Diabetes Forecast

Hello, New CEO

The American Diabetes Association welcomes Kevin L. Hagan

By Kelly Rawlings ,
elizabeth and kevin hagen with children at orphanage in africa

Elizabeth (navy shirt) and Kevin L. Hagan (green shirt) have been visiting with some of the children served at Feed the Children legacy orphanages.

Readers of Diabetes Forecast magazine, you’re among the first to greet the new chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association.

On June 1, the Association welcomes Kevin L. Hagan to lead our venerable 75-year-old organization. Hagan, 42, joins the Association from Feed the Children. His wife, Elizabeth, is a pastor. She says she is excited about supporting his work at the ADA, just as she did during his tenure at Feed the Children.

The Leader

During his career, Hagan has been known for his strategic leadership. He has served for the past three years as the chief executive officer and president of Feed the Children, a $600 million global nonprofit that works to ensure that kids don’t go to bed hungry. Before that, he drove operational transformation at Good360, a $400 million nonprofit organization that channels in-kind product donations to other nonprofits. Earlier in his career, Hagan worked at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters in human resources management, focused on employee conflict management programs and executive development and training.

To many, Hagan is known as self-deprecating, fueled by faith, and focused on the future. The Association’s Board Chair, Janel L. Wright, JD, says that Hagan’s strategic and analytical skills were appealing during the CEO search. “He’s a change maker. He’s able to go into a setting, analyze it, and modify it right away for positivechange,” she says.

Those who know Hagan best say he’s smart, but humble. “Kevin has an ability to allow—to empower—everyone to bring their A+ game,” says Kim Baich of Feed the Children.

Now he’s ready to focus on diabetes. He finds the statistics shocking: “This is an epidemic,” he says. “It cannot be ignored. Diabetes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.” He wants to elevate awareness on both the public and personal levels. He knows about the gaping racial and economic disparities in diabetes care and outcomes.

Personally, the disease has cut a wide swathe in Hagan’s family. He counts many family members with diabetes—his parents, grandparents, uncle, and brother-in-law.  

About eight years ago, Hagan had his own wake-up call. He was out of shape, on two blood pressure medications, and heard the diagnosis: prediabetes. His doctor advised him to take crucial steps—more exercise, smarter food choices. Making those changes is hard, Hagan acknowledges. “It continues every single day,” he says. “But I have a great network around me, people who care for me and help me make wise choices.”

Family, says Hagan, is critical for helping to change the face of the disease. “Diabetes is not just an individual disease. It’s a family issue,” he says.

The Listener

When asked what he will do on arriving at the ADA, “listen” is his first response. “Without listening to families who struggle with the affects of diabetes each day, doctors who treat them, and researchers who are seeking to find a cure, I will not understand the most pressing challenges faced by those in the community,” he says.

Hagan’s definition of the “American diabetes family” includes longtime volunteers, dedicated donors, health care professionals, and researchers. “I want to hear about their needs and desires, what they want in terms of assistance, information, and education,” he says. For example: “If you’re a 20-year-old college student with a grandma who has diabetes, you have different needs in terms of information and how you access that information than does a 60-year-old person living with it.”

The goal, Hagan says, is to forge with donors a deep connection to and alignment with our mission, and provide them exceptional service. “Too often, nonprofits look at donors as ‘How can they help us?’ But it’s very much a relationship.”

The Learner

One of Hagan’s guiding life principles is “never stop learning.” He’s a strong advocate for building learning organizations that take risks. “We can’t grow if we aren’t trying new things,” Hagan says. “Might we fail? Of course, but the real question is: Are we learning from our mistakes? Are we talking about them with one another? And are we charting better courses of action based on what we learn?”

In recent years, Hagan says he has sought out opportunities to learn from some of the strongest business and nonprofit leaders in the country. For example, in 2013, he participated in a leadership strategy program at Harvard University along with 50 other nonprofit colleagues from around the world. He counts the lessons he learned as game changers  for his time at Feed the Children.

Most of all, Hagan says he knows he has a lot to learn about the state of American diabetes, but he’s excited to get started and learn as fast as he can. “Kevin told us he’s always been known as a guy with crazy ideas. He says he often gets pushback, but 95 percent of his ideas work,” Wright says. She and the Board ask you to be prepared when Hagan asks you for ideas to move the ADA forward. “He will be completely and totally interested in listening to you,” she says.



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