Dr. Jay Alan Gershen, who was president for 10 years of Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, died Nov. 12 from lymphoma and related complications. He was 74.
Gershen, who retired on Sept. 30, 2019, came to NEOMED Jan. 1, 2010, and oversaw significant expansion in campus space, staff, students and spending.
“I’m very proud of the team that we’ve assembled here, they’ve done a great job at really moving the institution forward,” Gershen told the Cleveland Jewish News in a September 2019 interview.
During his tenure as president, NEOMED grew from a 500,000-square-foot campus to 1 million square feet and its budget doubled to $80 million. The university’s student body increased from 600 to nearly 1,000.
Gershen’s vision enabled him to transform NEOMED from a regional medical college into a leading community-based medical university, partnering with 24 hospitals, dozens of ambulatory care settings as well as regional universities and colleges.
“We’ve really developed very strong ties with the community,” Gershen said. “We have a STEM+M high school here, we have a health and wellness center – Sequoia, it’s called. We have conference facilities; we have a REDIzone,” which helps researchers move their ideas from the lab and to commercialization, “and we’ve got a primary care practice here from Silva.”
Gershen was previously the vice chancellor for external affairs at the University of Colorado Denver.
He was born April 9, 1946 in the Bronx, N.Y., to Julius and Vera (Sherman) Gerhsen. Gershen described the Bronx as “a great cultural Jewish neighborhood. The family later moved across the bridge to Long Island, specifically Levittown.
At age 18, he enrolled at the University of Buffalo in New York. Four years later, he went to dental school in Baltimore, and after graduation, completed an internship at Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, N.Y.
“From there, I went to (the University of California, Los Angeles) because it was the only program I could find that would allow me to do a Ph.D and also a pediatric dentistry specialty at the same time,” he said. “When I finished my degrees, I was invited on the faculty at UCLA.”
After about seven years as a pediatric dentist in the UCLA Faculty Group Dental Practice, Gershen moved to Capitol Hill for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health policy fellowship. Afterward, he returned to California.
“When I got back to UCLA, I did less practice and became more involved in public health, higher education and leadership positions,” he said.
From there, he went to Colorado and later Ohio.
“I’ve been doing this for about 44 years,” Gershen told the CJN in an October 2018 interview. “I love my work, we have a great university in NEOMED ... and there’s been a lot going on, a lot of positive things I’m excited about. But I thought as much as I love my work, I also love my family and I’m approaching a time in life where it’s time to spend more time with them. I thought it was the right time for me to retire and also the right time for the university. (It’s) well-poised for more great things, to build upon the things that have been accomplished by our team in the last nine years.”
At a farewell reception for him on Oct. 1, 2019, the university announced the NEOMED Education and Wellness Center atrium would be named the Jay A. Gershen Atrium.
Upon retirement, Gershen moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., was a fitness buff, an avid cyclist, a news junkie and jigsaw, crossword puzzle enthusiast, and enjoyed playing the piano and guitar, and traveling, especially exploring national parks with his wife, according to his obituary.
Due to COVID-19, graveside service were private.
Gershen is survived by his wife, Carol Cannon; his two daughters, Valari Gershen (Brandy Allen), and Jenna Gershen; his stepdaughter, Mackenzie Chernushin (Chad O’Connor); his siblings, Bonnie Lagunoff, Robert Gershen, and Lauren Gershen; his aunt, Irene Gershen; and numerous cousins.
Memorial contributions can be made to NEOMED Foundation, 4209 State Route, 44 P.O. Box 95, Rootstown, OH 44272 or Research!America, Box 222451 Chantilly, Va. 20153-2451.
This is a developing story.