Executive of the Year: Robert Montagnese

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Executive of the Year: Robert Montagnese

President & CEO, Licking Memorial Health Systems

A hospital chief's primary duty is to balance fiscal responsibility with the public service obligation to the community they serve. This mission is a personal one for Robert Montagnese, who isn't just the president and CEO of the only hospital in Licking County. He's also a resident.

"(We) perform at a high level because we're caring for each other's family, friends and neighbors," says Montagnese. "You can't just manufacture that (commitment). It really comes from living and working in a community."

Montagnese has lived in Licking County since he was six, and began working for Licking Memorial Health Systems 28 years ago as a file clerk. In hospital administration, he found a career that matched his business skills with his passion for helping people. He says leading Licking Memorial is a perfect fit for his interest in numbers and accounting, "but in an industry where I really feel like I (am) making a difference in the community."

Montagnese is a tireless volunteer for several Licking County nonprofits, having served on the boards of the Licking County Salvation Army, the Newark Campus Development Fund and Central Ohio Technical College, among others. He encourages the same civic involvement from senior managers and employees to forge strong collaboration around social service issues.

Now in his tenth year leading the system, Montagnese has implemented population health programs through outreach in Licking County churches, schools and social agencies. Programs dedicated to high school athlete screenings, smoking cessation and obesity have helped improve the overall health of the community. Montagnese says that's critical to Licking Memorial's mission.

"You could make a case that the better job we do improving the health of the community, the more we reduce our volumes or our business. But that's OK. Our goal is for folks to be healthy."

To that end, he's added services in Licking County, most notably an interventional cardiology program. He maintains collaborative relationships with all of the major health systems in Columbus to complement the services Licking Memorial provides.

The system includes the 227-bed hospital, a physician practice group, the Licking Memorial Foundation and over 1,900 employees. Under Montagnese, the system has added a new surgery and emergency care wing, is constructing a 33,260-square-foot medical office building and will have added three new urgent cares by the end of 2016. Licking Memorial exceeded its net income goals by roughly 25 percent in 2015.

Technology is a huge part of Montagnese's strategy for the system. In 2015, Licking Memorial completed an $8.5 million upgrade to its radiology equipment. In 2016, the system will add a Hercules patient repositioning system, EarlySense patient monitors and a real-time vitals monitoring system.

Licking Memorial is large enough to invest in cutting-edge resources, yet nimble enough to quickly adopt new technologies, adapt to new legislation and react to operational challenges, says Montagnese.

"We like the ability to make decisions at the local level for our community," he adds. "Hopefully, over the next decade we can continue to have the financial success to maintain our independence."

CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics, Ohio Chapter

The height of executive achievement in healthcare is to make a difference, not only on one's organization but on an entire segment of the population. As CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter, Melissa Wervey Arnold has helped the state's pediatricians provide the best care to Ohio children.

"You would be hard pressed to find a family who has not been impacted by the work of the Ohio AAP under her leadership," writes State Senator Shannon Jones in nominating Arnold for this award.

During her ten years with the OAAP, Arnold has led advocacy efforts around immunizations, youth seatbelt laws and infant mortality, to name a few.

During her tenure the Ohio Chapter has increased membership by 50 percent to 1,650 fellows, making it the fourth largest AAP chapter in the nation. Arnold's focus on partnerships has generated over $6 million for autism, obesity and other pediatric health programs.

She's led the Ohio AAP to be the first to win the AAP's Outstanding Chapter Award for three consecutive years.

Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Excellent physicians set high standards of excellence in the care their organizations provide. During his nine years with Nationwide Children's Hospital, Dr. E. Steve Roach has elevated the pediatric neurology division to a place of national recognition. Under his leadership, the hospital has improved the quality and availability of specialized neurologic care for children in central Ohio and beyond.

In 2015, US News and World Report ranked Nationwide the ninth best child neurology program in the nation. It was a relatively minor recognition of the tremendous impact Roach's leadership as a physician and an executive has had on patients.

His research has led to the development of treatments for tuberous sclerosis. During his tenure, the division has grown from nine clinicians in 2006 to a staff of 31 physicians, seven nurse practitioners and over 100 support personnel. He is the past president of the Child Neurology Society, the editor-in-chief of the journal Pediatric Neurology, and was named the Robert F. and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation Chair in Pediatric Neurology in 2013.