Akron Children's Hospital Taps Pennsylvania Native As Next President

Chris Gessner, new president and CEO of Akron Children's Hospital
Chris Gessner will take over as president and CEO of Akron Children's Hospital in October. [AustinStudio / Akron Children's Hospital]

When William Considine stepped down in 2018 after a nearly four decadeslong career leading Akron Children's Hospital, the facility looked within and promoted Grace Wakulchik, 64, who'd been with the hospital nearly 30 years. This time it's trying something different.

Wakulchik is retiring after three years at the helm, and the hospital has announced Christopher Gessner as the next president and CEO, effective Oct. 18.

For the past two years Gessner, 54, has served as president and CEO of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. Prior to that, the native of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, spent nearly two decades in administrative roles at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he served as president from 2008-2019. The hospital is part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health System.

In a statement, Akron Children's described Gessner as an accomplished and visionary leader who understands the complexities of the world of health care today and said he shares the board’s commitment to keeping Akron Children’s an independent, free-standing and locally-governed children’s hospital system.

Gessner "led the regionalization of pediatric health care in Western Pennsylvania by building a large pediatric primary and specialty care network – much like we have at Akron Children’s – and those networks are critical to growth, financial stability and improving access to more families in need of high quality pediatric health care," Board Chair John Orr said.

"The hospital is clearly part of the fabric of the many communities it serves," Gessner noted in the statement, "and I look forward to building on that strong sense of community engagement." Gessner added, his father is a pediatrician and "improving child health is in my blood and my soul. It’s very exciting for me to return to the Midwest and have the opportunity to lead this wonderful, innovative organization.”

During the past two years in Denver, Gessner was in charge of four hospitals as well as additional surgery centers, clinics and free-standing emergency rooms.

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