As TPCC celebrates a decade of primary care transformation at our 10th Annual Summit this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone by recognizing and honoring an individual for the Texas Primary Care Champion Award that has and continues to inspire us with their resolve, commitment, and fearless leadership to ensure that our quest of accessible, equitable, and sustainable primary care for all Texans becomes a reality.
“Elena Marks is a rare combination of a visionary and pragmatic leader,” describes Sue Bornstein, executive director of the Texas Medical Home Initiative. “Her mantra of ‘health and not just health care’ though deceptively simple has become the north star for those involved in primary care and health systems transformation.”
Since 2013, Marks, founding CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF), has overseen more than $420 million worth of program investments in EHF grants, research projects, community and congregational engagement efforts, impact investing, and more. In the primary care space, she leveraged numerous opportunities, demonstrating that effecting systems change, though daunting, is possible one step at a time.
Texas Medical Home Initiative’s Robert Jackson, MD, MACP, remembers: “We first met when you were the director of health and environmental policy under Mayor Bill White. As Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, you were at the forefront of helping all the refugees. I knew then that you were a superstar when it came to health and public policy.”
“It’s been both inspirational and motivational as I continue my own work in leading THI,” says Ankit Sanghavi, MPH, BDS, executive director of Texas Health Institute. “I’ve really appreciated getting to know and work alongside Elena, for the way she has approached her work and really leveraged her role in not just driving systemic change through efforts at EHF but really supporting organizations across the board in being part of and effecting that change alongside EHF.”
In the journey taken with the partners of TPCC over the past decade, we can honestly say there is not an entity or conversation across our state that has not benefited from Marks’ work at and through EHF. Through this award TPCC hopes to inspire leaders to carry forward the important work started and move the needle on health and opportunity for all Texans.
“She has consistently raised the dialogue and done so with such a clear vision that others follow her readily,” Bornstein says. “She has elevated expectations that in Texas, we can really make a difference.”
Bornstein points to Marks’ work with the Texas Accountable Communities for Health Initiative as one important example. These community-based partnerships formed across sectors of health care, housing, and social services to focus on a shared vision and responsibility for the health of the community. They served as a local platform for bringing stakeholders and residents together to transform systems to improve community health and achieve greater equity on a sustainable basis.
Sanghavi expressed immense gratitude for the role Marks played in TPCC: “I want to thank Elena for her leadership and the transformative role she has played in changing our mindset as a collective in Texas, that achieving ‘health’ is more than just achieving ‘health care. ’You’ve really set us as a collective on a strong pedestal to advance true systematic change in service to our shared pursuit of advancing health and opportunity for all Texans.”
As we reflect on our journey over the past decade, our hearts are full of gratitude for Marks’ contributions and what we have collectively accomplished. However, we know there’s more work to be done. The strength of our work lies in the power of our collective, and we cannot think of a better time and way to mark this milestone.