Nomination letter for Mary Brained, president and CEO, HealthPartnersModern Healthcare Community Leadership AwardAs president and chief executive officer for Minnesota-based HealthPartners, the largest,consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation, Mary Brainerd’s leadershiphas touched the lives of 1.36 million members. An integrated system, HealthPartners has morethan 12,000 employees and includes a care delivery system with more than 800 physicians atmore than 70 primary, specialty and urgent care clinics, three hospitals, a large dental practice,top-rated medical and dental health plans, a large research foundation and an Institute for MedicalEducation.But for all of Mary’s accomplishments, including establishing HealthPartners as anational leader in the health care industry, her biggest impact on people and their healthjust might come from her work outside the organization.Mary has a passion for helping people and that passion is evident by her charitable workand community service, all with the goal of improving lifestyles and lives. This passion,and what she does because of it, make Mary an ideal recipient of Modern Healthcare’sfirst Community Leadership Award.It would take pages upon pages to cover Mary’s charity and community work, so the bestapproach is to highlight two of her lasting endeavors.The first is the Itasca Project, an employer-led civic alliance focused on building athriving economy and quality of life in the Twin Cities metro area and reducing andeliminating socioeconomic disparities.Mary is the longtime chair of the Itasca Project, which is comprised of more than 50cross-sector community leaders from Minneapolis–Saint Paul, including private sectorCEOs, public sector leaders including the governor of Minnesota and the mayors ofMinneapolis and St. Paul, and leaders of major foundations.The Project’s goals are straightforward: build a more competitive workforce, fuel theeconomy and benefit the entire region, not just certain communities.Recently, the Itasca Project launched two new task forces, one to identify strategies forhigher education in Minnesota to drive long-term, sustainable economic growth andprosperity; and the other to assess the region’s job growth position and develop strategiesand policies to promote the retention, creation, and attraction of quality jobs.Mary’s influence is especially significant in one of Itasca’s best-known initiatives aimedat reducing disparities. It came out of a Brookings Institution report that found that theoverall health of the Twin Cities region covers up stark disparities – the reduction ofwhich is important to ensuring continued economic effectiveness. The study looked athow race, class and place disparities impact just about everything: personal incomelevels, jobs, earning potential, homeownership and health care.As co-chair of Itasca’s Disparities Task Force, Mary focused on addressing disparitiesamong racial and ethnic groups; among income groups; in central cities and suburbs. She
oversaw the development of a toolkit called Close the Gap, which promotes practicalsuggestions for employers to help support Itasca’s work.The vision for the Itasca Project is guided by Mary Brainerd, who is not only a leader, buta recruiter as well. Her relationships have helped the Project grow and flourish over thepast five years, creating such initiatives as setting regional performance indicators,helping the University of Minnesota facilitate stronger relationships with business, andimproving early childhood education by enlisting a pro bono consultant to identify areasof potential improvement.Another one of Mary’s difference-making community initiatives is the East Metro MentalHealth Roundtable. Mary had the idea to convene a group of 25 community leaders anddecision makers to accelerate improvements in the mental health community. They dothis through partnerships that deliver high quality mental health services. Mary is the co-chair of the Roundtable, but she actually started the group and rounded up its members.The group meets regularly to both build awareness of mental health problems andgenerate practical short- and long-term solutions and new ways of providing behavioralhealth care. The Roundtable has successfully dealt with, or focused on, such issues asreducing wait times for mental health services, increasing rapid access and short-termpsychiatric services, and increasing awareness and utilization of the services available toresidents.As a direct result of Mary’s initiative, people with mental health issues are getting moreattention and the issues themselves are more open and less stigmatized. She took thetopic of mental health and brought it to the front of people’s minds—people who mightnot have otherwise been giving it attention.While the Itasca Project and Mental Health Roundtable focus on the people, businessesand institutions of the region, another of Mary’s community projects directly helps thearea’s charities. Mary was the visionary behind the creation of GiveMN, which hasrevolutionized charitable giving in Minnesota.GiveMN’s mission is to grow charitable giving and move more of it online. As its firstboard chair, Mary is helping build partnerships and build a strong leadership base for thisinnovative organization.GiveMN.org is a website that features every Minnesota nonprofit. GiveMN marketsgiving opportunities and donor tools to people who care about Minnesota and helps themfind, connect and engage with the causes they care about. The model combines a state-of-the-art national technology platform with local knowledge and trust-based relationshipsestablished by leaders like Mary.The centerpiece of GiveMN is the annual Give to the Max day, the largest online givingevent in the world. Last November it raised $13.4 million in 24 hours. Overall, theorganization recently surpassed $50 million in charitable gifts for more than 6,200nonprofits. This is a huge accomplishment in such a short period of time (three years) andMary Brainerd was a key player in making it happen.Simply put, she led its formation, helping to shape the idea, the business plan and thelaunch. Her valuable leadership has also led the incredible growth.
Here’s how GiveMN’s executive director Dana Nelson characterizes Mary’s leadershipcontributions: “I love watching how she tackles issues head on - with an amazingcombination of grace and tenacity. I feel extraordinarily grateful to have the opportunityto work with her. It seems like every time I turn around, she is on a panel or leading atask force. Mary is an incredible leader; committed to her team, committed to her familyand committed to the general well being of others.”The Itasca Project and GiveMN are two of many, many community projects MaryBrainerd has immersed herself in. A sampling of her current board memberships gives aglimpse into the impact she has during her time outside the office: • MN Philanthropy Partners (Minnesota Community Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation) • Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis • Minnesota Council of Health Plans • Minnesota Life/Securian • Alliance of Community Health Plans • Minnesota Business Partnership • Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Economic DevelopmentHer past board work has included the Guthrie Theater, Metropolitan State University, St.Catherine University and Capital City Partnership.While leading HealthPartners to record growth, Mary Brainerd has also made it a priorityto improve her community through numerous means and countless volunteer hours.While representing her organization, she has also been a voice for many in thecommunity who would not otherwise have one.