NORTH CANTON  “A lot of people in the community are getting excited about the new Akron Children’s facility opening in North Canton in April so we asked the president and CEO to speak to our members today about the growth of the organization and the impact on Stark County.”

North Canton Chamber of Commerce President Doug Lane continued, “We thought it was a great opportunity to get an overview of the organization and the footprint in the county before they open the facility in North Canton.”

Akron Children's Hospital President and CEO Grace Wakulchik spoke to about 80 members of the North Canton Chamber during its Quarterly Conversation luncheon on Dec. 17. Wakulchik has been with the organization 26 years and was named president in 2017. She was recently named CEO and is only the third CEO since 1944, and the first woman in the role.

She lived in North Canton and talked about how her adult children still wear their Hoover Viking attire even while living out of the area.

“I had the pleasure of living in North Canton for over 20 years and all of my children were Hoover Vikings,” Wakulchik said. “It’s interesting that we probably weren’t Stark County’s children’s hospital before, but Stark County we are now your children’s hospital in partnership with Aultman Hospital. "We have 6,000 employees at Akron Children’s Hospital and about a third of those live in Stark County. Our vision is to be the innovative leader in providing children’s health and high-quality care. We keep our focus on that.”

 Strategic Growth, Independence and Partnerships

Wakulchik's speech was centered on the strategic plan for growth and how they plan to “grow the various aspects of our business.” Wakulchik told the group that Akron Children’s Hospital has always put quality at the top of every plan along with patient and family experience, strategic plan and growth along with collaboration, innovation and research.

Wakulchik said Akron Children's partners with many medical organizations in the area including Aultman, Cleveland Clinic, Summa Health and Mercy Medical. She stressed the hospital is independent and it intends to stay that way.

“We are passionate about staying independent much like our partners here in Stark County. We will always be independent so anyone worried that we will become part of a system can put those worries aside. We collaborate with others, but will never be acquired,’ Wakulchik said.

Akron Children’s Hospital in Stark County

The North Canton facility will have primary care, specialty care, rehab services and some lab and radiology. Wakulchik said they are planning to put a small football field along the patio that won’t be big enough to play on but will be used for rehabilitation services.

She also said that urgent care services are already provided by Aultman so the North Canton Akron Children’s Hospital facility won’t offer that service.

Construction of the new facility at 6076 Whipple Ave. NW began in the spring of 2018 and is scheduled to open in April 2019. The 38,000 square foot building is adjacent to Aultman North Canton Medical Group where a pediatrics office for Akron Children’s has been housed.

Akron Children’s is also planning to open a 14,000 square foot primary care facility at 1149 Lincoln Way E in Massillon in early 2019. Wakulchik talked about the hospital’s growth plan that includes new facilities in Stark and Portage Counties and in Mansfield and Boston Heights.

She also talked about the neonatal intensive care (NICU) services they are providing at Aultman and the new pavilion they are helping support at Dogwood Park in North Canton.

Research, Education, Innovation and Technology

Akron Children’s Hospital generates new knowledge for kids’ health through clinical research in three focus areas including brain and mitochondrial health, vision sciences and population health. It is working on innovative, intellectual properties they can develop and prototype that will make care better for kids.

The hospital is partnering with Stark State College and Kent State at Stark to help develop educational programs to help develop the health care workforce in the area. In the technology area, Akron Children’s Hospital is working on implementing a telehealth strategy in three areas that will use telecommunications for health care including, sending a photo for a physician to review, live consultation and in 2019 it is rolling out the direct consumer telehealth where patients can visit with a pediatrician on their iPhone or computer screen.

 Volunteers and the Culture

Wakulchik took questions from the audience and was asked about the culture at the organization, volunteers and costs of prescription drugs. Wakulchik said that the volunteers provide hours equal to 60 full-time employees and are the lifeblood of the organization.  She said cost of new designer drugs that are highly effect will continue to be expensive. She said they do help find generics for patients when available.

Regarding the culture at Akron Children’s, Wakulchik said, “Employees really believe in service above self, doing what’s right for the patient, treating everyone the way you want to be treated, turning no child away and treating each child as if they were our own. Every person in the organization passionately believes that.”