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Margaret O’Bryon Selected 2012 Terrance Keenan Award Winner

November 15, 2011

Margaret O'Bryon, president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation, has been named the 2012 recipient of Grantmakers In Health's (GIH) Terrance Keenan Leadership Award in Health Philanthropy.

"Margaret's imprint on the field of philanthropy is very much about who she is in addition to what she has accomplished," according to Lori Kaplan, CEO of the Latin American Youth Center, who nominated Ms. O'Bryon.

In 1998 Ms. O'Bryon "was handed a banker's box and charged with creating the Greater Washington, DC area's first private health foundation." Under her leadership, the foundation established itself as an activist philanthropy--with a portfolio of grants dedicated to health advocacy and social justice--that takes its cues from the community. "Margaret is guided by the voices and lived experiences of those who are most affected by social problems."

Ms. O'Bryon's contributions are not just about awarding grants. Rather, she rolls up her sleeves and is involved in the work itself. Guiding the DC Primary Care Association from a "nascent community health network" to a "cutting-edge primary care association" is one such example. Creating a capacity building program for grantees to provide training and consulting assistance in a variety of areas is another. Additionally, Ms. O'Bryon cofounded the Health Working Group of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and the Regional Primary Care Coalition, collaborations committed to improving the health of low-income uninsured residents and eliminating racial/ethnic health inequities.

In addition to having a leadership style that is "gracious and respectful," taking risks and challenging the status quo are part of Ms. O'Bryon's appeal, according to colleagues. Her foundation's 2006 Speakout Report publicly committed it to launching conversations about the impact of structural racism on health. She was also one of two foundation leaders in the country to pilot the Racial Justice Assessment, which measured how well a foundation's work advances social justice. The assessment evaluated every aspect of the foundation--a process that was far from easy--but Ms. O'Bryon forged on, encouraging discussions between staff and board, and ultimately gaining insight on ways the foundation could enhance its grantmaking and better serve the community.

"What distinguished Margaret was her ability to add a passion for the cause and a concern for the people," said Gene Cochrane, president of The Duke Endowment, in support of Ms. O'Bryon's nomination to receive the award. Added Sharon Baskerville, CEO of the DC Primary Care Association, "She has found, through her deep sincerity and commitment to serve, a way to be a bridge over the chasm created often between giving and need. Far beyond the funding she facilitates, Margaret is herself a gift."

The Terrance Keenan Leadership Award honors outstanding individuals in health philanthropy whose work is distinguished by leadership, innovation, and achievement. GIH established the award in 1993 in honor of Terrance Keenan whose 40 years in health grantmaking inspired commitment, creativity, and risk taking.

Ms. O'Bryon will be honored at the 2012 GIH Annual Meeting on Health Philanthropy, March 7-9, in Baltimore, Maryland.

About GIH: 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 to help strengthen the grantmaking community’s knowledge, skills, and effectiveness. Formally launched in 1982, GIH is known today as the professional home for health grantmakers and a resource for grantmakers and others seeking expertise and information on the field of health philanthropy.

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