Reshaping the present and future of MetroHealth has earned Dr. Akram Boutros the AJC Cleveland’s Richard H. Adler Community Leadership Award.

Remembering the hospital’s past is critical to its future, said Boutros, the president and CEO of MetroHealth.

“We must not ever stray from those we were literally born to care for,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News. 

Under the leadership of Boutros, the county hospital system has expanded to a more than $1 billion operation and is about to build a new hospital on the West Side, where it will also help to revitalize the neighborhood. 

Key components to effective leadership, he said, are being able to think beyond oneself, empower those one leads and to “provide a vision for people to strive for.”  

Mitchell C. Schneider told Boutros’ story to the 180 people gathered at the Allen Theatre at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square at the Oct. 15 fundraiser for the American Jewish Committee. 

Born in Cairo to a privileged family with a staff of six, Boutros was on a family vacation to Germany when he learned the family was fleeing Egypt because of religious persecution. His family arrived in New York and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens. He was 12 years old at the time. No one in his family spoke English. Schneider described the turning point for Boutros came following a shoplifting incident and a “group of friends going nowhere.” 

The wakeup call for Boutros came after he was hit by a truck and looked into his mother’s face.

“He felt her shame at the man he was becoming,” Schneider said.

During his six-month recovery, he stayed home and began to rebuild his life. He met his wife, Suzanne, at St. John’s University. He graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., who was the first winner of the same award in 1996, gave the invocation. 

Tom Adler spoke of his father’s two careers, at Joseph & Feiss Co. and then leading the Greater Cleveland Growth Association.

“One of the things he loved was the American Jewish Committee,” Adler said, adding that, like Boutros, his father was a bridge builder.

Rachel C. Uram, AJC Cleveland president, spoke of AJC’s vision to combat anti-Semitism, defending Israel’s place in the world and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all people. She also praised Boutros, whose story of persecution, she said, captivated all those in attendance at a recent AJC Global Leadership Seder. 

AJC leaders presented Boutros with a photograph of downtown Cleveland by Judy Rawson. 

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