21st Century Pinnacle Leader

Presented annually at the TRUST Forum, the 21st Century Pinnacle Leader Award recognizes individuals who are "trailblazers" in leadership, transformation and innovation in health care.

This award is given at the Forum each year to recognize a great health care woman who has made a difference in our state in health care. This Pinnacle Award shows what a great woman can accomplish in health care!

2021 - Allison O’Toole

Allison O’Toole is the recipient of this year’s 21st Century Pinnacle Leader. As the CEO of Second Harvest Heartland, she has stood out for her decisive decision-making skills during the pandemic. Her firm stand on ending Minnesota’s hunger divide – the inequities that leave Minnesota’s Black, Hispanic, Asian and Indigenous families facing twice the hunger of White families - has shown a spotlight on her work.

Only one day after the governor ordered all bars and restaurants temporarily closed due to the pandemic, Second Harvest Heartland launched Minnesota Central Kitchen. This was an ambitious effort to keep local restaurants in business by tapping their kitchens, food and employees to feed the community. This effort grew to include multiple restaurants and millions of meals. Allison's speedy decision-making that earned her widespread recognition, including Food Bank News’ Food Bank CEO of the Year.

When the pandemic hit, O’Toole had only been on the job at Second Harvest for just over a year. Her decision-making skills were helped by the fact that this wasn’t the first time she had led during a crisis. Prior to Second Harvest, she led the team charged with reviving the state’s health insurance network, MNsure, which had stumbled during its introduction under the Affordable Care Act. Rebuilding the organization’s operations, customer service and outreach programs, resulted in three years of record-breaking enrollment. “I know what to do in a crisis,” she said in an interview for Food Bank News*. “It’s where I do some of my best work.”

A second crisis hit with the killing of George Floyd. As the leader of the region’s hunger relief network, “it’s our responsibility to lead the conversation and think differently about how we distribute food,” Allison said. Second Harvest has invested resources in the data to support more equitable food distribution. “We’re using our muscle to really target the communities that need help,” she said. Given Allison’s background in health care reform, the importance of prioritizing nutrition policy as a means of improving public health was clear. “It was the right thing to do,” she said.

Allison’s work strongly supports this year’s theme for our Forum, Power of Us. While the pandemic has brought professional and personal challenges, it also shined a light on the very real disparities among our diverse communities, including racism and social injustice. The Power of Us is a call to harness our collective power to continue to lead with confidence during these uncertain times. Allison’s work inspires us to join together to improve the health and well being of the communities we serve.

Please join us in honoring Allison as this year’s 21st Century Pinnacle Leader at our annual Forum on Sept 28.

*Excerpts from this article are courtesy of Food Bank News from June 2021

Past Winners

2020 - Andrea Walsh

The Women’s Health Leadership TRUST is please to recognize Andrea Walsh as the recipient of the 2020 21st Century Pinnacle Leader Award for her leadership and commitment to improving health care in the community.

Andrea Walsh is president and chief executive officer for Minnesota-based HealthPartners, the largest, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation.   Throughout her career, Walsh has been passionate about health and deeply committed to making a difference in people’s lives. Today, she leads a team of more than 26,000 people focused on the mission of improving health and well-being in partnership with patients, members, and the community.

Prior to her appointment as president and CEO in 2017, Walsh was part of the HealthPartners senior executive team for more than 20 years. She served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for nearly 15 years and joined HealthPartners in 1994 as senior vice president and corporate counsel. Prior to joining HealthPartners, she practiced law and was an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Health. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and the University of Kansas.

Walsh has a long history of community service.  She currently serves on the Greater Twin Cities YMCA Board, the St. Paul Downtown Alliance, Greater MSP, and Wilder Foundation.

2019 - Jan Malcom

The Women’s Health Leadership TRUST is pleased to recognize Jan Malcolm as the 2019 21st Century Pinnacle Leader. The TRUST established the 21st Century Pinnacle Leader Award to recognize individuals who are "trailblazers" in leadership, transformation and innovation in health care.

Jan was appointed the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner in January 2018. The MDH is the state’s leading public health agency, responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of all Minnesotans. She oversees a department of 1,500 employees and an annual budget of $600 million. This is Jan’s second appointment with the state, serving as Commissioner from 1999 to 2003.

In between her appointments, Jan was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health where she co-directed a national research and leadership development program. Earlier she also helped develop initiatives to strengthen the nation’s public health system as a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Commissioner Malcolm previously served as CEO of the Courage Center and President of the Courage Kenny Foundation following the merger of Courage Center and the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. She has also served as Vice President of Public Affairs and Philanthropy at Allina Health. Throughout her career, she has been active in state and national health care, public health associations and government commissions on health care access and quality.

Jan is a seasoned administrator and is a nationally recognized expert on health policy. In selecting the award recipient, the TRUST looked for a woman in health care who has made a significant difference in the industry. Commissioner Malcolm was at the top of the list.

2018 - Patsy Riley

As the recently retired Senior Vice President and Chief Government Officer, Patricia (Patsy) Riley oversaw the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s government health program business; state and federal public policy initiatives; and interactions with elected o cials and regulatory leaders. She was responsible for more than $4 billion in revenue and 950,000 enrollees; Riley was instrumental in shaping the organization’s diversity and inclusion, health equity and caregiver support initiatives.

Riley has over 40 years of professional experience in health and human services concentrated in the area of government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. From 1999 to 2006, she was President and CEO of Stratis Health, the Quality Improvement Organization for the State of Minnesota. Stratis Health is a non-pro t organization which guides health

care providers to improve clinical and organizational performance. Riley has also held leadership positions with Medica, United Health Group and Aetna. She currently serves on the Board of Managers for the Northern Plains Alliance.

Riley holds a Master’s degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota with a concentration in Gerontology and Public Policy. She was selected as one of the 2016 Women in Business by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In 2014, she was selected as one of the top 35 Women in Healthcare in Minnesota by the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST. Riley was also recognized as one of the top 25 Industry Leaders by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2007. In 2000, she was honored as one of the 25 Most Innovative Women from Twin Cities Business Magazine and earned the Outstanding Member award from the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST. In 2017, Riley was honored by her Blue Cross colleagues as the inaugural recipient of the company’s Health Equity & Diversity Award, which will be named in her honor. This award serves to acknowledge outstanding accomplishments of employees whose demonstrable efforts foster greater appreciation, advancement and celebration of health equity, diversity and inclusiveness in the Blue Cross culture and environment.

Other 21st Century Pinnacle Leader Award Winners by Year:

2017: Dee Thibodeau
2016: Jeannine Rivet, MPH, BSN, RN, FAAN
2015: Nancy Feldman