Annie H. Lee first became interested in serving in health care when she was about 12 or 13 years old.
“My mom and dad had health care needs,” she said. “I was a kid, just old enough to begin to understand the world, and I wanted to help.”
Today, Lee has been appointed to serve as president and CEO of Colorado Access, a nonprofit public sector health plan.
Lee assumed the role Feb. 14.
“I’m humbled to be in this role,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to building on the great work that’s already happening here.”
Lee succeeds Marshall Thomas, who retired from the post after 16 years.
“Lee is well known locally as a passionate and collaborative leader with expertise in Medicaid and community health,” Thomas said. “I’m confident that she will build upon existing momentum within the organization to ensure those who depend on us receive access to quality, affordable and culturally responsive care.”
Lee has an extensive background serving in health care, intentionally focusing on the nonprofit sector. She served as senior director of Medicaid and charitable coverage programs at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, and prior to that, spent four years working at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Her most recent role was executive director of community health and Medicaid strategies at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
A resident of Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, Lee was born on an Army base in Georgia. She grew up as a military child — her dad was in the Army — but the family eventually made its way to Colorado. Lee is a 1997 graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in west Denver and attended the University of Colorado-Boulder where she earned a degree in political science.
She worked for a small consulting firm right out of college, but around that time, she “had a calling to work in public policy, specifically health care,” Lee said. “Law school seemed like a great idea.”
Lee received her juris doctor degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. While there, Lee enjoyed studying civil rights and health care.
As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Lee and her brother are first-generation Korean Americans. She is the first woman, and the first person of color, to be CEO of Colorado Access.
“As the needs of our members, providers and community continue to change, it was important for Colorado Access to be present and adapt,” said Bobby King, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Colorado Access. “We focused our CEO search to recruit from a pool of health-care leaders, both locally and nationally, representing diverse backgrounds and experiences. This inclusive and thorough approach led us to Annie Lee right here in Colorado. As the first woman and person of color to lead Colorado Access, we are excited about Annie’s leadership and our journey ahead.”
Lee feels honored to be part of a “larger, collaborative movement that is more inclusive,” she said.
“It matters for people to see others in leadership positions who look like them,” Lee said, adding that she herself has had mentors who are women of color.
Being from an immigrant family, Lee said there is a drive to work and to succeed while leaving behind everyone and everything they know. Her accomplishments, including her current role as CEO of Colorado Access, represent that journey, she said.
“That is something I’m proud of,” Lee said.