The health care innovators profiled in Crain’s 2023 Notable Leaders in Health Care helped Chicago cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and, in some cases, are still doing so, in addition to providing mental, physical and dental health services to an array of demographics. Over the past 18 months, they have launched pilot programs and outreach efforts to address health care access gaps. These include everything from using technology to simplify appointment scheduling; building and offering culturally appropriate telehealth and telepsychiatry services; and offering ambulatory services at health fairs, wellness exams in schools, and fresh produce-based “farmacy” initiatives that marry nutrition and wellness. If Ralph Waldo Emerson was correct when he wrote “the first health is wealth,” then these health care leaders are making the Chicago area a richer place indeed.
On this year’s list, alongside 30 other leaders in health care, includes Bob Fontana. As the chairman and CEO of TAG-The Aspen Group, Bob leads the largest health care support organization in the United States, and its five health care brands: Aspen Dental, ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers, WellNow Urgent Care, Chapter Aesthetic Studio and AZPetVet. In 2022, the organization added 188 new locations, including the TAG Oral Care Center for Excellence in Chicago’s West Loop, a first-of-its-kind facility providing dental care at no cost to underserved Illinois residents. Fontana founded Aspen in 1998; today roughly 30% of dental school graduates join a practice aligned with a dental support organization. Since 2014, he has been executive sponsor of The Healthy Mouth Movement, a program that’s delivered $25 million in free dental care to veterans.
METHODOLOGY: The individuals featured did not pay to be included. Their profiles were written from the nomination materials submitted. This list is not comprehensive. It includes only individuals for whom nominations were submitted and accepted after a review by editors. To qualify for the list, nominees must live and work in the Chicago area and be employed at a health care organization — be it a hospital, health care provider or health insurance firm — and have at least 10 years of experience in the field. They must be involved in expanding the business, services or technology at their organization; promote diversity and inclusion; and demonstrate leadership in professional organizations and civic and community initiatives.