perpetual longing for change and reform thinking of the generations to follow.” - Katie Kordash, Senior Accountant


Farewell, Fannie Black!

Our Grant Administrator Fannie Black will be moving on to bigger and better things at the end of March 2016. We are deeply sad to see her go and will probably shed more than a few tears on March 31st. However, we are also so excited for and proud of her; and we're looking forward to the opportunity to welcome a new person to our team!


A few words from Fannie:

It is so hard to believe that it has only been three years since I started working at the Foundation. As much as I have grown personally and professionally, and as much as I have learned over the years, I feel like I’m not the same person I was when I first stepped off that elevator and through those glass doors. Over the years, I have learned some amazing things about myself and the many communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington working toward a healthier region. I’ve learned about my ableism, what it means to be an ally, and the importance of community-based solutions led by the very people the solutions aim to serve.

From becoming a self-proclaimed food coloring master for gingerbread houses to learning how to be an ally to other marginalized communities, I have gained skills, knowledge, and personal and professional relationships that will last me a lifetime. I am so grateful for the opportunities and growth this experience has offered me, and if the next three years are anything like the last three, I can’t wait to see what this next journey will bring.

A few words from Suk Rhee

Every now and again, you have the honor of working with someone who is an exceptional person in the world, and you are the better for it. For the past several years, we and our partners at NWHF have had the privilege—and joy—of working with Fannie Black, who has served as grant administrator. As a leader within the NWHF team, Fannie has played many roles: the person who saves the day for community partners applying at the 11th hour; a champion of our equity priorities; the standard-bearer for fairness and transparency before, during and after the grant process; the patient teacher; and the social connector who shows us by example that we can all do more and better, together.   

At the same time, Fannie was pursuing her studies. This spring, Fannie earns her master of science in engineering and technology management at Portland State University. (Applause and congratulations!) Now, it is time for new adventures and the next chapter. On behalf of all of us who have worked, played and laughed with Fannie—we will dearly miss you. And, we are excited for the world to be transformed by you as you have transformed NWHF. Bon voyage!

We're Hiring a Grant Administrator

POSTED: January 20, 2016
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Open until filled OR 5pm, February 25, 2016
HOW TO APPLY: Submit cover letter and resume to employment@northwesthealth.org

The Grant Administrator is responsible for working with Northwest Health Foundation staff and community partners to implement application processes, deadlines, reporting and other systems improvements to ensure consistent and accurate grants processing. The Grant Administrator works with the Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership and members of the program team to ensure the smooth functioning of the applications, review, reporting and monitoring processes essential to Foundation operations. The Grant Administrator is additionally a liaison between internal departments and the public, and provides professional customer service to internal and external audiences.

Nichole Elected to Grantmakers in Health Board of Directors

Northwest Health Foundation President and CEO Nichole June Maher has been elected to Grantmakers in Health's board of directors. She will serve a three-year term starting in March 2016.

Grantmakers in Health (GIH) is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to helping foundations and corporate giving programs improve the health of all people. Its mission is to foster communication and collaboration among grantmakers and others, and to help strengthen the grantmaking community's knowledge, skills and effectiveness.

Nichole will join several other changemakers and foundation leaders on GIH's board. "I'm looking forward to building relationships with foundations across the U.S., sharing the good work and success stories of communities in Oregon and SW Washington, learning from my fellow board members, and contributing to the amazing resource that is GIH!" said Nichole.


photo portrait of Nichole.

Q&A with our Executive Support & Operations Manager, Stephenie Smith

Stephenie standing in a field of corn. 

Q. What led you to your job at NWHF?

A. I have always been drawn to the work that Northwest Health Foundation does, especially in the last three years. My work with Open Meadow’s Step Up program lit a fire in me to devote my life to building & supporting healthy communities and fighting racism. After taking a year to work the family business with my mother and sister, it was time to get back to my passion. When I saw the opening at NWHF for the Executive Support & Operations Manager position, I jumped at the chance to work for a foundation whose work and values so closely matched my own. 

Q. What have you learned in your first few months here?

A. I have learned so much in my first few months here! Aside from the normal learning curve of figuring out a new position, one of my favorite parts of this new job is getting to meet so many people from the community! I have learned that there are SO many phenomenal people in Oregon & SW Washington doing amazing work to strengthen underserved communities! I am inspired on a daily basis by the stories I hear and from watching how hard my co-workers work to make an impact.

