Column: Health nonprofit MedShare getting new CEO

By Maria Saporta
Friday, August 19, 2011

MedShare, one of Atlanta’s nonprofit gems in the field of global health, hopes to become a model of how an organization can transition from an entrepreneurial founder to a management-savvy CEO.

A.B. Short, a serial nonprofit entrepreneur, co-founded MedShare in 1998. About a year ago, he decided it would be best to hand the reins to someone who could lead the organization in its next phase.

“I have seen more than once when a founder stayed too long and lost their vision,” Short said. “I wanted to leave while I was very successful and while I was still loved.”

A national search identified Atlanta native Meridith Rentz, who has been chief operating officer of a national nonprofit organization, Points of Light Institute, for the past two years. She will join MedShare on Sept. 1.

Before that, Rentz served as chief administrative officer for Emory Internal Medicine and with Deloitte Consulting’s health-care strategy and operations practice.

When she read the job description for MedShare’s CEO, Rentz recognized that it was her dream job — combining her interests in public health, volunteerism and nonprofit management. When she got the job, Rentz said: “I was over-the-moon excited.”

For Short, a smooth transition of leadership was critical.

“The gifts of an entrepreneur are quite different than the gifts of a manager,” Short said. “I’m not sure I had the skills to take MedShare to the next level. In Meredith, we have found those skills. I couldn’t be happier.”

Rentz immediately asked Short to stay on as senior adviser to the CEO so he could continue to ease the transition. And Short will help MedShare with its expansion efforts in two new markets.

MedShare is based in DeKalb County, and it also has operations in San Leandro, Calif. Since 1998, MedShare has shipped medical supplies to 88 countries in need. Last year, it shipped 107 40-foot containers to hospitals and medical clinics. This year it expects to ship 132 containers.

As a serial nonprofit entrepreneur, Short has helped establish and build several organizations: the Atlanta Community Food bank, the Community of Hospitality (which developed into a nonprofit focused on homelessness issues); Café 458, the only “by reservation only” restaurant for homeless people; and then the Café 458 recovery program — a residence to help the homeless deal with drug and alcohol addictions. And then there was a four-year stint between 1994 and 1998 when Short was an organic farmer.

During that period, one of Short’s friends, who knew of his Food Bank background, approached him with the idea to establish MedShare.

“There’s the same kind of surplus in the health-care industry, but there are few nonprofits in the country dealing with that surplus,” Short’s friend told him.

So Short explored whether there really was a surplus, whether that surplus was usable and whether the philanthropic community would support another nonprofit.

Hospitals and clinics actually get to order what they need from MedShare’s inventory. Each month, about 1,700 volunteers help sort the medical supplies that are then packed in boxes and shipped in containers.

“The need is so great, and the surplus is there,” Short said. “We are just touching a small percentage of the surplus that’s out there.”

Pace Awards

The Clean Air Campaign will hold its 11th annual Pace Awards Aug. 24 at the Georgia Pacific auditorium. The campaign promotes carpooling, telework, transit and other modes of transportation that can reduce pollution and congestion.

Finalists in the small-business category are Cooper Carry and Booz Allen Hamilton. In the medium-sized business category they are Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP and CCH Small Firm Services. And large business finalists are St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Finalists for property manager are Jones Lang LaSalle for Sanctuary Park and Jamestown Commercial Management Co. for the 999 Peachtree building. Awards also will be given to city, county, state and federal government champions.

McKenna Long additions

McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP continues to build its government affairs practice in Atlanta.

The firm recently announced that Chuck McMullen and Tharon Johnson are joining the law firm as a managing director and senior strategic adviser, respectively.

McMullen and Johnson have been with the Piedmont Public Affairs firm. McMullen served as chief of staff to Georgia’s first Republican Senate Majority leader — U.S. Rep. Tom Price. Johnson served as campaign manger for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

They will be working with Eric Tanenblatt, who heads the firm’s government affairs practice.

Jobs for refugees

The International Rescue Committee in Atlanta has partnered with the Atlanta Women’s Foundation to help refugee women become employed.

The foundation has awarded the IRC $30,000 to help fund a job training program for refugee women, called the “Women’s Instruction for Lifetime Empowerment.”

The program’s goal is to transition the women from being dependent on public assistance to earning their own income. On average, the program helps women become employed within six months.

Since 2009, the IRC has placed more than 60 single refugee mothers into full-time jobs. This is the second year in a row that the foundation has given the IRC a $30,000 grant.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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