Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority Appoints New Executive Director
by J. Chevont’e Alexander
The Authority announced the selection of Ms. Keisha L. Smith as its new executive director. She assumed her new role on July 1, 2015.
According to a recent press release, Ms. Smith joins Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority (VHWDA) with years of experience in the private and public sectors. In her most recent position with the City of Richmond, she led several efforts of Mayor Dwight C. Jones, including the Healthy Richmond Campaign, an initiative that began from a series of recommendations from the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Policy, and is designed to ensure Richmond residents have access to health promotion and education activities; and the Richmond City Community Schools (RCCS) initiative.
Through her leadership, RCCS was successfully launched in the fall of 2014, and opened with two community school sites, which serve as full-service community “hubs”, designed to promote academic achievement, personal wellness, and holistic family and community stability through coordinated partnerships.
“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” said Delegate Joseph R. Yost, chair of the VHWDA Board of Directors. “Ms. Smith brings wide-ranging experience in leadership roles at all three levels of government. Her innovative spirit, coupled with her deep commitment to the Commonwealth’s health and health care priorities, is what is needed to further the Authority’s mission.”
As executive director of VHWDA, Ms. Smith will lead the Authority’s efforts in utilizing a multi-stakeholder collaborative model to identify, recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals to successfully create and improve a competitive health workforce throughout the Commonwealth.
“We are thrilled that Ms. Smith has brought her energy to VHWDA and will continue the strong leadership we have had,” said Senator George L. Barker, vice-chair of the VHWDA Board. “I am excited to work with her as we help meet Virginia’s need for a sufficient, well-distributed health workforce, including increasing the number of medical residency positions in Virginia to meet the needs of our growing population.”
Prior to her employment with the City of Richmond, Smith was the Health Workforce Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, and was responsible for the oversight and coordination of health workforce recruitment and retention initiatives and incentive programs for the state of Virginia.
Preceding her employment with VDH, Smith worked as a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she assisted with priority policy initiatives pertaining to nutrition, physical activity and obesity. Prior to public service, she spent over a decade in the private sector in various management positions.
Ms. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in Human Services Counseling from Old Dominion University and a Master’s of Public Administration from the City of New York’s Bernard M. Baruch College, School of Public Affairs. She currently serves as a member of the VDH Advisory Council on Health Disparity and Health Equity, CDC Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Centers: (SIPS) Competitive Supplements Special Emphasis Panel, Richmond Healthy Communities Action Team, and Richmond Ways to Work Loan Committee.
“The Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority is poised to effectively serve the Commonwealth due to the vision and hard work of the board and previous leaders,” said Smith. “I am honored to join such a group of progressive thinkers and count myself astonishingly fortunate to be able to lead VHWDA into its next chapter.”
There are more than 80 licensed health care professions in the state of Virginia, and the VHWDA is working hard to build the health care industry in our area.
In recent years, the Governor of Virginia, as well as legislators, health care organizations and other stakeholders, have made health workforce development a priority by creating the VHWDA. Designed to marry health workforce efforts and initiatives in Virginia, the VHWDA is instrumental in facilitating pipeline development across the full spectrum of health professions. As part of this vision, the VHWDA utilizes a multi-stakeholder collaborative model to identify, recruit and retain a qualified health care workforce committed to underserved populations.
VHWDA accomplishes its mission by addressing nine core functions. The Authority assesses health workforce needs in Virginia; sets priorities for the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program; informs health care workforce policy; promotes strategies for health workforce pipeline development; supports collaborations between communities, businesses, and social organizations to facilitate recruitment and retention efforts; advocates reducing the student debt load of health professionals; identifies High Priority Target Areas (HPTAs) within each region of the Commonwealth; and aims to create innovative health workforce development models.
For more information about VHWDA initiatives and success stories in the area, call 804.562.4928 or visit www.vhwda.org.