Mary Boosalis

President and CEO, Premier Health, 2017-
Chief Operating Officer, Premier Health, 2011-2016
Miami Valley Hospital President and CEO, 2006-2010

Mary Boosalis became President and CEO of MVH in January 2006, following the retirement of William Thornton. Prior to her role as CEO, Mary worked in executive positions in hospital operations since joining MVH in 1984 as a post graduate management fellow under then CEO Rush Jordan.

In five years in the hospital’s top job, Mary oversaw some of the biggest changes to MVH in its history — the construction of Miami Valley Hospital South, which opened in 2007, and construction of the main campus’ southeast addition, which houses the Heart and Vascular Center and Orthopedic Joint and Spine Center.

Mary sat for an interview on Oct. 29, 2012, in her office at Premier Health’s headquarters in downtown Dayton.

What would you consider to be your signature achievement as an executive at MVH?

I think my signature achievement was balancing what had been a long history of financial success and acumen in the organization with telling the Miami Valley story and what makes this hospital special. The stories of the patients and people who work there are inspiring, and telling them is important not only from a historical perspective, but it keeps us rooted in our mission, vision and values.

I'm most personally proud of updating the main campus by expanding the Shaw Emergency and Trauma Center and building the new patient care tower. I’ve always felt our physicians and employees deserved the best, as did their patients, and now they have world-class facilities.

I’m also proud of being part of a team that really strategized about the future of the campus, whether we stayed downtown or moved. Ultimately, we felt we were such a part of Dayton that we belonged here and we needed to have a strong location on Wyoming Street.

There were three big reasons to stay. One was our historical commitment to Dayton. The second was more pragmatic — we had hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure invested in the downtown campus. And thirdly, the highway system makes Miami Valley downtown a very good location. It also falls geographically right in the middle of the Premier Health system’s network of hospitals.

I’m also really proud the hospital continues to be successful. It speaks volumes about the people who work there now and who've been there historically. There’s a tremendous legacy of leaders in the administration and at the board level. And because the board is locally controlled, the members always have the community interests at heart, it’s in the forefront of their decision-making. You can see that not only in their decisions over these 122 years but in their ongoing adherence to our mission, vision and values.

I'm also proud of the work being done around the downtown campus. We’ve worked very collaboratively with the city of Dayton, which has done a tremendous job obtaining federal grants, as well as with Citywide Development Corporation (the city’s economic development arm), the University of Dayton and more recently Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley. As a result, we’re seeing many street and property improvements around the hospital, a more college-like ambience of the area… All of that was due to a lot of dialogue, a lot of work from a lot of people behind the scenes.

What were some of the biggest challenges?

It was a very difficult and sobering time when we had the public debate in 2004 and 2005 with the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio contract and we opted out with them. It was a complex negotiation and it was hard to convey our position to the public in a sound bite in a news interview. You just couldn't express it properly in a 30-second statement. That was probably one of the hardest times we've gone through. There was a lot at stake in terms of our mission, but we got through it, and thanks to the incredible resilience of the organization our patients returned to us in full volume once we went back with Anthem.

Miami Valley Hospital South opened during your tenure as president. How has that hospital impacted MVH as a whole?

Miami Valley Hospital South was a tremendous strategy relative to the region’s growth, and its success helps subsidize our mission as a whole — taking care of everybody, no matter their income. But I think the best thing about Miami Valley South is that it was a game changer from a competitive standpoint. The success of that campus is still astounding, even though a lot of our analysis showed it would be successful. It exceeded every goal we set.

Talk about MVH’s relationship with Wright State University and why it's important to the hospital.

We have a long history of recruiting physician residents from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, particularly in the primary care arena. In an era of periodic shortages in certain physician specialties, Wright State becomes very critical. Also, when you're involved in education it makes you better — you learn a lot from students, it keeps you on your game, it keeps you relevant, especially in terms of technology.

In 2010, Wright State and Premier Health announced the creation of the WSU & Premier Health Neuroscience Institute, a unique public-private partnership uniting Premier’s clinical resources with the university’s strengths in biomedical research. What promise does that venture hold for MVH and the community?

