RWJF Names Dr Richard Besser New CEO, President

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has named its new president and CEO. Richard Besser, MD, who will succeed Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, who ran the foundation for 14 years before announcing she was stepping down in September 2016.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has named its new president and CEO. Richard Besser, MD, who will succeed Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, who ran the foundation for 14 years before announcing she was stepping down in September 2016.

Lavizzo-Mourey has remained president and CEO of RWJF and will continue to do so during the transition, with Besser expected to fully take over in April.

Besser is a former acting director for the CDC and the current chief health and medical editor at ABC News. At the CDC, Besser was responsible for the agency’s public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He led the response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009.

“Richard Besser is a superb choice to lead RWJF into the next stage of our work,” Roger Fine, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, said in a statement. “He is a smart, empathetic leader and communicator—someone who can build on the great energy we have been developing around our Culture of Health vision.”

Fine added that Lavizzo-Mourey has left “big shoes to fill,” but that he is confident Besser will bring his own wisdom to the Foundation.

Lavizzo-Mourey focused on building a Culture of Health, among other topics, during her tenure as the head of RWJF. The Culture of Health, which envisions improved health for everyone through access to healthy food, safe housing, transportation, education, and jobs, remains a focus for the Foundation.

“It is truly an honor to be selected to lead RWJF, a foundation so deeply committed to building a Culture of Health in this country,” said Besser. “Working to improve the health and well-being of all Americans is a high calling. Doing it here, with an organization of such stature and credibility will be a great honor and privilege.”