Akron Children’s Begins 2022 with New Leaders

AKRON, Ohio – A roster of new leaders, a heavy volume of virus-related patient visits and a continued expansion of patient access to local services, including the groundbreaking for a new emergency department, highlighted a transformational year at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

Joining Akron Children’s Hospital was Chris Gessner as CEO. Gessner succeeded Grace Wakulchik, who retired in October after serving in the top role since 2018 and nearly 30 years at the organization.

Gessner previously was president and CEO of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital since 2019 and spent nearly 20 years in various administrative roles at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, including as president from 2008-19.

Closer to home, Dr. Christopher Liebig was named Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley’s new medical director.

Liebig joined Akron Children’s in 2014 and has served as the director of sports medicine at the hospital’s Boardman campus. He will continue to see patients and maintain his sports medicine responsibilities.

Earlier in the year, Paul Olivier started his role as vice president at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. He is the second person to hold the title for the Mahoning Valley location, following Sharon Hrina, who retired in October 2020.

At the top of Olivier’s agenda is overseeing the construction of a $31 million emergency department expansion on the Beeghly campus that is more than three times the size of the existing space.

“Expanding our emergency department represents the continued commitment the hospital has to children in the Mahoning Valley,” Olivier says. “True to our mission, this facility provides additional access to needed services right here at home.”

Construction began on the 34,700-square-foot facility in fall 2021 and will continue throughout 2022. As work progresses, the existing emergency department will remain fully operational.

The new space will include 23 treatment rooms, up from 17; three treatment rooms for behavioral health needs, formerly one; and a second triage room. The behavioral health rooms will be specially designed for patients experiencing emotional and behavioral emergencies.

The Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Foundation raised a record $5.1 million in 2021. Several generous donations from throughout the community helped to fund the emergency department’s construction, which was a focus of 2021 and will continue to be in 2022.

A leadership gift by longtime hospital donor Leonard “Lenny” Fisher was recognized with the renaming of Building A, The Leonard J. Fisher Family Building.

A $1 million gift and naming of the behavioral health center, the Teegan Kamzelski Building, was made by the Christopher Thompson family.

Patient volume started slower than normal in the first quarter, which is typically the busiest time, but got unusually busy from late spring through year-end.

Hospital administrators attributed the uptick to RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and other viruses that it typically sees later in the fall and winter.

Once the omicron variant hit in winter, many areas of the hospital stayed busy including the emergency department, pediatrician offices, urgent care and specialty units.

Other notable 2022 happenings in Mahoning Valley:

• This spring the hospital will have three radiology projects underway representing a commitment of $1.1 million. They include a machine that captures X-ray images using significantly lower doses of radiation; a second ultrasound room; and a new fluoroscopy room.

• Austintown’s ACHP location is scheduled to open a Quick Care service for minor illnesses and injuries in March.