Fred E. Weber, MVH Former Board Chairman

Board Member, Miami Valley Hospital, 1986-1992 (Chairman ’88-’92)
Board Member, MedAmerica Health Systems, 1988-2001 (Chairman ‘92-‘01)
Chairman, Premier Health Partners, 1997-2004

In the annals of MVH leaders, former board Chairman Fred Weber is among the most celebrated. So much so, the hospital named a building for him, the Fred E. Weber Center for Health Education, the brick building near the hospital’s main parking garage.

Fred’s near two-decade run with MVH and its related organizations began in 1985 when the Dayton jeweler and former Dayton City Commissioner joined the board of SureCare Inc., a subsidiary of MVH parent company MedAmerica Health Systems. His experience as an entrepreneur and retailer was invaluable in SureCare and MedAmerica’s management of Fidelity Prescriptions and Fidelity Complete Home Care.

The following year Fred was elected to the Miami Valley Hospital Board of Trustees, and in June 1988 he succeeded Richard K. Flitcraft as board chairman. He also joined MedAmerica’s board that year and became chairman in 1992, a role he served until his retirement from the board in 2001. During those years, he championed a vision of broad community leadership for Miami Valley Hospital and its related organizations. He also was instrumental in forming Premier Health  Partners in 1995, the joint operating company of MVH and Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018). Premier has grown since then to include Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy and Atrium Medical Center in Middletown.

Fred sat for interview on June 7, 2013, in his store, Weber Jewelers, at 3109 Far Hills Ave. in Kettering. Here are a few of his reflections from that interview.

On challenges during his tenure: 

Budget cuts, never a pleasant task, topped Fred’s list, but he and the board found ways to minimize the pain.

“One thing we would do is delay capital investments, our bricks and mortar projects, by a couple of years so we could invest more funds in the market. The market was booming in those days, so those funds grew substantially. The returns were huge. But in doing that, we delayed the conversion to having more private rooms in the hospital, which could have hurt us. It was a huge challenge but a great credit to the nursing staff — they kept our patient satisfaction high. They did a phenomenal job.

“The return on our investments in the market, meanwhile, allowed us to invest more in technology. Back then the average age of technology in the industry was eight to 10 years; ours was more like six to eight years. So we were ahead of the curve on that front, which, of course, meant better care for our patients.”

Another challenge Fred mentioned was the blowback he and MVH leaders received during the formation of Premier Health Partners.

“We never did anything in any way coming close to not respecting the people we did business with and the people that were employed by us. We took care of the patient, we took care of our employees, we took care of the community.

“We were challenged when we merged with Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018) by the business community that we would create a monopoly. I got very upset about that. I was really vehement with the business community and told them, ‘How dare you think we would do something like that — we’re partners in this community.’ It proved out that we did a good job and we did not in any way take advantage of the community. We’ve always been a community asset. You know, Premier is owned by the community. There are no stockholders, there’s no money leaving the community. We invested in economic development and we invested in improving health care because if the community wasn’t healthy economically, we were going to suffer. So if we could make the community better economically, we were stronger and we could provide more and better healthcare to the community. That was always the vision.”

Proud accomplishments: 

Fred cited the urban renewal around Miami Valley Hospital, the Fairgrounds Neighborhood and the University of Dayton. “That was all stimulated by the Genesis Project,” he said. “I take some credit for that. Having been a city commissioner I understood urban development.”

The Genesis Project was a cooperative venture among MVH, UD, CityWide Development Corp., County Corp. and the Fairgrounds Neighborhood to revitalize the Fairgrounds area south of the MVH campus. The project resulted in nearly 50 new or renovated homes for moderate-income families. As part of the effort, which began in 2000, MVH provided financial incentives for its employees to purchase newly built or renovated homes there.

Prompted by his daughter Stephanie, who manages Weber Jewelers, Fred also mentioned his role in realigning Wyoming Street to make way for The Shaw Emergency and Trauma Center in the 1990s.

“I was listening to the engineers and planners and they were all concerned about how to build the trauma center,” he recalled. “We either had to go up vertically, which wasn’t ideal, or go horizontally and span over Wyoming Street. It was going to be a huge cost issue to span over Wyoming Street and a very inefficient project to go vertically. I listened to that for a while and I said, ‘Guys, I don’t know where your head is, but all you gotta do is move Wyoming Street.’ They said, ‘That’s a city street, what do you mean move Wyoming Street?’  I said, Yeah, move Wyoming street. Talk to the city, tell them you want to move it, now go and do it.’  They went and did it and that’s how Wyoming Street got moved and the trauma center got built.”

On his board colleagues:

“We had phenomenal people and I was smart enough to listen to them, seek their advice and encourage their participation. Under (former chairman) Fred Smith’s guidance we had a philosophy that if you were on the board, you participated. You were prepared for meetings, you did your homework, and you did your job. It wasn’t an honorary thing, serving on the board; it was an important job and service to the community. I learned a lot from Fred. He was a great teacher, and he believed Miami Valley was a charity that should be run like a business but you can’t be very charitable if you don’t have any money. So we had to find ways to increase our quality, increase our productivity, increase our services and be profitable by being more efficient so we could provide services to people who needed them. It was pretty simple.”

