Premier Health CEO reflects on 35-year Dayton career

Credit: WillJonesPhoto

Credit: WillJonesPhoto

Premier Health outgoing CEO Mary Boosalis said she prepared her expectations for leading the Dayton health system but could not have foreseen at the time the wide range of challenges she would lead through.

From the opioid crisis, to big industry changes in health care, to the continuing historic pandemic, Boosalis has been at the helm for some of Premier’s biggest moments.

She plans to retire in early 2022 after 35 years with the health system. The board of trustees will conduct a national search for her replacement.

As CEO of Premier Health, she leads an organization that employs more than 13,000 and operates five hospital locations: Miami Valley Hospital, Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville, Miami Valley Hospital North in Englewood, Atrium Medical Center and Upper Valley Medical Center.

The team had prepared over the years for emergencies but did not foresee a historic pandemic, or a mass shooting that rocked a community and drew a presidential visit to the flagship hospital.

“By the nature of what we do, we were in the thick of it,” Boosalis said.

Boosalis led Premier when COVID-19 first came to the region, and as the fast spreading virus filled up more and more beds and strained supply channels.

One of the things the leadership had to do during the pandemic was get politically active to lobby for supplies, as medical grade masks and other protective gear dwindled. They also formed new deals with local companies to make medical gear like gowns.

In the pandemic, the situation for hospitals often quickly changed and leaders had to make calls in situations without precedent and without complete information. Boosalis said the leadership needed to have a bias toward taking action.

“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of good in crisis, especially in a natural catastrophe. You have to act. You have to move,” Boosalis said.

Among challenges faced, when Premier Health closed Good Samaritan Hospital, Boosalis said that was likely the hardest thing in her career.

The controversial move in 2018 sparked a still-pending civil rights complaint over whether the closure violates the civil rights of Black residents served by the hospital.

Boosalis has received different local and national recognitions through her career. In 2019 and again in 2021, Modern Healthcare recognized her as being one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare in the country through their biennial award. In 2020, Modern Healthcare named her to the national list of 50 Most Influential Clinical Executives. She’s also been recognized as an Ohio Most Powerful and Influential Woman by the Ohio Diversity Council, and as a Woman of Influence by the Dayton YWCA.

She was the first woman to be the chair of University of Dayton’s board and first woman named CEO of Premier Health.

“While I will miss Mary’s deft touch and generous grace at the helm of Premier, I look forward to her continued meaningful contributions to the community I know she loves,” said Eric Spina, president of the University of Dayton.

One of the accomplishments she highlighted was the collective work of the organization to have a diverse board to reflect the community. They also track how much they source from minority business owners.

“Because we just don’t buy the excuse that ‘well, I can’t find anyone’ ... If you’re a leader, you have to try to solve for the equation. You can’t just go with excuses,” Boosalis said.

Chris Kershner, president and CEO of Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said Boosalis is “a phenomenal business leader who has helped to transform our region.”

“Her investments in equity, women leaders and the business community is a model for corporate leadership. I hope she stays involved in the community,” Kershner said.

Boosalis said she and her husband, both transplants to the area, plan to keep up their Dayton ties. And she’s looking into joining a book club — something simple she hasn’t had time to do after years of long work hours.

She said the company is in good hands after she leaves and isn’t an organization dependent on her or any one person.

“There’s too many good people out there,” Boosalis said.

About the Author