News and analysis
October 13, 2014

Moore Foundation Names Public-Health Leader to Top Post

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation today named Harvey Fineberg, a prominent public- health leader and former Harvard University provost, as its new president after a tumultuous year for one of the nation’s largest grant makers.

The conservation, public health, and science philanthropy controls about $6.4-billion in assets.

"I accepted this position because I deeply believe the work we will do together — the investments in people, ideas, programs, and places—can have an enormously positive impact in the world," Dr. Fineberg wrote in an email.

Dr. Fineberg was provost at Harvard from 1997 to 2001. He also served two full terms as president of the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, before joining the University of California at San Francisco this summer for a yearlong appointment as presidential chair.

Dr. Fineberg will take the helm of the Moore foundation in January. Paul Gray, vice chairman of the foundation’s board, has been serving as interim president since February after the previous president, Steven McCormick, resigned without giving notice. At the time, a spokeswoman for the foundation said Mr. McCormick gave no reason for leaving, saying only that he was "going to pursue other projects."

The following month, the foundation announced a $1-million grant to a fledgling nonprofit co-founded by Mr. McCormick called the Earth Genome Project. The start-up describes itself as a "venture project to create the first open-source database on ecosystems services and natural capital" that gathers information at a local level on measurements like soil quality, water use, and air pollution.

Seeking Systemic Change

Like Gordon Moore, the foundation’s founder, Mr. Gray is a Silicon Valley pioneer, having worked for Intel, the computer-chip company Mr. Moore co-founded in 1968. Mr. McCormick, who was president of the Nature Conservancy during a stormy seven-year stint before joining the foundation, is regarded as a conservation expert.

Dr. Fineberg, on the other hand, has spent his career focusing on what he calls the "core dilemma" facing health-care providers.

"Every society is facing tremendous demands for health that outpace its ability over time to supply the resources that will meet those needs," he told a group of Canadian health-care professionals in March.

Too often, he says, patients die as a result of that gap. The medical community, he has said, must take a methodical approach to improving care. Dr. Fineberg has compared the challenges of health-care providers to those of the aviation industry, which rigorously tests data and management systems to greatly reduce the risks of air travel.

"The way to deal with that is not to berate the individual providers or think that we have to get people to try harder," he told the audience. "Rather, it is to understand the systems and processes of care that lead to those errors and correct them."

Send an e-mail to Alex Daniels.