On compensating board members: 

Paying people to serve on corporate boards is not uncommon. When the issue was raised for board members of MVH, Fred didn’t like it, but he found a solution. “I wanted to make sure people weren’t in it just for the money, so I said, ‘Okay, we’ll pay each board member (the amount varied according to duties) but each member must donate that money to the charity of his or her choice.’”

On MVH’s executive leadership: 

“Much credit needs to be given to management through those times, particularly to (former President and CEO) Tom Breitenbach. He was a driving force, a major, major contributor to the strategic and day-to-day decisions of the hospital and later with Premier. I was very proud to have helped motivate him to stay around, because he had many, many opportunities to go elsewhere and make more money. But it was his vision of what he wanted to accomplish here that really motivated him to stay. He was outstanding. Even though we had great boards, his management was the real significant driving force in the success of what’s been accomplished.”

The long view of MVH during his tenure: 

“Had I continued to have a leadership role (in Premier) my vision would have been to have Miami Valley as a tertiary center served by a ring of hospitals positioned north, south, east and west of Miami Valley. It would be a major competitor to the Cleveland Clinic and it would be an international generator of revenue and healthcare being imported into the Dayton region. There’s no reason why Miami Valley Hospital as a tertiary care center couldn’t be in the same league with the Cleveland Clinic. It’s getting close to being in that league already, but it takes time, it takes money, it takes leadership and vision, and I would hope I live long enough to see it.”

Fred admitted he doesn’t know if current MVH and Premier leaders share that vision. When he left his board duties, he was done, he said, and he doesn’t meddle today.

“Like Fred Smith before me, I believe when you leave a board, you pass the baton and go on. As I like to say, Fred left me with a thoroughbred racehorse and I had to make damn sure I didn’t fall off. And fortunately Tom Breitenbach and I rode it well, won a few races, and made some good decisions. And I think we turned over a better, more well-trained thoroughbred racehorse to the next governance group than we received. I’m definitely proud of that, but we definitely didn’t start out with a nag.”

Key developments at Miami Valley Hospital during Fred Weber’s tenure on the boards of MedAmerica Health Systems, MVH and Premier Health.

As board chair, Fred encouraged hospital management to be proactive in seeking government support of quality health care for citizens.

At his suggestion MVH began hosting meetings with elected officials. The purpose was to help government leaders gain a better understanding of the complex healthcare system and the impact of their decisions on hospitals.

One result of these efforts was the development of Ohio’s Care Assurance Program. This program directs additional Medicaid reimbursement to MVH and other hospitals in Ohio that deliver a large share of healthcare services for the poor.

Under his leadership the board provided $800,000 for a major renovation of East Dayton Health Center. The expansion would make East Dayton a focal point for a community-wide effort to reduce the incidence of preventable health problems like heart disease, diabetes and smoking-related lung disease.

Fred also committed Miami Valley Hospital to a leadership role in meeting the specialized health needs of area teenagers. Established in cooperation with the Combined Health District and other area hospitals, the Adolescent Wellness Center offered quality medical and mental health services for teens, all in one convenient location.

MVH also broke new ground with a series of innovative programs for young parents. These efforts culminated in the Young Families Outreach Program, which was statistically proven to reduce child abuse and neglect among socially disadvantage, first-time teen mothers.

1990 - Berry Women’s Health Pavilion opens during the hospital’s centennial 

1991 - Official letter of commendation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the first of four that decade.

1993 - The area’s only Bone Marrow Transplant Unit opens at Miami Valley Hospital. The program allowed patients to remain close to home and family while receiving this high quality treatment.

1995 - Addition to the Berry Women’s Health Pavilion opens. Designed to accommodate increasing numbers of maternity patients, the new building also included Family Beginnings, the area’s only natural birthing facility.

MedAmerica Health Systems and the parent organization of Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018) made Dayton history in June, announcing the area’s first partnership between competing hospitals. The resulting Joint Operating Company would be known as Premier Health Partners.

1996 - Board approves a sweeping plan to create new emergency and surgical facilities as part of MVH’s Southwest Development Project. Funded with a lead gift from Dayton philanthropists Harold and Mary Louise Shaw, the new emergency and trauma center was designed to reduce crowding and improve privacy for patients.

1997 - When Fred Weber became board chair, Premier Health Partners had become the city of Dayton’s largest employer. Under his leadership, the board set a strong direction for health improvement and disease prevention and committed funds from the hospitals’ reserves. If the hospitals had flourished with the community’s support, Fred reasoned, they should give back to the community as well.

At Miami Valley Hospital, for example, trustees committed funds to the Good Neighbor Partnership. This program provided a hospital social worker and community-based police officers serving residents in the nearby South Park and Fairgrounds neighborhoods.

2000 - Miami Valley Hospital, the city of Dayton and the University of Dayton announce The Genesis Project, a partnership to revitalize the Fairgrounds neighborhood. 

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