The Trust announced today that Dr. Laura Gerald will serve as president of the statewide foundation committed to improving the health and quality of life of financially disadvantaged North Carolinians. Dr. Gerald currently serves as market medical director for Evolent Health in Raleigh and formerly served as the North Carolina state health director. A pediatrician who was born and raised in rural North Carolina, Dr. Gerald brings decades of leadership experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors to the Trust, one of the state’s largest private foundations.
“I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to help further the mission of the Trust and the legacy of Kate Reynolds. I grew up in Robeson County with a supportive family and community that allowed me to go on to have tremendous educational and professional experiences,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, incoming Trust president and market medical director at Evolent Health. ”I am giving back to the state by dedicating myself, both personally and professionally, to improving the lives of North Carolinians, particularly our most vulnerable and underserved populations. I am passionate about the impact the Trust is achieving in rural areas through Healthy Places NC, and, as a pediatrician, I am also excited about the Great Expectations work to support early childhood development and school readiness in Forsyth County. These are such exciting times for the Trust, and I look forward to leading the team.”
As market medical director at Evolent Health, Gerald leads teams to develop and implement clinical programs that transform healthcare delivery. Prior to joining Evolent Health in 2014, Gerald served as the state health director and director of the Division of Public Health for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
During her tenure as state health director, Gerald provided expertise and direction as the Division focused on its mission to protect and improve the health of North Carolinians. In her position, she oversaw an $800 million budget and 1,800 employees. She laid the groundwork to achieve the Healthy North Carolina 2020 goals, made improvements in overall state health rankings in areas such as infant mortality and HIV/AIDs prevention, and prioritized the implementation of the Community Transformation Grant Project that established a statewide local infrastructure to decrease tobacco use and increase healthy eating and active living.
“Dr. Gerald is an outstanding leader who is an expert in health care improvement, as well as a North Carolina native who understands firsthand the challenges facing rural areas,” said Beth Renner, senior vice president and national director, Philanthropic Services, Wells Fargo Bank, trustee of the foundation. “She has an outstanding statewide and national reputation for integrity and excellence, and we are honored to appoint her as the next president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.”
Gerald will lead the Trust as it continues to carry out Mrs. Reynolds’ vision of improving the health and quality of life of vulnerable North Carolinians. In recent years, the Trust has gained national recognition as a proactive, strategic grantmaker that invests in programs, people and policies that have the chance to lead to sustainable, long-term change in some of North Carolina’s poorest communities, many of them rural. Through Healthy Places NC, the Trust’s 10-year initiative to improve health in 10 to 12 rural communities, and the Forsyth County early childhood effort known as Great Expectations, the Trust is committed to tapping the expertise of the people it aims to serve and building the capacity of local residents to be leaders in their own community change.
“I am overjoyed to see Dr. Gerald become the leader of the Trust team,” said Allen Smart, interim president and vice president of programs at the Trust. “I have known Laura for many years, and she has a track record of demonstrating the highest level of energy and vision toward improving the health and well-being of financially challenged North Carolinians. Her life has been lived with such an authentic sense of engagement with the people and organizations in our state. We are extremely fortunate to have someone to carry out Mrs. Reynolds’ wishes with such dedication of purpose.”
Prior to her recent work, Gerald also served as the executive director of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission, which awarded approximately $30 million in grants around the state annually. She also worked as a pediatrician in her hometown of Lumberton, North Carolina, for more than 10 years after completing medical school. Gerald holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, a medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University School of Public Health.
She is very active in the nonprofit and medical community serving over the years on many boards including Action for Children North Carolina, North Carolina Institute of Medicine and the North Carolina Pediatric Society. She is an American Academy of Pediatrics fellow and an adjunct assistant professor at UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health.
Gerald’s selection is the result of a national search led by Wells Fargo, which serves as the sole trustee of the Trust. Former President Karen McNeil-Miller left the Trust in 2015, and Vice President of Programs Allen Smart has served as interim president since her departure. Smart will continue to serve in the interim role until Dr. Gerald joins the team in early July.