The Foundation funds nonprofit organizations primarily based in San Diego, California and Omaha, Nebraska with a proven record of achieving measurable and meaningful results. We’re passionate about enabling seniors to successfully age in place, with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
By working with our grantees we are making a significant, positive impact on all seniors’ lives. Grantees share Gary’s and Mary’s commitment to our nation’s seniors and positively transforming healthcare delivery for all Americans.
To date, the Foundation has awarded over 400 grants totaling more than $181 million. Key grantees include the West Health Institute; a nonprofit applied medical research organization in San Diego and the nonpartisan West Health Policy Center in Washington D.C. Through applied medical research, policy and advocacy and outcomes-based funding, we focus on studying, developing and advancing scalable, sustainable and more affordable healthcare delivery models that enable seniors to successfully age.
Today, these organizations are actively working with a wide range of collaborators and grantees who share our mission. You can find West Health’s “Hope for Successful Aging” video here, which highlights the importance of its collective work to address the many challenges faced every day by seniors across the country.
Examples of San Diego-based grant recipients include Serving Seniors and the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, a unique community-based care model providing low-income seniors two meals a day and access to more than 25 nonprofit organizations and support services. The Foundation also launched the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center in mid-2016, a state-of-the-art community dental center that links high-quality and affordable oral healthcare with a suite of nutrition, case management and wellness services offered at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, creating a one-of-a-kind, integrated community-based system of care for older adults.
The Gary and Mary West Foundation develops high-impact partnerships with its nonprofit partners to make a significant impact for seniors and accepts grant applications by invitation only.
In her role as president and chief executive officer of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Shelley Lyford oversees outcome-oriented, results-driven philanthropy with a focus on positively impacting the lives of our disadvantaged seniors. The Foundation’s focus is to provide funding to nonprofit organizations with proven records of achieving measurable and meaningful results.
In 2006, Lyford played a critical role in helping establish the Foundation, which is now the second largest private foundation in San Diego. Grantees share founders Gary and Mary West’s commitment to enabling seniors to live their lives on their own terms with access to high-quality healthcare and supportive services that preserve and protect one’s dignity, quality of life and independence. In San Diego, the Foundation supports organizations such as Serving Seniors, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping seniors in poverty live healthy and fulfilling lives and provides holistic clinical and non-clinical social services to seniors at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, which has been hailed as an international model for successful aging.
Lyford also chairs the board of directors for the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, the first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization integrated within the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center which is managed in partnership with Serving Seniors in San Diego. The Center provides seniors in need with access to high- quality, affordable dental care and serves as a gateway to accessing broader health and wellness services and support for older adults.
In addition to these roles, Lyford is president and chief executive of West Health, which includes the West Health Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization headquartered in La Jolla, California, and the West Health Policy Center based in Washington, D.C. Collectively, West Health is leading the way in overcoming barriers to successful aging by advancing or creating innovative healthcare delivery models that improve care and access while reducing costs for our fast-growing, diverse population of seniors.
Lyford currently serves on the Executive Committee of Grantmakers in Aging. Prior to her work with Gary and Mary West, she was a director at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Joan Kroc Institute at the University of San Diego. She graduated from the University of San Diego summa cum laude with a M.A. in international relations and political economy.
As Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of West Health, and also President of the West Health Policy Center, Tim Lash oversees the development and execution of its successful aging portfolio across its nonprofit outcomes-based philanthropy, applied medical research, and policy and advocacy initiatives. This work supports the organization’s mission of enabling seniors to successfully age in place with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
Lash has extensive experience in shaping and advancing innovative and disruptive healthcare models, establishing collaborations across a diverse group of stakeholders and organizations, creating new growth platform strategies, and executing acquisitions/equity investments. Prior to joining West Health, he held leadership roles at Johnson & Johnson and several other healthcare companies.
