Jeanne Lillig-Patterson, the co-founder of the First Hand Foundation, died Monday. She was 59.
Lillig-Patterson was the seventh employee hired at electronic health record vendor Cerner, the company her late husband, Neal Patterson, co-founded and led as CEO until his death earlier this summer.
With funding from Cerner, Lillig-Patterson co-launched the First Hand Foundation in 1995 to give money to children for healthcare needs. First Hand has since donated more than $21 million to individual children, paying for surgeries, medications, medical equipment, and travel for receiving care.
The foundation also runs preventative health programs, such as Healthy Kids Screenings, through which elementary school children can receive free well-child screenings. Cerner covers the administrative costs of First Hand, which, the foundation says, means donations go towards the foundation's programs and the children it helps. Now, donors can give directly to the Jeanne Lillig-Patterson Memorial Fund.
"Jeanne never backed down from the complex—and filling the gaps in healthcare for children around the world is just that," wrote First Hand vice president and executive director Melissa Frerking in a statement.
Lillig-Patterson's Cerner roots go back to 1980, just a year after the company was founded. With a background in ICD-9 coding and experience in a hospital admitting department, Lillig-Patterson joined Patterson, Gorup, Illig and Associates in 1980, after responding to an ad. Four years later, when the company was searching for a new name, she suggested "Cerner."
Lillig-Patterson's husband, Neal Patterson, died in July of unexpected complications from soft-tissue skin cancer, a disease he battled for a year.