It holds a lot of potential promise with respect to research being done in the area and for recruiting more neurologists to Miami Valley and Premier Health. Neurologists have a great affinity for research and being affiliated with an educational organization, but they are in short supply here, so if it's more attractive to come here we may do better in recruiting them. The partnership exemplifies how two organizations can partner for greater synergy and results than either one could accomplish alone. The new neuroscience center being built at WSU is a testimony to that — you have National Institutes of Health grants funding research that’s being translated into clinical trials. The team synergies will be tremendous in terms of scientists and physicians sharing their expertise in one location.

What makes Miami Valley Hospital a special place?

I am convinced it is special because I searched the country to find it many years ago! [laughs] Three specific attributes come to mind: It takes care of people regardless of their ability to pay. Dayton is unusual in that there is no county hospital, so MVH do a disproportionate share of uncompensated care as compared to other cities because of this unique situation.

The second thing that's unique is it has a double A bond rating, which makes the bonds we sell to finance capital projects more attractive to investors. For Miami Valley to have that rating and to take care of the number of poor it does is admirable. Add to that the third factor, which is being the largest provider of medical education in the community. Miami Valley probably has 75 percent or more of the medical residencies in the community. Even though there's reimbursement from the medical schools, that's done at tremendous cost in terms of the personnel and commitment to doing education well. You can find many hospitals with some of these attributes, but the three together? Very rare and compelling.

Why is it important that people know the history of Miami Valley Hospital?

Because it's a phenomenal story and we have a unique legacy. I did a lot of research when we were building the new patient tower, and I read about the hospital’s founder, the Rev. Carl Mueller. He was the first bona fide CEO, and he had this strong belief, almost like a calling, that this community was in dire need of a hospital. He didn’t get a lot of support or interest early on, but he refused to give up on his vision. He had tenacity and a rock-solid belief that this is what the community needed. I think it's pretty remarkable when you look at where Miami Valley Hospital and where it is today — one of the hundred largest hospitals in the United States, 14,000 employees in Premier Health, 5,000 plus employees at Miami Valley, one of the largest employers in Dayton — that's pretty important to the community.

In my personal journey, I think you can only really know the future if you respect the past — there are a lot of lessons to be learned, a lot of truths to be remembered in our history. Miami Valley has a way of reinventing itself that ensures it will survive for another 120 years, and it always has an eye toward those who need help. That's a powerful combination.

There are but a handful of places that have succeeded in these ways. It's just a privilege to have worked there.

Favorite Stories

Mary also shared one of her favorite stories about MVH, one that touched her deeply.

The one I remember really well was toward the end of my tenure at the Valley. We had a gentleman who had his hands blown off by fireworks. It was such a travesty because he was young, he was a teacher, which is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and he was due to be married. I think most of us would've thought, ‘Oh, gee, wedding called off, major regroup… But this couple was so inspirational, they ended up getting married in the chapel as scheduled at Miami Valley.

People ran around and organized that wedding, they had all of these out-of-town guests coming in, and that exemplified where I think Miami Valley is at its best. Any time there is a crisis, people here rally and they just come together in ways you can’t imagine. They are action and results oriented, they put others first and do just a beautiful job. It was very memorable. People talked about that having just a profound impact on them and their own life journey.

I remember talking to a hand surgeon who was working with this gentleman and he was astounded, not only by the courage of the patient, but how people rallied around and supported him. It was just a real lesson in turning adversity into something joyful. You can’t manufacture that kind of a thing; it comes from people and their individual and collective compassion and caring.

There are so many other wonderful stories like that over the years, but that one really gave me a lot of pause. When you see that and you work in a place like that, you don't complain. How fortunate I was to pass through those halls.

More on Mary…

Born in Denver and raised in the small farming town of Porterville, Calif., Mary earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from California State University in 1976 (magna cum laude) and a master’s degree in hospital services administration from Arizona State University College of Business in Tempe, Arizona, in 1986 (magna cum laude).

Mary serves the Dayton community on various boards. She was chairperson from 2010-2011 of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association; past president of the Dayton branch of the American Heart Association; a board member of the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College, and co-chair of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton.

Mary lives in Oakwood with her husband, Dr. Tom Olsen, MD, and their twin sons.

Back to MVH History Timeline