James R. Tallon, Jr.
Recognizing outstanding personal accomplishment benefiting New York’s health care system and New Yorkers’ health is a long-standing tradition at United Hospital Fund. Tonight, to mark not only his retirement but also his enduring legacy, we are especially pleased to spotlight the career-long record of achievement of former UHF President Jim Tallon with a special farewell tribute.
For more than four decades, Jim Tallon has been at the heart of New York’s steady progress toward a more accessible, effective, equitable health care system. An ability to grasp enormous masses of complex data and communicate their meaning, and a talent for reading colleagues and orchestrating agreement among them, made him central to progressive health policy deliberations and collaborative approaches to health care improvement. Those same traits enhanced UHF’s reputation and role as a go-to source of objective information and health care leadership.
The rare combination of intellect and empathy for which Jim is known was honed in 19 years in the New York State Assembly, eight of them as health committee chair and six as majority leader. Ever willing to reach across the aisle—to listen, moderate, and let others shine as he engineered productive collaborations—Jim was a prime mover behind achievements on hospital financing, expanded Medicaid services, AIDS research and services, malpractice insurance reforms, and more, all leading to his 1999 designation as one of 25 leaders whose accomplishments had made “sweeping improvements” in New Yorkers’ lives over the past 25 years.
Over the past 24 years, Jim’s vision and voice brought new visibility to UHF in both State efforts to reshape health policy and in the broader health care community’s steps toward greater accountability, quality, and innovation in service delivery. UHF’s longtime roles of analyst, convener, partner, and supporter of innovation meshed seamlessly with the strengths Jim brought to his presidency. In an era of daunting challenges, diverse perspectives, and major changes in the health care landscape, Jim was a steadying, sage guide, known for engaging policymakers, providers, payers, and consumers in finding common ground and producing workable solutions.
Initiatives begun under his leadership broadened the scope of UHF’s work and reinforced the interconnectedness of our health system’s many moving parts. Among those new programs: the Families and Health Care Project, Aging in Place Initiative, Medicaid Institute, and Quality Institute. It was during his tenure that the Clinical Quality Fellowship Program and a series of “quality collaboratives” were also launched, bringing UHF, Greater New York Hospital Association, and more than 90 area hospitals together to build capacity and advance systematic quality improvement efforts. Most recently, that same strategy brought health care and community-based services together in UHF’s Partnerships for Early Childhood Development.
Jim’s mastery of consensus and coalition building was also instrumental in the development of a number of initiatives that have gone on to major independent roles. At the Clinton Administration’s request, UHF led planning for the National Quality Forum; also “birthed” at UHF was the New York eHealth Collaborative, now a convener and coordinator of the state’s HIT community.
A sought-after contributor to both national and local dialogue, Jim served as chair of The Commonwealth Fund and the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, on the boards of the Joint Commission, Alliance for Health Reform, Association for Health Services Research, and Institute on Medicine as a Profession, on the advisory board of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, and as a member of the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission. He was a member, too, of the New York State Board of Regents, which is responsible for general supervision of all educational activities in the state. To each, Jim brought his “expertise about public programs, and the savvy and skill necessary to make it work,” as one colleague says.
But just as important as his commitment to hard facts as the starting point for all serious attempts to effect change is another of Jim’s hallmark traits: never losing sight of the potential human costs and gains of such efforts. Imbuing every strategic decision, every new initiative at UHF, has been his belief in the fundamental value of effective, equitable, universal health care, and the need to ensure that for the most vulnerable and underserved.
In the world of nonprofits there’s always much talk about values-driven agendas. In Jim’s worlds, his professional and personal values have always been clear: dedication to excellence through rigorous and objective inquiry and analysis, an essential humanity and generosity of spirit, and an optimistic belief that public service can make a real difference. Together, those have produced a record of extraordinary accomplishment and enduring value, touching the lives of all New Yorkers.
Jim, on behalf of all of us here tonight and the many others in our community who have worked with you throughout the years, thank you. May your wisdom, your heart, and your voice resonate across health care and New York for years to come.
Resources for family caregivers and health care providers are available at our Next Step in Care website.