Christopher A. Gessner will be the next president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital, effective Oct. 18. Gessner has been president and CEO of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital since 2019 and will succeed Grace Wakulchik, who is retiring.

Gessner spent nearly two decades in administrative roles at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, part of the UPMC Health System, including serving as president from 2008 to 2019.

“I’m honored to join the Akron Children’s team and work alongside the talented staff, physicians and advanced practice providers to deliver world class care to the children of Northeast Ohio and beyond,” Gessner said in a news release. “The hospital is clearly part of the fabric of the many communities it serves, and I look forward to building on that strong sense of community engagement. My dad is a longtime, community pediatrician, so 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.”

John C. Orr, chairman of the Akron Children’s board of directors, said in the release Gessner is both an accomplished and visionary leader who understands the complexities of the world of health care today and shares the board’s commitment to keeping Akron Children’s an independent, free-standing and locally-governed children’s hospital system.

In his current position, Gessner, 54, is the executive in charge of four hospitals, as well as additional surgery centers, clinics and free-standing emergency rooms in the metro Denver area. He oversees 11,000 employees, 2,684 providers, 877 total hospital beds, and a $2.7 billion operating budget.

Wakulchik, president and CEO of Akron Children’s since 2018, had earlier shared her plans to retire at the end of 2021, following a 40-year career in health care.

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