RWJF leader named 2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Paul Keuhnert

Paul Kuehnert, DNP ’12, MS ’91, RN, associate vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has been selected to receive the college's highest alumni honor.

Paul Kuehnert, DNP ’12, MS ’91, RN, an associate vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has been selected to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor given to a UIC College of Nursing graduate.

“Paul’s decades of work in public and community service has been instrumental in helping people lead healthier lives,” said UIC College of Nursing Dean Terri Weaver. “Whether it’s founding a service for people living with HIV/AIDS, creating a regional health system in Maine, or helping to reduce childhood obesity in the Chicago area, Paul epitomizes all the good that a UIC College of Nursing graduate can do.”

Kuehnert has been at the helm of governmental and community-based health organizations for more than 25 years. He was a founder, and later CEO, of Community Response Inc., one of the largest service providers for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area. He went on to serve as deputy director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, then as county health officer and executive director for health in Kane County, Illinois. There, he led “Making Kane County Fit for Kids,” a public-private partnership to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

Kuehnert joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to health, in 2012. As associate vice president-program, he provides leadership for the foundation’s work related to transforming health and healthcare systems.

A pediatric nurse practitioner, Kuehnert holds a doctor of nursing practice in executive leadership and a master of science in public health nursing, both from UIC.

In a letter of support for Kuehnert’s nomination, John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, senior vice president–program at RWJF, wrote that Kuehnert has, “based his success on the firm ethical and caring foundation of nursing.”

“The most important thing that I can say about Paul is that he cares deeply for people he serves and the issues he works on,” Lumpkin wrote. “He has passion and compassion that is reflected in his work, rooted in his education at UIC and honed through work experience.”

Another nominator, former UIC Nursing faculty member Naomi Ervin, commended Kuehnert for his “far reaching influence on the life of communities. … His success in working with communities of color, poverty, disproportionate disease burden, and disparities in health care access sets him apart from the majority of nurse leaders.”

Kuehnert received the honor, presented by the college and its Alumni Board, at the college’s 2018 commencement ceremony on May 10. He will be recognized again during the college’s 2018 REUNION on Oct. 13.