Forward Fund: Focusing on the Needs of NH's Healthcare Workforce
April 2022
Forward Fund Q&A
Kim Firth and Geoff Vercauteren
In 2019, the Endowment for Health received more than $1.9 million from the NH Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association (NH JUA). The funds are held as part of the Endowment's permanent corpus, and the earnings from their investment used to support healthcare providers serving medically underserved populations.

A group of 13 advisors help guide the allocation of the Forward Fund’s resources with a 3-to-5-year focus on workforce issues. Since its inception, the Forward Fund has allocated more than $400,000 to research policy and practice barriers to licensure for healthcare workers, assess best practices for increasing clinical placements and convene stakeholders working to improve workforce shortages.

In this Q&A, we hear from Endowment for Health Program Director Kim Firth and Geoff Vercauteren, Director of Workforce Development at Catholic Medical Center’s Network4Health project, on the progress of the Forward Fund and where the work is headed from here. 

Kim Firth, Endowment for Health Program Director

Why was the Forward Fund created and how did you settle on its goals?

The Endowment received almost $2 million from the NH JUA with the stipulation to invest those funds in healthcare providers serving medically underserved populations. To prepare for making the best use of this funding, the Endowment met with the Director of the Charitable Trusts Unit at the NH Attorney General’s Office. We also sought advice and counsel from the Bi-State Primary Care Association and the Legislative Primary Care Workforce Commission. From there, we convened stakeholders to hear their thoughts on how to make the best use of the money.

All these conversations helped us identify investment gaps in healthcare workforce development and strategies to address shortages. Forward Fund Advisors also developed guiding principles for how the Endowment should prioritize projects.
The deep expertise of the Forward Fund Advisory Group continues to help us leverage the greatest change in healthcare workforce development. The group has grown over time and our ongoing partnership is a great example of participatory grantmaking.
Geoff Vercauteren, Director of Workforce Development at Catholic Medical Center’s Network4Health project,

Why did the Forward Fund Advisory Group arrive so quickly on the topic of workforce shortages?

Prior to the pandemic, the healthcare workforce in New Hampshire was already struggling. There were competing pressures on the healthcare industry to find the right people. It has been hard to retain staff when there are more competitive pay rates in neighboring states. Yet, healthcare is the largest industry in New Hampshire and it makes up a significant portion of the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Even before the pandemic placed additional pressures on healthcare, the need for a more coordinated effort to grow and develop the workforce was already obvious. Many barriers prevent us from having a more nimble and responsive system. For all of us as workforce development practitioners, the time has come for a coordinated approach. Think about it. In other states, large industries of all kinds have workforce plans, such as manufacturing or construction. We need that for healthcare in New Hampshire as well.
Good Health and Realized Potential for All