This post was written by Sarah McAfee, a former member of our team.
I always look forward to the third week in May, not only because we’re usually finished with all our snowstorms for the year, but because it is a time to bring together all our closest supporters for our Annual Meeting. It’s not often that so many of the best and brightest health care minds are in one room, and we cherish the chance to gather and reconnect. This year’s event is just two days away, so our excitement is at a fever pitch!
However, this year’s event will be different than all others in CCMU’s nineteen-year history: Dr. Gary VanderArk is stepping down as board chair. Dr. VanderArk founded CCMU in 1997 and has led our organization through four Governors, three Super Bowl wins, and countless important changes to Colorado’s health care system. He has been and continues to be an unwavering voice for the vulnerable—and if you’ve ever heard him speak, you know his powerful, resonant voice moves people to action like few others’ can.
We think a lot about great leadership at CCMU, because we believe we need solution-oriented, collaborative leadership to drive change in our health system. One of the many lessons we’ve learned from Dr. VanderArk’s example is that leadership is an action, not a position. Whether we are advocating for legislative change, supporting communities in local health systems transformation efforts, or providing thought leadership around tough issues, we are all about doing.
However, action at the speed of the health care system is often very slow, which can make it difficult to gain momentum. Nearly four years went by between the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed for the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a private health insurance marketplace and the actual expansion of Medicaid and launch of Connect for Health Colorado—and that was still a very fast timeline for implementation. Like a long, slow slog up a steep hill, in order to see the great distance we’ve come as a state, we need to look backward over the countless small changes made over the course of years and decades.
At this week’s event we’ll be doing some looking backward and reflecting on how far we’ve come. We’ll also be looking at the long road that’s still ahead and sharing the action steps we’ll be taking to get us closer to our collective goals. As we lead change for a healthier Colorado, we’ll be guided by the immortal words of our founder: We can! We must! We will!