Prevention: the new
Akron Children’s Hospital CEO William H. Considine knows that for our children to grow up to be healthy adults, it will take more than just emergency rooms fixing broken bones and treating infections.
Akron Children’s is part of a movement taking place across the country to shift from treating illnesses and injuries to preventing them.
Considine is marking 45 years in health care administration, 35 of those as president and CEO of Akron Children's Hospital. That makes him the longest-serving children’s hospital CEO in the country.
A member of the first class to earn master’s degrees in health administration from Ohio State in 1971, Considine knows it takes the entire community to keep a child on a lifelong path of wellness.
What was the career path that led you to Akron Children’s Hospital?
As the student government president at The University of Akron, I had the opportunity to meet Roger Sherman, then CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital. He invited me to the hospital, introduced me to some people and suggested that I consider a career in hospital administration.
After that, I did a little research and read an article in Fortune magazine that talked about the 10 most up-and-coming career opportunities. No. 3 on the list was hospital and health care administration. Then I heard that Ohio State was getting ready to start a program. There were only a handful of programs in the country that were master’s programs in hospital administration. I was selected to be one of the eight people in the first class at Ohio State.
So, really, I had not planned to be in hospital administration. I didn’t even know what it was. But in a fortuitous way — because of being involved in extracurricular activities, in being active outside the classroom, those good things — the opportunity came my way. I've been extremely fortunate and the Ohio State educational experience was a very rich one.
Akron Children’s Hospital started in the community as a child care program before day care was an established service. Has this influenced your decision to do so many community-based health programs?
Community-based initiatives are extremely important to any organization. When you look at our mission statement, “community” stands out. Our shareholders, if you want to use that terminology, are the community that we’re privileged to serve, the families we’re privileged to serve.
We learn and work with churches and neighborhood groups and other organizations that interact with children, health departments, child agencies, community service providers … the list goes on and on and on. When you do that, you can really assess what the needs are in a community and, in a collaborative way, try to approach those needs.
Immunizations are an important part of preventive care. How do you feel about the debate around parents’ right not to vaccinate their children?
I think the discussion is a must. Some of the pushback that’s come from the vaccine conversation recently has, again, brought to light the conversation. The conversation is really good to have because you have to re-educate every generation.
I came through an era as a child when polio was an epidemic. And the country became collectively focused. The schools were part of a strategy, the doctors’ offices were a part, the government was a part of the focus. Everything was aligned and we eradicated polio.
The literature and the data are overwhelming in terms of the dollars saved and the lives saved and enhanced through vaccine. There are no if, ands or buts about it: Vaccines save lives.
What lies ahead? What challenges in health care will be emerging in the next 10 years?
We need to do something about obesity. Infant mortality and mental and behavioral health issues are also top priorities. Some of our children live in poverty, witness violence and don’t have the support systems they should have. Bullying, depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse are real problems in too many young lives.
We need to make sure access is there for all children — access to primary care as well as pediatric specialists. In some cases, the school nurse may be a child’s only contact with a health care provider.
What do you love most about pediatric health care administration?
I have benefited from a lot of wonderful role models: parents, teachers and all the caregivers whom I’ve had the privilege of working with as well as the lessons I’ve learned from the children who come through the doors of our hospital. That’s priceless.
I’ve learned more through the strength and courage young children show in the face of debilitating disease. Their eyes actually get brighter when they become the caregiver. They worry about their mom. They worry about their dad. They worry about their siblings. They worry about their doctors. And if an 8- or 9-year-old can do that, then I have an obligation to pick up my pace.