Paul E. Francis

2014 Recipient, Special Tribute

The United Hospital Fund periodically recognizes the achievements of individuals who have had a significant impact on health care in New York and have earned the respect and admiration of the Fund and the broader health care community. This year the Fund is pleased to pay tribute to Paul Francis for his many contributions to New York and to health care.

Known for his intellect, ability to ask tough questions, and drive to innovate and make things work better, Paul Francis has proved to be an invaluable resource to New York’s business, government, and health care communities. Throughout an eclectic career, he has made significant contributions in both the private and public sectors, first as a business executive and then as a trusted advisor to three governors. His understanding of the pivotal place that health care holds in New York State government led Paul to take on leadership roles in that arena, but a recent personal health crisis broadened and deepened his commitment.

Paul spent twenty-five years in the private sector, first as an attorney with two major law firms and then as a banker at Merrill Lynch. He then served as the chief financial officer of the major retailer Ann Taylor, before taking an entrepreneurial leap to become the sixth employee and founding chief financial officer of Priceline.com.

In 2005, Paul accepted a different kind of challenge, and the chance to make a broader impact on people’s lives by becoming deeply involved in New York State politics and government. He spent two years as the policy director for Eliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign, learning the intricacies of State government, and then became Governor Spitzer’s first budget director and, later, director of state operations, a position he continued to hold under Governor David Paterson until after the 2008 legislative session. Paul returned to the private sector in a high-level position at Bloomberg LP—where he worked with one of tonight’s other honorees, Dick DeScherer—but realized that his “heart was still in public service” and left to work with Andrew Cuomo on developing his gubernatorial campaign policy agenda. Paul then led an effort to modernize New York State government, in his role as director of agency redesign and vice chair of the Spending and Governmental Efficiency Commission.

Although Paul had a keen understanding of the wide array of policy issues involved in health care, he developed a deep personal appreciation for what he calls “the miracle of our health care system” when he survived a life-threatening bout with sepsis in 2012. When he left state government a year later, he knew he would continue to work to improve health care from the outside.

Toward that end, Paul was appointed by Governor Cuomo to the board of directors of the New York State Health Foundation, whose grantmaking and convening activities play a vital role in advancing health care in New York. He also serves on the board of trustees of Interfaith Medical Center, a critical safety net hospital in Brooklyn, as well as the boards of directors of the New York e-Health Collaborative, which is building the statewide network for sharing electronic medical records, and of GNYHA Ventures, the for-profit subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association. Paul says he is most proud of his work, in 2014, on behalf of the spinal cord injury advocacy community in New York—helping to restore $7 million in annual funding for spinal cord injury research.

Formerly a member of the United Hospital Fund’s board, and currently a member of its Health Policy Forum, Paul remains a close friend and supporter of the Fund, which he calls “an indispensable think tank dealing with the most difficult issues involving health care in New York State.”

The broad range of Paul’s interests and his committed leadership continue to have a significant impact on improving health care in New York State. Tonight, the United Hospital Fund salutes him for his extraordinary service both in New York State government and in the private sector, in working to improve health care for all New Yorkers, and thanks him for his years of friendship and fruitful collaboration.

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