Get to know: Janet Reilly

Photo of Janet Reilly.

Janet Reilly serves on the board of directors of CommonSpirit Health Foundation and was a Co-Chair of the recent Humankindness Gala, honoring CommonSpirit’s CEO Lloyd H. Dean. She is the Co-Founder and board President of Clinic by the Bay – a free, volunteer-powered health clinic for the working uninsured in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Janet to the University of California Regents for a term expiring in 2028. From 2015 to 2018, she served on the Presidio Trust board of directors, a position she was appointed to by then-President Barack Obama. Janet is currently an advisory board member of the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. Together, she and her husband own the 156-year old San Francisco Examiner, the SF Weekly and Nob Hill Gazette.

What was your first connection to CommonSpirit Health and the foundation?
My first introduction was through Lloyd Dean. I knew Lloyd through the Catholic community and a variety of events and associations we both belong to. I’ve always had great respect for Lloyd and for his work, not just as a leader at Dignity Health and CommonSpirit, but in the health care landscape nationally. When I was asked to be on the foundation board it was an easy “yes” because I strongly believed in the mission and in lifting people up. I was honored to be able to serve.

How did you come to serve on the foundation’s board?
I remember going to lunch with Nancy Bussani [CommonSpirit’s System Senior Vice President of Strategy and Governance] and Fred Najjar [Executive Vice President, Chief Philanthropy Officer and President of CommonSpirit Health Foundation]. I didn’t know either of them well, but what started as an hour-long lunch turned into two and half hours. I loved the work of the foundation board and what they were trying to accomplish. It was so mission-aligned with the clinic I founded 12 years ago. It made perfect sense. Mission is always important but equally important are the people and I had an immediate affinity for Nancy and Fred, and of course Lloyd.

What have you learned as a result of your board service?
CommonSpirit really walks the talk. [The organization] is about providing access to better, quality, compassionate health care to those who otherwise may be shut out of the system. That really impresses me and I love the way that it’s very focused work. Knowing that you can’t set out to do everything, CommonSpirit has defined a specific agenda to focus on areas that we want to address. I love that and I think it’s important. We’re making a real difference.

What role does gratitude play in your philanthropy and service?
I have a blessed life, have been given so many opportunities and have a lovely family and friends. I believe, however, that it is important to be a part of your community. I’ve always been involved in my community. I feel that we all have an obligation to give and to make the world a better place. I wouldn’t feel right if I weren’t acting to help others. 

I am grateful for every day and I know we’re all one family and we’re all in this together and that’s what CommonSpirit believes as well. I always say, talking about my clinic, that a community cannot be healthy unless every member of that community is healthy. We saw that during the pandemic. It was a lesson that played out over the last two and half years. Making the world a healthy place is a wonderful goal. I have a great admiration for this organization, its leadership and the people who work so hard every day.

What excites you most about the next five years for the foundation? 
What excites me most is CommonSpirit and the foundation’s goal of trying to achieve health equity and health justice. A lot of people and organizations talk about it, but I believe we can put our mark in reaching that goal. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all had access to health care, no matter where you live, where you were born, what your occupation is or your economic situation … that we all have access to health care that is competent, compassionate and preventative? That is really the key … that there be an even playing field and that we value every member of our communities’ health just as much as our own. I think we can do it. We’re committed.