Business Leader Spotlight: Shelley Lyford

Shelley Lyford, President and CEO of West Health

Shelley Lyford, President and CEO of West Health

This week, we’re excited to present a business leader spotlight from Shelley Lyford, the President and CEO of West Health, which includes the West Health Institute, Gary and Mary West Foundation, and West Health Policy Center.

In her role as president and CEO, Ms. Lyford oversees the organization’s philanthropy, with a focus on positively impacting the health and well-being of seniors. She has implemented new aging initiatives to make high-quality healthcare more accessible and affordable to aging seniors.

Ms. Lyford played a critical role in establishing the Gary and Mary West Foundation in 2006, which is now the second largest private foundation in San Diego. Prior to her work with Gary and Mary West, Ms. Lyford was a director at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Joan Kroc Institute at the University of San Diego.

Read what Ms. Lyford had to say here:


Hi Ms. Lyford, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us! As President and CEO of West Health, can you tell us a bit about what activities you oversee?

West Health 2Our mission at West Health is to enable 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. West Health brings a unique combination of capabilities to address the specialized needs of seniors.

I oversee our outcomes-based philanthropy from the Gary and Mary West Foundation, which is used to kick-start or accelerate new models of care for seniors; applied medical research at the West Health Institute to validate their effectiveness; and we collaborate with our policy and advocacy efforts done through the West Health Policy Center in Washington D.C. to drive positive change.

West HealthWith 1,000 people a day turning 65 in California, we need to ensure our healthcare system is set up to meet the needs of older adults – seniors who are our loved ones, friends and neighbors. We need to think of their wisdom as a gift, but unfortunately, today they are one of most forgotten and overlooked populations in this country.

Seniors fought our wars and taught our children, yet many spend their golden years struggling to afford healthy food, a safe place to live and access to quality, affordable healthcare. This is a travesty, and our mission is to make successful aging a reality for our nation’s seniors.

What would you say were West Health’s biggest highlights last year?

SLyfordLast November was the 10-year anniversary of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, so we were excited to celebrate a decade of outcomes-based philanthropy in San Diego and throughout the country, having provided more than $175 million in grants to more than 400 organizations—all with a successful aging mission similar to ours.

In 2016, the foundation launched two new models of care to help seniors access high-quality, affordable care in San Diego, including the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center downtown, a one-of-a-kind senior dental center integrated with comprehensive health and wellness services for lower-income seniors, and the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit, which will provide comprehensive, senior-specific emergency care at UC San Diego Health—the first in Southern California.

What do you see for the future of senior healthcare in San Diego?

I would like to see more health and supportive services available where it’s best for the patient—which may be in their own home or their own community instead of a hospital. I hope to see the senior-specific care models we’re working on—like improved emergency care, affordable oral healthcare, better support for family caregivers, and more widely-available home- and community-based care— in San Diego and across the country.

Any advice for young professionals who want to be in your shoes one day?

I subscribe to Will Rogers’ perspective: If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and “David and Goliath” by Malcom Gladwell.

In a parallel universe, what career would you be in?

I earned a master’s degree in international relations and political economy from the University of San Diego, expecting to become a Foreign Service officer and living a life overseas. I’ve always been passionate about public service, giving back and international sojourns. If that didn’t work out, it would have been great to be the very first female NBA referee.