This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Promise magazine.
Dr. Ernest R. Estep delivered thousands of babies at Summa Health during nearly four decades as an obstetrician and gynecologist. When he and his wife, Bonnie, made a generous campaign gift to Summa Health, it was only fitting that their support be recognized in the Labor and Delivery lobby in the new patient tower on the Summa Health System — Akron Campus.
In addition to helping patients just starting or expanding their families, Dr. Estep was a beloved mentor to hundreds of young physicians, many of whom became leaders at Summa Health, including President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Cliff Deveny.
“I felt it was best to lead by example,” Dr. Estep said, “to instill in residents that your actions are far more important than your words.”
When he wasn’t delivering babies, Dr. Estep served Summa Health in other ways. He was medical staff president for three years, a founding board member at SummaCare and also a founding member of the Medical Society of Greater Akron, later serving as its president.
In 2018, Summa Health honored Dr. Estep at the Summa Society Celebration with the Distinguished Physician Award, the highest physician honor bestowed by the health system, in recognition of his excellence as a clinician, educator and leader.
“Dr. Estep was all of that and so much more for so many,” said Dr. Deveny. “He has had a tremendous impact on Summa Health physicians and our patients and families. I’m a better person because of Ernie.”
A devoted husband, Dr. Estep’s first words of thanks at the event went to his wife, Bonnie, whom he described as “ … my best friend, a beautiful woman and wonderful human being who has stood by me and supported me for over 50 years … during internships, residency and long days with irregular hours.”
“We’re a good team,” said Mrs. Estep, who shares a passion for gardening with her husband. Their 11-acre estate in Bath Township stands in testimony to the quality of their teamwork. Purchased in 1976, the property’s peaceful, shaded landscape is catalogued in the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Gardens and featured in the March/April 2018 issue of Ohio Gardener magazine.
The Esteps’ generosity of time and resources takes them far beyond their own garden in support of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Nature Conservancy, where Dr. Estep was on the board of directors for many years, including board chair in 2017.
Dr. and Mrs. Estep are a good philanthropic team as well. In addition to their decades of generous support for Summa Health, Mrs. Estep belongs to the Summa Health Circle of Women’s Health Philanthropists, an initiative she has supported from its founding. The group of like-minded women shares a passion for advancing the health of women in the Greater Akron region.
Dr. Estep focused his entire career on honoring a covenant he made as a medical school student. He said, “I promised God that if He got me through this, that I’d do His work to the best of my capabilities.”
Many of the babies he delivered while keeping that promise are likely to welcome their own children near a space honoring the physician who delivered them — the Dr. Ernest R. and Bonnie L. Estep Labor and Delivery Lobby.
Dr. Estep chose to become an obstetrician and gynecologist because it was a “happy specialty.” He brought that happiness to his practice and his patients, ever cognizant of the miracle of each birth. A caring, compassionate physician, he was committed to making every pregnancy a “top of the mountain” experience.
The gift from Dr. and Mrs. Estep will help Summa Health make all patient care a “top of the mountain experience” now and always.