ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Geovannie Gone has a wealth of experience in the health care field.
Originally from Mexico and a longtime Garden City resident, she had previously served as the chief administrative officer for Genesis Family Health, overseeing the development and implementation of organization and business strategies, community outreach teams, new business initiatives and addressed health equity, diversity and related objectives.
Prior to coming to Genesis, Gone worked as a community specialist with United Health Care in Western Kansas.
“I used to oversee about 32 counties in this area,” she said. “We focused on Medicaid, KanCare. I was able to cross cooperate with different internal agencies such as the Innovation Group and the Rural Leadership Group.”
All totaled, Gone has about 15 to 20 years experience in health care, and additionally, she worked for the Kansas Department of Revenue for five years, giving her a background in finance, fraud, waste and abuse.
Gone has a master’s degree in public health, and she said she has always had a desire to help others.
“One of the things that got me into health care was my passion to be able to help the community and serve them and identify some gaps of care that exist within our disadvantaged minority population,” she said.
Gone also currently serves as a member of the State of Kansas Nursing Board and is an advisor for the Kansas Hispanic Latino American Affairs Commission, and she was recently chosen to be the first executive director of the Immunize Kansas Coalition, a statewide agency launched in 2015 to focus on immunizations.
“Our mission is working together to protect Kansas from vaccine-preventable diseases,” she said.
IKC works closely with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and nationwide partners in other states, as well as the Centers for Disease Control.
Gone said she has been waiting for an opportunity to lead a statewide organization aligned with her skills and truly works together with key organizations across the state to produce results.
“This opportunity came from mutual sources,” she said. “We knew each other. I was given an opportunity to go ahead and send in my resume for this.”
The work of protecting Kansas from vaccine-preventable diseases is important, and Gone said she is glad to be a part of it. She added the need for immunizations has increased more with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
“Immunizations in general are very important,” she said. “COVID brought a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, and a lot of our kids are behind on their lifespan vaccines.”
Gone estimated about 2 million children nationwide are behind on their immunizations because they did not go to their primary care provider during the pandemic.
“Schools were a little more lenient with the vaccinations because of what we were going through with the pandemic,” she said. “I think it is important now that we’re past the COVID pandemic, we focus on those lifespan vaccine efforts, not only on kids but also on adults.”
Gone said she is excited, honored and humbled to serve as IKC’s first director, continuing the astounding work the coalition does.
“One of my recommendations came from Dr. Ximena Garcia, who is the chief advisor for Gov. Kelly,” she said. “That in itself was a great honor for me to have somebody with her experience to give me a recommendation directly to the coalition. I am very able to be able to serve my state and be able to serve the community in general.”
Gone was named to her position Nov. 14, and she said for now, she wants to learn from the coalition.
“I would love to be able to expand the reach of the coalition to other counties and areas within the state that are very rural or frontier,” she said. “I do also want to focus a little bit on the health equity and access to care for those who are uninsured or are within the minority population.”
Flu season is under way, and as Gone begins working as IKC’s director, this is one of her primary focuses.
“KDHE and I had a great conversation in regards to flu season and the possibility of our collaborative project next year to be able to provide influenza vaccines to some of the communities,” she said. “I know our local hospitals and health departments are already doing a great job. We would love to be able to support those efforts in any way we can.”
The Kansas Legislature is scheduled to begin its next session in early January 2023, and Gone said she anticipates being able to sit in on some of those sessions. As for needs from lawmakers, she said at this time, she mainly wants to see what bills will be presented.
“We haven’t had a clear picture yet. As soon as those come out, we’ll revise each bill and set those priorities for our coalition,” she said.
IKC Chair Kelly Sommers said Gone comes from a strong background of health care, community involvement and knowledge about the needs of all Kansans.
“By increasing knowledge and understanding the importance of vaccines and vaccine access, Geovannie will enable IKC to create stronger, healthy children and adults,” she said. “The enthusiasm she brings to Immunize Kansas Coalition is truly a gift to everyone in our state.”