Q. What do you see as the greatest obstacle facing communities in our region?

A. Big question. Looking at this from a big picture perspective, I will use one word: inequity. This word could be applied to every aspect of life for our underserved populations, particularly for our neighbors of color and our neighbors living in poverty. These groups experience inequities in education, jobs, housing, health care, representation in positions of power, daily microaggressions, and so much more. A large part of this obstacle is the number of people, in power or otherwise, that choose to be oblivious to such inequities. 

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

A. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, I strongly feel that Portland has many pockets of strong communities that are working to reduce the inequities that exist. There are many people dedicated to the work of creating equitable environments for every Portlander. I hope that we can figure out how to unite forces and work together more regularly.

Q. Why have you chosen to live in Portland, over any other place in the world?

A. I am originally from Half Moon Bay, California (yes, I am a transplant!). Although I miss the ocean and my family that remains in California, Portland is my home now (and has been since 1999). I originally moved here to be close to my brother’s first child. Since then, much of my family has moved up to Portland, and I now have two nieces and nephews that live here. I am about to have my own baby, and I am so happy that she will be surrounded by cousins and family to love and support her! 

I do love to travel and spent almost a year in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands many moons ago. I believe that someday I will retire on a tropical beach!

Q. What do you like best about the holiday season?

I am a bit of a Christmas fanatic. To me, Christmas has never been about presents. I grew up in a household with very little money but a lot of love. We never received expensive gifts. We did, however, always get the whole family together to open our stockings (which always had a tangerine in the toe) and to eat. These two things remain my favorite Christmas traditions. Aside from these specific traditions, I cling to the idea that miracles can happen during this time of year and try to give back to my community as much as possible!

Q. What is the best gift you have ever given?

A. My favorite gift to give every year is for my nieces’ & nephews’ birthdays. I take each of them out for a one-on-one dinner to the restaurant of their choice. We started the tradition when they were very young. I love getting the opportunity to spend some quality time with each of them every year. 

Q. As a soon-to-be mom, what are your hopes for your baby?

A. My baby will be extremely loved by our family and my phenomenal community. She is multi-racial. I know this will have a large impact on her life. I have seen firsthand the impact this can have on a student, child, teen, adult. My mission is to keep working as hard as possible for equity and to surround myself and my baby girl with people who will support her and give her space to have tough conversations about her experiences. She will carry on the change-making needed for this community and the world to understand and value difference.

Q&A with one of our summer interns, Viktoria Perekurenko

Photo portrait of Viktoria.

Q. What have you learned from your internship at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I have learned so many things from my internship! The biggest thing is that there is so much community health work going on in our region. It was great to learn about it in a classroom setting at PSU, but way more amazing to actually see that work in action and see how so many people can come together to create healthier communities. 

Q. What is your favorite memory from your time at NWHF?

A. My favorite memory from my time here was being able to go on site visits with Jen and Mike. It was so great to actually go into communities and see the amazing work that they are doing and see communities advocate for themselves. I was so encouraged to see that there were even groups in my own community who were working together to make our community better and healthier.

Q. What projects did you work on while you were at NWHF?

A. While I was here, the main project I worked on involved creating a database that included all community health-related contacts in the region we serve. My main focus was Southwest Washington, and I looked for parent-teacher associations, religious groups, early learning hubs, schools, districts, county leadership, medical facilities and anyone remotely related to community health... Let's just say I did a lot of Googling!

Q. What are your next steps after leaving NWHF?

A. After leaving NWHF, I plan on doing some rigorous job searching. My main goal is to figure out which aspects of community health interest me most and see how I can get involved in those areas. 

Q. As a Clark County resident, what do you love about Southwest Washington? What makes SW WA special?

A. I absolutely love SW WA (especially Vancouver!) I love the many trails there are to walk and bike, as well as amazing local food, markets and coffee shops. I love the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site because it is very beautiful and often has interesting events. I love that it is near a body of water and has accessibility to many recreational activities. I also really love that even though it isn't technically a small town, it still feels like one, and feels like one big community.

Q. As a recent college graduate, what is the weirdest thing about being out of school?

A. The weirdest thing about being out of school is having free evenings and actually being able to take Sunday naps, because there is no homework! It's also strange to see my friends get ready to go back to school and knowing that I don't have to. 

