Farewell Letter to the Philanthropic Community

Howard Nochumson

It is with a mixture of deep satisfaction, some feeling of regret and extreme pride, that I end my 36 years as the founding Executive Director of the Washington Square Health Foundation.  As of July 1, 2023 Catherine Kapella, MPH has taken over the role as Foundation Executive Director as I transition for a period of six months as her Senior Advisor. 

First, let me say how much pride I have in having had the opportunity to guide the Foundation, as one of the first 15 “Independent Health Care Conversion Foundations” in the Country, starting in February 1987.

Washington Square’s history and contributions to the health care of Chicago and literally the nation can be found on the Foundation’s website, www.wshf.org.  This history catalogues the amazing achievements of the Foundation, including research studies from the early use of pulse oximeters to methods to utilize MRI’s for the detection of breast cancer, eliminating or markedly reducing the need for breast biopsies, and initiation of the Chicago Diabetes Project, an international collaboration of scientists to develop a functional cure for diabetes.   The Foundation’s medical and nursing scholarships, research fellowships and intern program have been a source over time of much needed health care professionals.  Finally, hardly a community in the Chicagoland area has not been helped by the Foundation’s direct service health/social service grants. Innovations initially funded by the Foundation, which today are accepted as standard health care modalities, include advanced practiced nurse managed clinics, the use of surrogate patients to train medical students and hospice care. 

I have been fortunate to have had a chance over my long working career to experience a wide variety of organizational environments, starting with being the Director of Curriculum and Planning for a large Chicagoland School District, and then Vice President of Club Services for the Chicago Motor Club, which included personnel, travel services and sales force for a 350+ employee organization.  I also had the opportunity to work for a large retail organization as the General Manager of Merchandize Operations and before joining the Foundation, I was the Program Manager for the Rotary Foundation, where I became good friends with Albert Sabin, MD and Jonas Salk, MD through the initiation of the Polio Plus International Health Program. 

However, I can truly say that my experience and success at Washington Square was a result of its far thinking Board and especially its Foundation Chair, James Lutz, who conceived of the idea of an Independent Health Care Foundation and engineered the sale of Henrotin Hospital to accomplish that, at the time a revolutionary goal, and to Angelo P. Creticos, MD, his successor, who as Grant Committee Chair, Vice Chair and President of the Foundation provided me with invaluable insights into the health care system in Chicago and allowed me the freedom necessary to be an innovative and successful Executive Director.  

As I retire from the Foundation’s Executive Director role, I am pleased and fortunate to be turning over the Foundation’s Executive Director role to Catherine Kapella, MPH.  Catherine is immensely qualified to immediately step into the Executive Director’s role.  Starting out as an intern in college with the Foundation, she has progressed over the past 18 years to the Foundation’s Associate Director.  I can say with some “boastful pride”, she has had the best mentor in the field (me) to prepare her for her new position.  Besides being very bright and committed to the Foundation, when I told Dr. Angelo P. Creticos, who I mentioned previously, that I wanted to develop her as my replacement when she was just a Program Associate, he remarked she will be excellent because she has a “good heart”.  He was an excellent judge of character. 

Good luck and much success Catherine,

Howard Nochumson
Senior Advisor 
Washington Square Health Foundation