Q & A with Bobbie Gerhart, MVH President and Chief Executive Officer

Bobbie Gerhart became MVH president and CEO in January 2011 and served until December 2013. Prior to that she served as the hospital’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since 2006. She has 34 years of healthcare related experience, primarily in operations, and has worked for hospitals in the Premier Health system since 1979. She sat for an interview on Oct. 30, 2012.

What does it mean to you to be the CEO of this hospital?

It’s truly been a gift; it’s been absolutely fabulous. Never did I dream that I would be privileged enough to lead the wonderful people at Miami Valley Hospital on an everyday basis. It's truly a privilege.

Who were your mentors?

I've had great mentors along the way, people like Doug Deck (former Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018) CEO), Jeffrey Peterson, the former vice president of operations at Good Sam, and Tim Jackson (former chief financial officer at MVH). And, of course, all the staff here who still teach me every single day.

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

There are two things. When I came to the Valley one of the things I noticed quickly is that people did not connect very freely. We wanted to make certain MVH had a considerate, attentive environment for our patients, visitors and staff. We held workshops on “purposeful rounding” to raise awareness of how to connect with our public and each other.

I knew I achieved some of that when I saw a person in the hallway looking at the directory one day. I asked, “Can I help you?” She laughed and said, “The real story here is I am a retired nurse from the Valley and I haven't been back here for years. So I came back to see the growth and how it’s progressed and it's absolutely beautiful. But one thing I want to tell you is since I came into the lobby I’ve stopped to look at things and every time I stop to look at something someone asks me if they could help me.” So I knew that day that we had made a difference and that everyone was starting to connect the way they should.

The second trademark is I’ve tried to make the grounds of the campus look more appealing and inviting. Shortly after I started here as the chief operating officer I walked the grounds of the hospital and felt they needed some sprucing up, some new life. I thought if we wanted to be seen as a vibrant member of the community, we had to look the part. So with (then-MVH President) Mary Boosalis’ support and involvement, we set about a mission to create a colorful, green and healthy atmosphere around the hospital.

Today, when I look at the courtyard and I see the green surroundings and I see the patients and their families enjoying it, it makes me feel wonderful that we actually achieved looking “alive and well.” And the response from our neighbors and the citizens of Dayton has been really tremendous.

Talk about the “Patient Experience” initiative and why that’s important to MVH.

We’ve been working really hard on the concept of patient experience because that really is the name of the game. When you're talking about patients who come to your hospital, they truly come at a vulnerable state. It might be a short patient visit, or one where the patient might have contact with 50 people participating in their care. But if even one of those people breaks that patient experience, that’s what the patient remembers. We always want our patients to feel as though they were cared for in absolutely the best way possible.

The southeast addition, which houses the Heart and Vascular Center and Orthopedic Joint and Spine Center, dramatically changed the look and feel of the hospital, probably in ways that would not have occurred 20 years ago. How did you and other MVH leaders arrive at your vision for the tower?

The construction of the tower was very important because we had very few private rooms at the hospital. We had people crowded into very small rooms with two patients in each room. It wasn't very consumer driven. If you look at every new hospital being built, they’re all 100 percent private. That’s because when people are ill they want and need their privacy. So it was really a strategy about private rooms that drove the southeast addition.

In building the tower, we had to do a “look back.” We looked at the structural, institutional and traditional hospital model and said, “That is not what we’re interested in building here.” In doing that, we worked with more than 350 of our own employees, many, many of our own physicians and really talented international architects to create a “healing environment." Everything about the southeast addition was built around the concept — from the green roof to having LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification with the building materials we used; from the acoustic walls so patients wouldn't have noise at night, to the patient-centered stations where the nurses, staff and physicians are right outside your room, not down the hall. And, frankly, with our aging staff, we even took into consideration the number of steps a nurse would take by the middle of the day.

