As chief executive officer of West Health and chair of the board of directors for the Gary and Mary West Foundation, the West Health Institute and the West Health Endowment, Shelley Lyford shapes the organizations’ overall direction, guides high-impact grantmaking, and develops strategies to improve the lives of seniors in America.
Solely funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, West Health is dedicated to lowering healthcare costs 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 is a family of nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations including the Gary and Mary West Foundation and the West Health Institute, in San Diego, CA and the West Health Policy Center in Washington, DC. Together, these organizations work in unison, combining applied medical research, policy, advocacy and outcomes-based grantmaking to advance successful aging.
Lyford was instrumental in establishing the Gary and Mary West Foundation in 2006. Under her leadership for the past 16 years, the Gary and Mary West Foundation has awarded nearly $250 million to high-impact organizations improving the lives of seniors, their families and caregivers. As CEO and Chair, Lyford leads the foundation’s seminal successful aging work. The Gary and Mary West Foundation is one of only several foundations in the country solely dedicated to aging. Additionally, Lyford is the CEO and Chair of the West Health Institute, which conducts groundbreaking applied and translational medical research. The data generated by the Institute provides the evidence needed for healthcare providers, policymakers, and communities to make more informed decisions about advancing high-quality, affordable healthcare delivery models and support services.
Lyford’s vision has led to the development of several innovative healthcare programs that now serve as national models of excellence. These flagship programs and organizations include California’s first nationally accredited, senior-specific emergency department, the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit at UC San Diego Health, and Gary and Mary West PACE in north San Diego, a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) which is the gold standard of care helping seniors to age in place, in the communities that matter to them. Lyford also oversaw the development and now serves as the chair of the first-of-its-kind nonprofit Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, which ensures low-income seniors have access to high-quality, affordable dental care integrated with wraparound health and wellness services. These and other models of care are supported by various research initiatives with key collaborators including the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Geriatrics Society, Brown University, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Duke University, Meals on Wheels America, Mount Sinai Health System, UC San Diego Health, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2019, Lyford was appointed for a three-year term as a commissioner on the California Commission on Aging, advising the state’s governor and legislature, along with federal, state and local agencies, on issues, policies and regulations that affect California’s seniors. She was subsequently appointed to California’s Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee. Prior to these appointments, Lyford played a critical role in launching a statewide public awareness campaign called “We Stand With Seniors,” which brought aging to the forefront of the 2018 California gubernatorial race.
Under her direction, the Gary and Mary West Foundation was one of the 10 founding organizations behind Civica Rx, the nation’s first not-for-profit generic drug company helping patients by addressing generic drug shortages and lowering the high prices of lifesaving medications. Lyford continues to safeguard the company’s not-for-profit social welfare mission by serving as vice-chair of the board of directors. She is also director of the Civica Foundation, which fosters philanthropic support to manufacture and distribute affordable generic medications, and also acts as an advisor to Civica Scripts, an organization dedicated to bringing lower-cost generic medicines directly to consumers in hospital or retail pharmacies.
Lyford is the co-leader of the West Health Investment Committee and acts as a primary liaison with Northern Trust and Summit Rock Advisors. She is also a member of the Limited Partner Advisory Committee of Martis Capital.
A dedicated San Diegan, Lyford serves as a board director of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, where she promotes San Diego as a center for medical research. She is also an advisor to the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Lyford holds a master’s degree in international relations and political economy from the University of San Diego. She grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and resides in Encinitas, CA. An avid animal lover, traveler, and sports enthusiast, she enjoys running, golfing, skiing, riding horses, and playing basketball.