Vanetta Abdellatif, who has steered the County’s Integrated Clinical Services through sweeping state and federal health reform, Medicaid expansion, electronic modernization and clinic moves, closures and reopenings, has accepted a position as president and CEO of Seattle-based Arcora Foundation. After 18 years of service, her last day at the County is Jan. 21.
In her new role, Abdellatif will lead the philanthropic work of Delta Dental of Washington, that state’s largest dental benefits company. The nonprofit’s foundation focuses on providing underserved communities with access to preventative dental care and dental health education.
“I'm really excited. I have been interested in exploring philanthropy as a tool for prevention since 2010, when I joined the NW Health Foundation Board,” Abdellatif said. “The timing was right. And this gives me a chance to do a lot, and on a bigger stage.”
A farewell party will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the Gladys McCoy Building, Room 850.
As director of Integrated Clinical Services, Abdellatif supervised the County’s 23 health centers, including eight student health centers, in addition to seven primary care clinics and pharmacies, six dental sites, a central laboratory and an HIV clinic. With a $124 million budget and more than 700 employees, the system serves more than 64,000 clients each year — 75 percent of whom live under the poverty line, 62 percent of whom are people of color, and 44 percent of whom speak a language other than English at home.
The system is one of the nation’s largest federally qualified health centers, a designation for organizations that provide affordable and vital health services to those most in need.
“The Community Health Center is a really good spot because of Vanetta’s leadership. She had this visionary approach to how to make healthcare better,” said Adrienne Daniels, deputy director of Integrated Clinical Services.
During her tenure, Abdellatif has helped steer the Health Department through major restructuring and milestones including the introduction of electronic health records. She helped navigate through federal health care reform and local budget cuts, fallout from an election in 2016 that stirred anti-immigrant and racist sentiment, and internal accusations of systemic racism within the Health Department, including serving as co-interim director of the department until Patricia Charles-Heathers was hired in 2018.
In the early 2000s, Abdellatif lobbied the state to retain adult dental care as budget cuts loomed, and she pushed the state to expand benefits for pregnant women who were ineligible for Medicaid, ensuring those women could also access preventative dental care.
“Once they started doing that, we changed our programming and got pregnant women into dental services, because preventing oral disease improves birth outcomes,” she said.
“She has always been the person to push for this idea that you have to make progress towards health equity,” Daniels said of Abdellatif. “That’s something that gives me a lot of confidence in this transition. We have a leadership team that shares that goal and that commitment to continue the work.”
Primary Services Director Tasha Wheatt-Delancy, who joined the County in 2015, has stepped in as interim director.
“It is an honor to step into this position, and it’s also a big responsibility, a responsibility to the community,” she said. “When I think about community and what it means to be a community health center, it goes back to community voice, community involvement.”
Before coming to the County, Wheatt-Delancy worked for more than a decade at Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, first as a program manager and then as director of clinical services at Cascadia’s Garlington Center. Tasha has focused on programs and system development to reduce disparities in the healthcare system. She mobilizes staff and leaders to promote culturally responsive practices that create positive change in communities and to build on the resilience of communities by ensuring healthcare practices mirror their cultural values.
“I feel a deep commitment to ensuring communities have access to care and we have systems that give them the quality of care that they expect,” she said. “That resonates with me professionally and personally.”