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Dr. J. Eugene Grigsby Retires
By Brian W. Carter (Staff Writer)
Published March 26, 2015

Dr. J. Eugene Grigsby III, PhD

President and CEO of the National Health Foundation culminates a successful career of improving healthcare in Los Angeles.

When it comes to efficiency and planning, Dr. J. Eugene Grigsby III, PhD knows exactly what to do. A man of distinction, his career spans decades of urban planning, leadership and developing new and innovative strategies inside and out of the healthcare sector. Grigsby will soon be surrounded by friends and colleagues at a tribute dinner and retirement celebration, Tuesday, March 31, of his time as president and CEO of the National Health Foundation (NHF). He shared some of the chapters of his life with the Sentinel, highlighting some of his meaningful accomplishments.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Grigsby relocated to Phoenix, Arizona and lived there until graduating from high school. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he received degrees in sociology and psychology. Grigsby attended graduate school at UCLA, where he received his Masters and PhD in sociology.

Since 2002, Grigsby has been setting the policy and direction for the NHF, a Los Angeles based independent, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to improving and enhancing the healthcare of the underserved by developing and supporting innovative programs. He shared an interesting story of how he came be a part of NHF.

“I got here through a fluke,” said Grigsby. “I got here as a result of a golf course conversation.”

After an impressive trek as a professor at UCLA, an invitation to play in a golf tournament would open a door to another chapter.

“On the second hole, I got this question about looking for a CEO of an organization,” said Grisgby. “’We think you’d be a perfect fit’.” Despite hesitation due to a lack of knowledge about health care and non-profits, Grigsby agreed to talk about the idea.

“Friday… I went in at 5 o’clock—at 6 o’clock, they offered me the job.”

But carrying with him a glowing record of accomplishments, his hiring was not really a surprise. Grigsby had been a professor of urban planning and director of the Advanced Policy Institute at UCLA’s School of Public Policy and Social Research for 32 years.  He founded and was president of The Planning Group, an urban planning and management consulting firm. He has led consulting engagements for UCLA Medical Center, the California Hospital Medical Center, and many other government and private sector clients in the United States and Canada.  For those who may be unfamiliar with urban planning, Grigsby shed some light.

“Planning, in an urban context, is basically how you decide what’s going to be built on what kind of land and what is the relationship between housing and services such as employment, healthcare, recreation, security, safety and how does transportation relate to that,” said Grigsby. “In essence, how you make the environment you are in livable and yet afford people the opportunity of [mobility].

“Urban Planning is about how you design and develop a process to allow all of that to take place.”

As president/CEO of the NHF, Grigsby has developed and implemented programs that have helped healthcare systems become independently viable and provided systemic solutions to gaps in healthcare access and delivery. As a result, the NHF developed three strategic planning areas: uninsured children and families, chronic disease management and systems change. They were able to organize all of their programs under one of those strategic areas, which have proven to be successful for the NHF goals. You can say that Grisgby’s ideas were a precursor for the overhaul the healthcare industry would eventually receive.

“As Obamacare was coming to fruition, it had the same goals and objectives that we had in terms of bridging gaps, improving quality of care and reducing costs,” said Grigsby.

Some of those successful programs include a recuperative care program, which allows homeless people to receive care and housing after being released from a hospital. For that program the NHF received the James Irvine Leadership Award.  Another program, the Patient Safety First Program, is a consortium of 170 hospitals in California that focuses on reducing harm in hospitals. Currently running on five years, the program has saved close to 4,000 lives, saved the hospital system 75 million dollars and reduced in-house hospital infections down to zero. Grigsby said the NHF’s next move is to help eliminate early elective births.

“All the literature will tell you that the probability of a baby born before 40 weeks is very high that the baby will end up in an intensive care unit and/or will have long term development problems,” said Grigsby. “Simply having that baby stay in the mother’s womb for two-to-three extra weeks makes a huge difference.

“We’ve been able to get most of hospitals participating in our program to implement a policy that unless it’s a medical emergency, you will not deliver a baby before 40 weeks.”

Last year, the NHF receive the distinguished John M. Eisenberg Award, by the National Quality Forum, for their Patient Safety First Program.

Grigsby is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in urban development strategies, receiving awards from Stanford University, Occidental College, and The University of North Carolina.  He has co-edited three books, “Shaping A National Urban Agenda: The Role of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning”, “Residential Apartheid:  The American Legacy”, and “Regions That Work:  How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together”, as well as a number of journal publications.  As a past member of the Los Angeles Times Board of Advisors, Dr. Grigsby wrote a regular column on economic issues.  Currently Dr. Grigsby is on the Board of the California Hospital Medical Center, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans and Hospitals, Inc., Occidental College; Dr. Grigsby received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Grigsby humbly looks forward to his retirement celebration dinner and feels that he has achieved what he set out to do at the NHF. He thanked those closest to him and shared some pearls of wisdom.

“Behind every successful person there is usually a village or family, in my case, my wife, children [and] NHF family,” said Grigsby.

“For me , to have a successful , professional career, it means to feel what I have done has made a meaningful contribution to many others and it’s not for me—it’s what we’ve been able to do to improve the plight of people who have been hospitalized, the homeless and of [other] major [programs].

“I feel like I can exit knowing that at least my 13 years here [NHF] have tangible results to people benefiting from what we’ve been able to do as an organization.”

 On retirement, Grisgby said, “I’m going to take it day-by-day, no specific plans laid out.

“We’ll see what comes.”

 brian@lasentinel.net

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