Lash holds an M.B.A. from New York University’s Stern School of Business, with a concentration in finance and marketing. He earned his B.S. in biology from Union College. Lash also serves on the advisory board of the d.health Summit.
In his role as Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zia Agha advances West Health’s mission to enable seniors to successfully age, living life on their own terms with access to high-quality health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
As physician leader for West Health, Dr. Agha ensures our grants, research portfolio and initiatives are translated into clinical practice, policy reform and scalable innovations. Dr. Agha leads the developmentof clinical research opportunities and brings a comprehensive understanding of the evolving field of clinical informatics such as clinical information systems and population analytics.
Prior to joining West Health, Dr. Agha was director for the Health Services Research and Development (HSRD) division at VA San Diego Healthcare System and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He currently holds an appointment as a part-time faculty member at UCSD.
Dr. Agha also served as director of the San Diego VA Health Services Research and Development (HSRD) division based on his strong research, clinical and interpersonal skills. Under his effective leadership and research management proficiency, the HSRD division experienced exceptional growth in term of extramural research grants, which increased from $6 million in 2007 to $21 million in 2013.
An expert in innovative, patient-centered telehealth services, Dr. Agha was appointed Director for Telemedicine Research and successfully led an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers and engineers who collectively obtained funding for new telehealth projects totaling over $15 million. He has co-authored more than 35 peer-reviewed publications, presented his work international conferences and his research has been funded by VA, DOD, NIH, PCORI and AHRQ. Dr. Agha has also served on scientific abstract review panels, editorial boards and served on study sections for NIH, PCORI and the VA.
A practicing physician, Dr. Agha received his MD degree from Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan and a MS degree in Clinical Epidemiology and General Internal Medicine fellowship in Health Services Research from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
As Vice President, Communications and Public Relations, Diana Campau brings more than 20 years of global corporate communications experience to advance the Gary and Mary West Foundation’s and West Health’s mission to enable seniors to successfully age, living life on their own terms with access to high-quality health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
Campau serves as the chief communications officer for West Health and leads the organization’s brand, reputation and strategic communications activities to keep internal and external stakeholders informed about the mission, work and accomplishments of the West Health entities. This is comprised of the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Institute, the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center and the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Foundation.
Campau has extensive communications knowledge and experience in healthcare, biotechnology and information technology industries with a proven track record of providing C-suite level strategic counsel.
Having held senior-level communications positions at Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Medtronic and UnitedHealth Group, Campau has been responsible for developing integrated, strategic corporate positioning programs designed to strengthen organizational reputation and establish stakeholder trust. She has broad experience in all aspects of communications from media relations, employee engagement, brand management and digital and social media to public affairs, corporate social responsibility and patient advocacy.
Campau serves on the Board of Directors of the nonprofit Gava Kids organization. She earned a M.B.A. in marketing from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN and her B.A from Michigan State University.
In her role as program officer at the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Vyan Nguyen, MD oversees the Foundation’s grant portfolios in support of its mission to enable seniors to successfully age, living life on their own terms with access to high-quality health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.Dr. Nguyen has spent more than four years working closely with grantees and local and regional partners to ensure that the Foundation’s investments will have a strong and lasting impact on the community.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Nguyen worked at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego in the Division of Developmental Services. She managed grants from the First 5 Commission of San Diego and helped build a network of coordinated services for children from birth to age 5 with mild to moderate developmental and behavioral concerns.
Dr. Nguyen received her Doctor of Medicine from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed her Residency in Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
As program officer, successful aging, Brenda Schmitthenner, MPA brings more than 30 years of experience to advance the Foundation’s mission to to enable seniors to successfully age, living life on their own terms with access to high-quality health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
Schmitthenner has extensive knowledge and experience with older adults and persons with disabilities in healthcare and community settings, and a proven track record—both locally and nationally—of outstanding leadership, program development and implementation. She most recently served as the aging program administrator for Aging and Independence Services (AIS) for the County of San Diego, where she spent more than 15 years working with some of the most innovative leaders in the county committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all San Diegans.
