Placement Spotlight: Dr. Karen McNeil-Miller
Saturday, December 16, 2023
Dr. Karen McNeil-Miller reflects on her experience working with Kittleman & Associates and some of her proudest accomplishments since becoming president and CEO of The Colorado Health Foundation eight years ago.
Dr. Karen McNeil-Miller’s impressive career has always been centered around helping others thrive. Her work experience spans education, leadership development, improving community health and well-being, and promoting equity. It was her experience leading a health-focused foundation and her passion for championing equity and justice as opportunities for good health that caught the attention of Raylene Decatur, Kittleman & Associates’ Managing Director and Principal for the Denver office.
Raylene was partnering with The Colorado Health Foundation in their search for a new President and CEO. Today, The Colorado Health Foundation believes every Coloradan should have health and well-being in reach, and their work involves working alongside communities across the state, investing in nonprofits and supporting policy change that increases opportunities for Coloradans to be healthy and successful in life.
According to Karen, the timing was right to take on a new challenge. “I had accomplished what had been asked of me in my previous role and I knew I had one more gig in me,” she says.
It turns out that next gig would have a major impact on efforts to address health disparities in the state of Colorado.
As Karen interviewed and learned more about The Colorado Health Foundation, she was impressed by the organization’s mission and impact. She knew that there was potential to make an even bigger difference with a shift in focus and approach.
One of the first things Karen did when she began her journey with the Foundation was to study the existing community health data and identify the biggest gaps in outcomes. It was clear that racial inequities needed to be addressed in order to improve the overall health of the Coloradans. Karen worked with the board to create a new strategy to address unfair and avoidable differences in health. With additional areas of focus, including behavioral health and social determinants of health, the Foundation set out to build new relationships and broaden their reach.
“This pivot to focus on equity was a major shift for the foundation—both internally and externally,” explains Karen.
This led not only to a change in focus for funding priorities for the foundation, but an expansion in the definition of health. In addition to ensuring that all Coloradans have access to the various types of health care we all need to be healthy, the Foundation also supports programs that increase access to economic opportunity and affordable, safe, and high-quality housing.
For example, to help promote economic stability, the Foundation has provided funding to Denver nonprofit Dress for Success, which helps women find positions that offer a livable wage and a career path. To help advance progress toward the goal of increasing access to affordable housing, the Foundation awarded a grant to organization 9to5 Colorado to support efforts to strengthen leadership of low-income renters and mobile homeowners.
Karen’s vision for health and well-being to be in reach for all Coloradans has guided the Foundation to be a community-informed funder and advocate that, as she explains, “listens first, acts second, and then listens again.”
In 2020, Karen’s exemplary leadership was publicly recognized when she was named one of the year’s Most Admired CEOs by the Denver Business Journal.
“I chose this important field of work to be on the ground in Colorado communities and to get closer to those in need—many through no fault of their own—and assist in every way I could,” she says.
Outside of the Foundation, Karen is an active volunteer with national and regional philanthropic and rural health organizations, including serving as board chair for the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), which leads work nationally around responsive philanthropy in communities of color. She is a board member of Campbell University, Center for Creative Leadership, Denver Academy, and Healthier Generation.
“A Different Vibe”
Although Karen had worked with an executive recruitment firm before, she says that working with Kittleman was a unique experience.
“It was a very different vibe than working with a firm that is mostly corporate focused,” she says. “Their expertise and experience working with nonprofits made me trust the information they provided to me, which made the decision to take the job easier.”
Kittleman & Associates is proud of the partnerships and the relationships we’ve forged and nurtured in the sixty years we’ve been in business, and we’re honored to have played a role in Karen’s professional journey. Thank you for helping us celebrate our 60th anniversary by sharing your story, Karen.