Robert J. Franko, formerly President and CEO of HealthFirst Bluegrass Community Health Center in Lexington, Kentucky, became President of VNA of Northwest Indiana effective January 1, 2019. Franko is a native of Northwest Indiana. He was Vice President for Development and Marketing for Portet-Starke Services from 1996 to 2010. He was Vice President, Marketing, for Marketing and National Training Coordinator for Cherokee Health Systems in Knoxville, TN, for six years before joining HealthFirst Bluegrass Community Health Center. He earned his BS and MBA Degrees from Purdue University.
In announcing his appointment Cindy Kaarianen Tougaw, Chairperson of the VNA Board, indicated his selection came after a national search. “We had about 70 responses that were evaluated before our Search Committee focused on Mr. Franko. His extensive experience in healthcare, his record of community engagement and his experience as a Chief Executive Officer were important criteria that he met. The fact that he is a native of our area and “knows the territory” was a definite plus factor. I’m pleased that our employees and volunteers were represented on the Search Committee. Their perspective was very helpful”
Franko said he was particularly pleased to join VNA of Northwest Indiana. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable organization. I’ve known about it for years, of course, but I see it as an increasingly important component of the region’s healthcare system. The Hospice and Palliative Care programs of VNANWI are enabling people with terminal illnesses or difficult to manage pain and distress to have a higher quality of life than would otherwise be possible. The VNA Meals on Wheels Program for Porter County, the Lifeline Emergency Response System and the Phoenix Center are incredibly important regional services as well.”
During his previous tenure in the region, Franko was active in a number of community and regional organizations, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors of both HealthLink and the Mental Health Alliance of Porter County as well as the Boards of Directors of Housing Opportunities and the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club. He was a surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and earlier in his career he was a sports writer for the Post Tribune and the Northwest Indiana Times. He replaces Leigh Morris, who has served as Interim President and CEO since June.