Schmitthenner has managed over $20 million in aging grants, including the SCAN Foundation Regional Coalition Grant, the Tech4Impact Grant, the Administration on Community Living Business Acumen Technical Assistance Award and the NCQA Care Coordination Standards Pilot. She also brings extensive experience as a policy advisor for national, statewide and local system integration and improved care coordination initiatives, and over 20 years of practice as a Geriatric Case Manager, Hospice and Skilled Nursing Facility Social Worker.
Schmitthenner holds an M.P.A. from National University and earned her B.A from Pennsylvania State University.
As director of accounting and finance, John Little brings more than 20 years of professional experience to advance the Gary and Mary West Foundation’s mission to enable seniors to successfully age on their own terms, preserving and protecting their dignity, quality of life and independence.
Mr. Little is responsible for the general accounting and finance operations of the Foundation including preparation of quarterly financial statements and investment performance reports, form 990 and related tax returns, management of external audit, and ongoing enhancement of accounting processes and controls.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Little worked as the director of finance at the West Health Institute, a non-profit grantee of the Foundation, and was responsible for creating initial bottom up operating budgets, variance reporting system, and policies, procedures and internal controls for start-up entities. Little has a diverse background and has held numerous positions as consultant, controller and director of finance for both non-profit and for-profit organizations.
Mr. Little holds a M.S. in Taxation from Golden Gate University and earned his B.S. in Business and Accounting from Colorado State University.
In her role as senior accountant of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Gerry Brandt is responsible for performing the daily accounting tasks. In partnership with the director of accounting and finance, Brandt maintains accurate and complete financial records for the Foundation and each of its portfolio areas.
Prior to joining the Foundation in 2011, Brandt worked as a consultant for Resources Global Professionals. During her time there, she provided assistance to the West Health Institute, a non-profit grantee of the Foundation, with numerous accounting duties. Brandt spent the majority of her career at Science Applications International Corporation where she worked for 22 years in various roles in the internal audit, treasury and government accounting departments.
Brandt is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in California and earned a bachelor of business administration in Accounting from the University of Texas at Arlington.
In her role as senior manager, governance, Katie Burrus oversees all governance matters for the Gary and Mary West Foundation. Burrus also contributes to the Foundation and the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, Inc. through various grant related activities and by providing legal support.
Burrus also serves as the senior manager, governance for the West Health entities. In addition to her corporate governance duties, Burrus spent over three years supporting the West Health legal department as its Senior Paralegal. In that role, she supported the Chief Operating Officer in managing governance while also supporting General Counsel with external contracts, intellectual property matters and contract management.
Prior to joining West Health, Burrus worked at PacketVideo Corporation honing her multidisciplinary skills as a corporate paralegal and contract manager.
Burrus is an ABA certified paralegal from the University of San Diego, a graduate from Arizona State University and a notary public.
In her role as operations manager of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Lexy Harshman manages day to day operations and is responsible for grants management, office management, facilities, human resources and supporting the accounting and finance departments.
Harshman also manages one of the Foundation’s three initiative areas, Service Canines and assists in all of the Foundation’s grantmaking efforts, as well as building and maintaining relationships with the Foundation’s nonprofit partners.
Prior to joining the Foundation in 2007, Harshman worked as a Senior Customer Care Coordinator for Standard Pacific Homes.
In her role as program assistant of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Caroline Berger supports the Foundation’s grant activities in a variety of ways including research, grant writing, cultivating grantee and donor relationships. Berger supports the Foundation’s president and program officer assisting with projects and initiatives as needed. In addition to her work with the Foundation, Berger supports the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center in its efforts to provide patient-centered, integrated care and related clinical research.
Prior to her work with the Foundation, Berger served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at Women’s Empowerment in Sacramento, California.
Berger graduated from the University of San Diego with a Bachelors of Accountancy.