We created an internal environment with artwork donated by the community and we created an external environment that would produce an inviting, comforting experience. I’ll quite often see stroke patients in the courtyard doing rehab in the middle of a beautiful day, for example. We have a babbling brook near the main entrance that uses recycled water from our steam plant. That was an idea from one of our own engineers. Before that, the water just went down the drain. Today it is recycled and encourages healing. It also comforts employees as they come and go.

Talk about the role MVH plays as an economic driver in the region.

Miami Valley Hospital and Premier Health truly contribute. We have more than 14,000 employees, we’re the second largest employer in the area, second only to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and we have many business partners in this endeavor. We are very collaborative with Wright State University and have more medical residents in our system than any other system in our market. We also have a lot of technical business partners with our capital equipment purchases. And when you think about the construction industry, we've been a real driver of that because we've had so much construction going on across Premier Health. There are so many business partners. We actually spend about $500 million a year in non-labor costs and some of that is attached to business partners within the community.

What are some of the challenges in your job?

I think the one thing that's been really challenging in the last eight years is Miami Valley Hospital’s growth. It seems as soon as one program comes alive and gets the growth we expect, we soon have to start building another. What's wonderful about that is the people of Dayton have endorsed us as their hospital system, but we have had to continually invest in buildings to make that happen.

Another challenge is the impact the Affordable Care Act might have on the hospital and on the nation’s entire health care system. I don't think any of us really knows what the impact might be, because there are so many different parts and pieces to it, and as it's implemented we fully expect it to change. We will see huge changes to healthcare. We’ll have a larger population to serve, more baby boomers to treat and a reimbursement model that is changing drastically.

What excites you about your job?

The people of Miami Valley Hospital. Every day I come to work I see and hear wonderful stories about our patients, physicians and employees and it just warms your heart. I think to myself, “What a blessing it is to come to work and see this healing environment, to witness talented people who touch people's lives every day.” Miami Valley Hospital has served the Dayton area for 120- plus years, and what excites me is I think we have the talent and the will to be here for another 120-plus years.

Why is it important for people to know the history of MVH?

Miami Valley Hospital has a long tradition in the city of providing many specialized services, and for that reason many people in the community are drawn to it, whether it's the Level 1 Trauma Center, the Burn Center or the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There are so many specialized services here, but people should care about Miami Valley Hospital because of the people who are here welcoming them to a healing process. I think you can have all the

technology, all the specialization you want, but if you don't have people who have heart, compassion and skill, then you don't have the magic you need to provide healthcare.

Making the Most of Moments

Listen as Bobbie talks about an experience at MVH that really moved her, one that reminded her of what this hospital is all about.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Just recently I was meeting with someone in my office when I looked out of my window at the courtyard and I noticed that, suddenly out of the blue on a very beautiful sunny day, a number of our employees were coming together and they were creating what looked like a party. And being curious I opened up the window and asked how can they be putting together some sort of event if I don't know what it is. So I opened the window and I shouted at a few of the staff there, “What's going on, is there something I’ve missed?” And a staff member came over to say to me we’re having a wedding. I said, “Since when did we allow people to have weddings in our courtyard? Even though it's hugely beautiful we just don't do that.”

She went on to explain to me that we had a gentleman who was on the bone marrow transplant unit who was dying and his death would be imminent in a matter of a few days. His daughter had planned to be married in the next week and he wanted nothing more before he died than to see his daughter get married, but it didn't look like that was going to happen. And so our staff spread the word throughout the hospital and suddenly we had this beautiful wedding set with chairs and white covers and our own chaplain was there to perform the service. We had a reception second to none. Our bakery here put together a beautiful wedding cake and this family had a beautiful wedding and this father came with his nurses to give his daughter away. I don't know of a better story as to how our staff responds to patients or how we create the patient experience than that.

Later I was at an event in the community and there was a gentleman who came up to me. He said, “You don't know me but I know your hospital and your hospital is phenomenal. My friend just died yesterday and your hospital created a priceless moment for him when he was able to give his daughter away at her wedding there. He talked about that right up to his death.”

I think about those stories. There's not just one, and I can tell more stories like it that would warm anyone's heart on any given day.

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