Q. If you could be on any game show, what game show would you choose? 

A. If I could be on any show, I think I would pick the Amazing Race, because it would be fascinating to travel to so many awesome places and learn to do so many cool things from other cultures. 

Thank you to Viktoria (and our other summer intern, Nick) for your invaluable contributions to NWHF this summer! We definitely appreciate all of the Googling you did!

Q&A with PIN Program Officer, Renée Jensen Reinhardt

Renée with a  bike on a wooden walkway surrounded by trees.

June is Renée's last month with Northwest Health Foundation. She has been here since 2006, and we will miss her very much! Best wishes for your future, Renée!

Q. How did you end up at NWHF?

A. What attracted me to NWHF was the organization's mission to advance, support and promote health in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Prior to joining the Foundation, I worked at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization for 11 years, which provides a variety of social services for the refugee and immigrant community.

Health is an important aspect of creating thriving communities, and working at NWHF seemed like the next step in my efforts to create healthy opportunities, albeit in a completely different way. I went from working at a nonprofit organization providing necessary direct services for the community to collaborating with foundations, academia and nurse organizations on improving the quality of health services.


Q. What is the most important thing that you have learned since you have been here?

A. How important collaboration and relationship building are in order to move the needle. This was evident in the work of the Foundation and in Partners Investing in Nursing's Future (PIN). Practicing these skills, and trust building, are invaluable.

I also learned that it takes a LONG time for warm water to reach the third floor in our office building. So plan ahead if you're taking a shower after you workout at lunch. ;)

Q. What has been the biggest change, to you or the organization, in your years here?

A. The number of wrinkles I have now!

But regarding NWHF, I've been here for over nine years, and there have been a number of big changes over the years. NWHF's move to Old Town/Chinatown, the creation of the Aschenbrener Center for Philanthropy, transition to a new CEO, and the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative. These are all big changes aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Q. What will you miss most about NWHF and PIN?

A. Well, let's see. Is it the coffee? The traveling? The practical jokes? These will all be missed. But most of all, I will miss the people. I had the pleasure to work with some very talented, fun and caring individuals within the staff and the national PIN program. Whether they were in Oregon, the Marshall Islands, or on the East Coast, there are an amazing number of people out there working to create better health in our communities.

Q. What are your hopes for the future?

A. To see my son grow up into a loving, giving, happy and healthy human being. I also have hope that each person recognizes that they have the opportunity to create a ripple effect of kindness and caring that can change the world, even if it seems insignificant at the time.

Bonus Questions:

Q. What is your favorite thing about Oregon summers?

A. Being outside and seeing so many people venturing out to play, walk and visit. The odds of running into your neighbors definitely go up when the sun comes out!

Q. What did you do during summer vacation when you were a kid?

A. I grew up in Eastern Oregon, and summer vacation was usually one of two things: driving around Oregon or Washington to visit family or going camping. It was a matter of being on your best behavior in a car for four to eight hours of driving through the Gorge in 90+ degrees with no AC, or running wild and getting dirty on the river banks in the mountains. Hmmm...

Q. What is your favorite cartoon character?

A. There are so many! Jimmy Neutron comes to mind. But from my youth, Underdog. I still have the Taco Time collectable glass in a box somewhere.


For more information about PIN, visit the PIN website.

Suk Rhee Joins the 100 Million Healthier Lives Initiative

An illustration of the complex factors that affect the health of one patient.

An illustration of the complex factors that affect the health of one patient.

We are proud to share that NWHF’s Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership Suk Rhee has joined the Leadership Team of 100 Million Healthier Lives.

100 Million Healthier Lives joins patients, communities, health care systems, public health and other organizations to transform the way the world thinks and acts to improve health. They are committed to 100 million people living healthier lives by 2020.

The collaborative shares many of NWHF’s values and resonates strongly with our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative. 100 Million Healthier Lives and NWHF both prioritize addressing equity gaps, as well as helping all kids get a healthy start in life. We both believe that health is mental, physical, social and spiritual. And we are both committed to community-based solutions.

100 Million Healthier Lives’ first initiative is SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators Through Learning and Evaluation), a two-year initiative supported by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will help communities across the U.S. develop capability to improve health and spread effective community-driven approaches to build a Culture of Health.

While Suk looks forward to being exposed to the great thinkers involved with 100 Million Healthier Lives, she is even more excited to tell the world about the amazing work Oregon and Southwest Washington communities are already doing.