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HL20: Jeffrey A. Parker—Making Margin While Serving the Poor

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2013

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Jeffrey A. Parker.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

"There's enough money if you run it properly."

Ten years ago, Jeff Parker, after a successful career as a high-level executive at ConAgra Foods, General Foods Corp., and Sara Lee, found himself retired to a South Florida barrier island where, as he puts it, he spent his time "getting older but still wanting to contribute to society."

He decided to put some of his money to good use by endowing a scholarship for 75 students and shortly thereafter became an executive in residence at his alma mater, Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He occupied that chair, but he still wasn't scratching the itch of entrepreneurship and he was disillusioned after helping at least a couple of people at the university's entrepreneurial center develop successful businesses. He never heard from them again.

"Later, I was asked by a dentist to look at and offer some advice for an underperforming, nonprofit dental center for Medicaid children in Anniston, Ala."

Before he knew it, the founder of what was then known as the Calhoun County Dental Center, a retired cardiologist named Warren Sarrell, asked him to lead the nonprofit. He accepted and became CEO.

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