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Akron Children's Hospital Taps Pennsylvania Native as Next President/CEO

Chris Gessner UCHealth Headshot 2 of 2.jpg
Akron Children's Hospital
Christopher Gessner will take over as president and CEO of Akron Children's Hospital in October.

When William Considine stepped down after a nearly four-decade long 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.

The hospital has announced that Christopher Gessner will become president and CEO effective October 18. Wakulchik is retiring after three years at the helm.

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, PA 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 UPMC Health System.

In a statement, Akron Children's described Gessner is described 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.

Board Chair John Orr said when he was in Pittsburgh 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."

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

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.