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Laurie Francis, executive director of Partnership Health Center, has announced she will step down from her position at the end of October. Francis has led Partnership Health Center, a nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center and division of Missoula County, since August 2017.  PHC’s patient-led Board of Directors has appointed a transition steering committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

“Laurie’s departure simultaneously brings feelings of sadness and profound gratitude,” said John Crawford, chair of PHC’s Board of Directors. “While we are sad to lose such a fantastic leader, the PHC Board thanks Laurie for her remarkable contributions to the organization, our patients and the communities we serve. She leaves PHC in a state of tremendous strength and we are poised to continue building on her great work as we enter a bright new chapter for this organization.”

Francis has spent the bulk of her career innovating in health care to increase access and improve outcomes for medically underserved populations. Before coming to PHC, she founded and led Community Health Partners, a Federally Qualified Health Center in the Bozeman area.  

Under her leadership, Partnership Health Center has received several awards including Employer of Choice Awards from the Missoula Job Service Employers’ Council in 2019 and 2022, and Best Health Care Provider from the Missoulian’s 2021 Best of Missoula competition.  Notable changes at PHC during Francis’ tenure as executive director include:

  • Implementation of a strategy that elevates the importance of health equity, joy at work and innovation in pursuit of the PHC mission
  • Opening of a satellite clinic inside Missoula Food Bank and Community Center in partnership with the City of Missoula and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency
  • Expansion of the PHC Innovations Department to address key variables that affect health and wellbeing including housing, racism and poverty
  • Creation of the Mobile Support Team, a behavioral health crisis intervention team led by the Missoula Fire Department and formed and operated in partnership with Missoula County and the City of Missoula
  • Initiation of the Community Care Team, a mobile health care support team that provides medical, nursing and housing assistance services to people experiencing houselessness in Missoula
  • A complete overhaul of the PHC logo and branding with the newly formed Communication Division
  • Creation of a Staff Engagement Department to advance organizational culture and the PHC commitment to joy at work
  • Maintenance of access to care during COVID and ongoing growth, and, in partnership with Missoula County, the administration of more than 17,000 COVID-19 vaccines in the county

Francis has worked closely with the Missoula County commissioners to enhance health outcomes across the county. She is recognized as a leading voice in health care innovation, the use of data to drive positive outcomes and methods for creating a supportive workplace culture.   

“Laurie isn’t afraid to tackle big, complicated challenges, and thousands of Missoula County residents have access to high-quality, affordable and patient-centered healthcare thanks to her thoughtful approach,” County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said.  “Simply put, Partnership Health Center is the innovative, forward-thinking healthcare provider it is today because of her leadership.” 

Local medical leaders also celebrate Francis’ accomplishments and impact. 

“Laurie has been instrumental in Missoula’s ongoing efforts to address and minimize health disparities among poor and vulnerable populations,” Providence Montana Chief Executive Joyce Dombrouski said. “Her work leading a Federally Qualified Patient-Centered Medical Home has been significant in addressing the principles of health, equity and justice to all members of our community. Since 2019, she has volunteered countless hours of leadership and service on our Providence Montana Community Ministry Board, partnering with us to improve quality and patient safety. I’m proud to call Laurie a friend and would like to publicly thank her for her commitment to providing quality health care to everyone.”

The PHC Board of Directors recently appointed a transition steering committee to conduct a national search for Francis’ replacement.  PHC board member Jil Dunn has been appointed chair of the committee, which is comprised of PHC board members, PHC leadership staff and the Missoula City-County health officer.  

The committee plans to advertise for the position for six weeks and anticipates initial candidate screens will start in June.   

Finalists for the position will meet with leaders of key community partner organizations, who will then provide feedback on the candidates to the PHC Board of Directors. PHC staff, patients and members of the general public will also have opportunities to meet finalists. The full PHC Board of Directors will make the final decision at their August or September board meeting. 

After 5 years at the helm of PHC, including leading 250 staff and 16,000 patients through the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis says she is grateful for her time at PHC and is excited for the next stage of her career.   

“At this point, PHC lives in my DNA and come October I will leave with love, sadness, and a deep sense of gratitude in my soul,” Francis said.  “None of our impact has occurred without the engagement of a committed board, an incredible leadership team, 250 outstanding PHC staff members, the dynamic Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana and strong partners. We are an organization full of mission-driven humans who form powerful teams and I am indescribably grateful for all we do. As far as my next steps, I hope to have a few months of rest and quality time with my family before finding the next opportunity for me to continue to contribute to social justice.”  

Francis added she is excited to watch PHC continue promoting heath equity and health justice for all under new leadership.  

“I’ve been in health care for over 25 years, and this group of people – the board, the staff, the patients, the community partners – is ridiculously smart, compassionate and mission-driven,” Francis said. “This is a special place, and I’m excited to watch them continue to grow and improve in their pursuit of health justice for all.”  

News media can contact Eric Halverson at halversone@phc.missoula.mt.us or 406-258-4361 for more information.   

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