National initiative strengthens the leadership capacity of Medicaid directors to deliver high-quality, equitable, and cost-effective health care services.

Hamilton, NJ, September 27, 2021 – The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) today announced that six Medicaid directors — from Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania — have been competitively selected to participate as fellows in the 11th class of the Medicaid Leadership Institute (MLI). Since 2009, CHCS has directed this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded initiative, which offers a unique opportunity for Medicaid directors and their key staff from across the country to enhance the skills and expertise necessary to successfully lead their Medicaid programs, impact key health outcomes, and advance health equity.

“Medicaid directors across the country are in the driver’s seat to foster innovations that improve health care delivery to people who use Medicaid, many of whom face social and economic factors that negatively impact health,” said Don Schwarz, senior vice president, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Our commitment to leadership development for these state officials helps promote innovative thinking to center health equity and strengthen collaboration across state government, public health, and community organizations, all critically needed in our current environment.”

Medicaid directors chosen for the MLI Class of 2022 are:

  • Renee Gayhart, Alaska
  • Kelly Cunningham, Illinois
  • Elizabeth Matney, Iowa
  • Lisa Lee, Kentucky
  • Kevin Bagley, Nebraska
  • Sally Kozak, Pennsylvania

This new class of MLI marks the 11th group of Medicaid directors chosen for this prestigious executive training opportunity. With this new class, 65 directors from 41 Medicaid agencies have participated in the program since 2009. It is directed by Mark Larson, senior vice president at CHCS, former Vermont Medicaid director, and Class of 2014 MLI Fellow.

“Medicaid directors play a critical role in driving positive change across our health care system, including addressing the lasting challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Larson. “We are excited to support this year’s class of six dedicated Medicaid directors and their teams in leading their programs, which are so critical to the well-being of millions of our neighbors in America.”

“The National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) has partnered with MLI since 2009 to invest in state leaders who are integral to the health of the nation,” said Jami Snyder, NAMD Board President; Director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System; and Class of 2018 MLI Fellow. “Many of those in NAMD leadership roles, myself included, are proud MLI alumni. We value both the comprehensive skill development and relationship building fostered through MLI. We look forward to working with this next class of fellows as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the country’s health care delivery system.”

During the 10-month-long program, fellows will gain skills in key areas, including fostering delivery system innovation, leading effective multi-sector collaboration, advancing health equity for Medicaid enrollees, engaging key stakeholders, communicating the impact of their programs, and developing leaders of the future. For more information about MLI, visit

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at


The Center for Health Care Strategies is a policy design and implementation partner devoted to improving outcomes for people enrolled in Medicaid. We support partners across sectors and disciplines to make more effective, efficient, and equitable care possible for millions of people across the nation. For more information, visit