Bill Wagner, who headed group of health clinics for disadvantaged in Louisville, wins Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Award

Wagner, left, with Foundation President and CEO Chandler

William Wagner, retired CEO of Family Health Centers of Louisville, is the latest winner of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky‘s Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Award, for his work expanding access to care and coverage.

“Bill’s passion for bettering the health of Kentuckians is a perfect reflection of the spirit of the Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Award,” said Ben Chandler, the foundation’s president and CEO. “Dr. Friedell was a passionate advocate for access to health care. Bill’s 40-year career is a testament to his commitment to serving others by expanding opportunities for health-care coverage and bringing medical care to underserved areas in rural and urban communities. He has made a profound impact on the health and wellness of countless Kentuckians.”

Wagner established primary-care centers focused on people who are low-income, homeless, immigrants and refugees, then expanded them to include dental, behavioral health, pharmacy services, health education, outreach and enrollment services.

He was influential in the evolution of Kentucky’s Medicaid program, helping develop the nonprofit Passport Health Plan for managed care of Medicaid patients and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing medical services for hundreds of thousands of children and adults in Kentucky.

He also helped shape the next generation of social workers and public-health professionals through his work with the Kent School of Social Work and the College of Public Health at the University of Louisville.

“It’s an honor to receive the award,” Wagner said. “I accept it on behalf of all the health care providers who work so hard to provide medical care access in underserved areas of Kentucky – urban and rural. They’re the real heroes. I have great respect for them and working with them made my job so fulfilling.”

Wagner retired at the end of 2021, something he delayed due to the pandemic. During it, he worked with non-English-speaking communities to provide testing and education. When vaccines rolled out, Wagner was at the forefront, helping with logistics, outreach, and education, most notably with the homeless.

The Memorial Health Policy Award is named for Gil Friedell, first director of the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky and cofounder of the Kentucky Cancer Registry. He helped launch a nonprofit advocacy education organization in 2005 that later became the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation. The Foundation created the award when it united with the Friedell Committee in 2018.

Wagner and Friedell worked in the mid-1990s to create a community partnership for breast and cervical cancer screening in Louisville’s West End, which had extremely high death rates from those diseases.

The foundation makes a $5,000 grant to a Kentucky nonprofit working to improve health policy in the commonwealth in honor of the Friedell Award winner. Wagner selected Kentucky Voices for Health, a nonpartisan coalition that amplifies the voices of individuals, families, and communities in the decisions that affect the health and well-being of all Kentuckians.

Wagner said he selected KVH because of his concern that many Kentuckians could lose the Medicaid coverage to which they gained access in the pandemic. “Having health-care coverage is key to having access to medical care and living a healthier life,” he said. “I’m concerned when the emergency measures for expanded Medicaid expire, we will have many folks who aren’t sure how to recertify or apply through Kynect. KVH can help fill those gaps.”

Wagner was selected from the foundation’s 2021 Healthy Kentucky Champions, Kentuckians honored for making a difference in the health of their communities or the state. Nominations for the 2022 awards are due by May 20. For more information and to nominate someone, visit

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