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Liz Baxter transitioning from Oregon Public Health Institute

October 5, 2015

Portland, OR-- After leading OPHI through two pivotal years, Liz Baxter is transitioning from her role as Executive Director of the Oregon Public Health Institute. She will be relocating to Bellingham, Washington, where she will continue to consult with OPHI and partners across the Northwest. Throughout her career, Baxter has built a reputation for successfully pulling together unconventional partners for creative and strategic collaboration, reframing the healthcare status quo and approaches to improving community health, and supporting meaningful public engagement to inform policy and improve health equity across the state.

As Brett Hamilton, Health Policy and Program Manager at FamilyCare, put it, “Liz has never been good about ‘following directions.’  She is always thinking outside of the box.” Baxter has inspired countless partners and collaborators to think differently and channel compassion and commitment to impact equity and justice. Steve Lesky of Cambia Health Foundation, remarked, “Liz uses her mad skills to help bring clarity to complicated issues and make sure there are actionable steps so things will happen!  And she does it with a grace and respect I admire.”

OPHI is an independent nonprofit organization committed to building vibrant and healthy communities. The organization works with public and private partners to advance innovative and sustainable policies and programs that enhance health, improve equity, and reduce disparities. Under Baxter’s leadership, OPHI has achieved notable successes in areas of strategic development. During her tenure, Baxter led the organization in:

  • Refocusing and repositioning OPHI as a statewide leader in health equity
  • Moving OPHI’s internal operations from siloed projects to integrated and multi-faceted team-based programs
  • Enhancing communication with policy makers to discuss equity in all policies. OPHI convened community leaders with the governor’s advisors and provided technical assistance to Community Advisory Councils. OPHI also works with 27 Oregon cities through the HEAL Cities Program, and is a member of the Oregon Health Equity Alliance and Allies for a Healthier Oregon.
  • Elevating discussions of important public health issues, on topics such as climate justice, using data for change, and youth violence.
  • Collaborating with culturally-specific organizations, neighborhood associations, social service agencies, multiple school districts, and hospital systems to support community-based change. OPHI is leading work funded by Kresge and local partners to drive investment in East Portland to improve equity - one of only five cities nationally involved in this initiative.
  • Incubating and supporting innovative programs and organizations. OPHI became the fiscal sponsor of the Oregon Community Health Workers Association and housed the Consumer Confidence Project.

Baxter said “It has been an honor to serve as director of OPHI. The OPHI team has grown, independently and together, and has embedded equity and social justice into all aspects of the work in - and with - communities. I have learned something from each and every staff member, and now with ORCHWA as a partner, I see only growth on the horizon. I’m excited for the next leader, and hope that we draw someone with a strong commitment to equity and reducing disparities, and brings lived experience to the work. While my role will change, my commitment to working with this amazing group has not.”

Nicola Pinson, the Chair of OPHI’s Board of Directors, says, “Liz has strengthened the organization internally and fostered important partnerships to advance OPHI’s mission to improve community health. She’s supported the development of an incredibly strong and dynamic internal team, and we’re feeling excited about the opportunities ahead.”

OPHI and their Board of Directors will engage a search for Baxter’s successor this fall. The position will be officially open on October 12.  OPHI is looking for an experienced leader with a passion for improving the quality of life for all Oregonians and who is committed to improving health among communities experiencing the greatest disparities.

For more information on the position, please contact Karli Thorstenson, [email protected] or visit