2012 President's Message: The Push for the Summit

Scaling Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro was a thrilling accomplishment for RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA. Once back home, she had time to reflect on the lessons learned on that grueling, 19,341-foot trek to the top of Tanzania’s natural wonder. Getting to the summit, she knew, required patience, teamwork, determination, a mindful and measured pace, preparation, endurance—and, yes, even an understanding of her limitations.

Many of the same skills and talents, she now observes, can be said to drive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in its quest to ever greater achievements as the nation’s largest philanthropy exclusively dedicated to improving the health and health care of all Americans.

“Think of health and health care as our philanthropy’s Kilimanjaro,” Lavizzo-Mourey suggests.

From the Foundation’s emergence as a national presence 40 years ago—and dating further back to founder Robert Wood Johnson’s early forays into philanthropy—RWJF has remained resolutely focused on its goals, steadily pressing on even in the face of daunting obstacles. We’ve logged some notable achievements along the way, such as introducing a new approach to the treatment of patients with chronic illnesses and disabilities, making major strides in reducing tobacco use, and mobilizing key forces to design a pioneering approach to palliative care.

Now we are re-imagining and creating new pathways. But to get to the summit, we must first clear the trail of a major obstacle: the crushing burden of health care costs.

A steep climb still awaits us. We can get there if we heed the sage advice of Lavizzo-Mourey’s Kilimanjaro guide: Always onward. Always upward.