Health and Racial Justice Advocate Bethany Johnson-Javois Named President and CEO of Deaconess Foundation

Bethany Johnson-Javois.

The Deaconess Foundation Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that lifelong St. Louis health and racial justice advocate Bethany Johnson-Javois, MSW, has been unanimously selected to serve as the next president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis. Her appointment follows a rigorous and thoughtful search led by the Deaconess executive search committee, appointed by the Deaconess Board of Trustees. Johnson-Javois is currently chief executive officer of St. Louis Integrated Health Network (IHN) and will join Deaconess in her new role Oct. 18, 2021. Cheryl D.S. Walker, Esq., will continue to serve as interim president and CEO of the Foundation, a role she assumed in October 2020.  

“Bethany brings deep immersion and experience in healthcare and racial justice, an abiding commitment to serving the people of the St. Louis region, and a unique ability to gather and apply community input to make informed, impactful decisions,” said Rudy Nickens, chair of the Board of Trustees at the Deaconess Foundation. “Bethany’s career has been one of progressive responsibility and leadership, often in the face of complex and challenging environments. There is no doubt that she is the right person for the job.”

Johnson-Javois was a member of the Deaconess Foundation Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2018, serving on both the grants & program and policy & advocacy committees. During her service, she was instrumental in guiding the Foundation’s commitment to community capacity building and providing citizens with the resources needed to shift public policy and change systems to advance child well-being in St. Louis. She also served as co-chair of the Deaconess’ Community Advisory Board during her tenure; her efforts in this role helped to amplify the voices of affected communities which then informed the Foundation’s approach to promoting child well-being as a priority for the St. Louis region. Given her integral engagement with Deaconess over the years, Johnson-Javois is richly familiar with and dedicated to fully realizing Deaconess’ mission and vision. In the spirit of its faith heritage, the mission of Deaconess Foundation is the improved health of the Metropolitan St. Louis community and its people. The Foundation envisions a community that values the health and well-being of all children, and gives priority attention to the most vulnerable and knows this community only thrives if the allocation of power and distribution of resources, benefits, opportunities and burdens are not predictable by, nor predicated on race. 

“My purpose, guided by the same spiritual and moral imperative that guides Deaconess, is to mobilize people, policy and power for the health and healing of underserved communities,” said Bethany Johnson-Javois. “I am honored at the opportunity to serve not only today’s children, but tomorrow’s children on both sides of the Mississippi River with a systems-change, catalytic approach. I thank the Board of Trustees for empowering and entrusting the appointed search committee to lead the selection process and ultimately for choosing me, and the Metropolitan St. Louis community for embracing me throughout my career. We have a lot of important work to do – but I can say with confidence that the future is bright for our region’s youth.” 

Johnson-Javois will bring robust leadership, convening, and advocacy experience; deep faith and spiritual roots; and a steadfast commitment to the health and well-being of the Metropolitan St. Louis community to Deaconess. She comes to the organization from IHN, the nonprofit network comprising all founding Federally Qualified Health Centers, major health care systems, public health departments, and academic medical institutions in the St. Louis region, working to improve quality, access, and affordability of healthcare for the medically underserved. As CEO of IHN since 2009, she has managed the network’s $4 million budget, developed staff, and created initiatives in collaboration with partners to reach more than 200,000 patients, including Black mothers and justice-involved young adults. She was named St. Louis Children’s Hospital 2015 Community Advocate of the Year.

Johnson-Javois has been a longtime champion of racial justice and equity initiatives; she was managing director of the Ferguson Commission, launched in 2014 as a response to civil unrest following the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. She was appointed by former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to serve on the Ferguson Commission but was quickly recruited to serve as the managing director and accepted the challenge to direct the internationally recognized initiative, convening thousands of participants to shape and develop policy recommendations centered around the foundational concept of advancing racial equity. She documented the Commission’s process so that its model of large-scale citizen engagement and involvement in setting people-centered public policy priorities could serve as a blueprint for cities in the future. Following the Commission’s recommendations, her collaborative advocacy led to the launch of Forward Through Ferguson, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charged with catalyzing lasting change and advancing equitable systems.

Human-centered public health initiatives that tend to the mind, body, and spirit have always been a passion for Johnson-Javois, powered by her faith. As chief of staff of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, Johnson-Javois steered the design and implementation of the region’s first holistic, consumer-centered behavioral health transformation efforts to address critical gaps in services.

“The Board made an excellent choice in selecting Bethany to lead Deaconess at this point in our journey,” said Cheryl D.S. Walker, interim president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “We couldn’t be more excited about welcoming her, as an already valued and respected member of the Deaconess community, back to the Foundation in the leadership role. Bethany exudes a deep and abiding care for people in everything she does, and her commitment to the well-being of young people in particular shines through.”

Johnson-Javois currently resides in Southern Illinois. She is a native of University City in Missouri with familial roots, dating back to the early 1900s, in the oldest Black community to be incorporated in the state of Missouri, the City of Kinloch. She is an award-winning leader committed to the St. Louis metropolitan area. Johnson-Javois received her bachelor of science degree in international business management from Missouri State University and her MSW degree from Washington University. She is associate pastor of her parents’ founding ministry, Monument of Faith, a licensed evangelist missionary and former national health initiative leader in the Church of God in Christ.

Since its beginning as a hospital and now as a foundation, Deaconess has woven the talents of faith leaders, community organizers, young adult servant leaders, grant partners, and volunteers together to respond to the needs of the St. Louis community and its most vulnerable persons. Johnson-Javois’ appointment brings full circle Deaconess’ mission and vision: the improved health of the Metropolitan St. Louis community and its people and the attainment of child and youth well-being. Johnson-Javois will be the third president and CEO in the Foundation’s storied history.

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