The significant impact that former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger had on the Academic Health Center and hospital was recalled during a memorial service June 5 celebrating his life and legacy.
Robert Wones, MD, professor of internal medicine at the College of Medicine and vice president and chief quality and medical informatics officer for UC Health, was among eight people offering remarks and remembrances of Steger, the universityís 24th president, who died May 9. Steger served as president from 1984 until 2003. He had been recruited to UC by his predecessor, Henry Winkler, in 1982 to serve as senior vice president and provost. Prior to arriving in Cincinnati he held management positions in industry and at the State University of New York at Albany and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
"You canít imagine unless youíve been here for 30-plus years as I have just what a transformation the east campus has gone through,Ē Wones said in applauding Steger for his leadership. "I used to play touch football in a field where the Vontz and the Kingsgate are now. The critical care pavilion (at UC Medical Center) was added. The Hoxworth Building was added. Two additions to the College of Medicine building. A truly remarkable transformation on the east campus and I would note an equally remarkable transformation of the neighborhood around the campus.Ē
Wones, who also served as Stegerís personal physician, described how he was part of a team working to integrate the activities of the University of Cincinnati Hospital, which until 1982 was known as Cincinnati General Hospital, with those of Holmes Hospital. He credited Stegerís support and leadership as being instrumental in the integration.
"Holmes Hospital is where the faculty patients were taken care of. Now, Iím very proud to say, we have one very strong university medical center which serves all levels of society and has achieved a status in the community as a place where you need to be if youíre really sick -- and that took a while and took a lot of leadership from Joe and others, but I think itís a remarkable transformation,Ē Wones said.
He also recognized Stegerís guidance with the creation of the Health Alliance, which evolved into UC Health.
"Another thing that occurred during his tenure was the creation of the Health Alliance,Ē Wones said. "You need to understand that in the late 1980s the University Hospital was in exactly zero managed care plans. We were systematically excluded from every managed care plan in town. In fact, we created our own. It was called the University Health Plan and it operated for six years. We at least had to have one so we made our own.
"What the Health Alliance did was bring University Hospital into the mainstream of health care in this community permanently, and beneficially changed its fortunes for the better. Though that didnít work out in the long run, it was a very important interim step in the life of the medical center.Ē
Steger also is known for recruiting such people as Donald Harrison, MD (provost for health affairs), John Hutton, MD (dean of the College of Medicine) and Andrea Lindell, PhD (dean of the College of Nursing) to campus, Wones said.
Wones also recalled Stegerís interpersonal abilities. "When you met with him you felt like you were the most important meeting he was having that day. I was just a young assistant professor meeting with the president of the university and, again, I felt like I was the most important meeting he had that day,Ē Wones said, adding that Stegerís positive attitude always made people feel at ease.
The June 5 memorial service can be viewed online at http://www.uc.edu/ucit/digitalvideo/steger_memorial.html.