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Summa Health Honors Oelschlagers for Years of Behavioral Health Support 

Couple’s latest gift provides funding to establish a chair in Traumatic Stress

Jim and Vanita Oelschlager

Building on three decades of philanthropy, Jim and Vanita Oelschlager have further strengthened their support of Summa Health through a commitment from their foundation that will enhance the Summa Health Traumatic Stress Center with the establishment of the Jim and Vanita Oelschlager Chair in Traumatic Stress. Patrick Palmieri, PhD, director of the Traumatic Stress Center, has been selected to serve as the inaugural holder of the prestigious Oelschlager Chair. The commitment from the Oelschlagers’ family foundation provides a minimum of $75,000 annually in perpetuity to advance the work and clinical research of the chair holder. The gift was announced on February 15 to more than 150 people during the Summa Health Foundation’s annual program in Naples, Fla.

A chair recognizes the outstanding leadership, clinical excellence, research impact and innovation of the chair holder. As director of the Summa Health Traumatic Stress Center, one of only a few such centers in the nation, Dr. Palmieri sets the vision and guides the Center’s clinical, training and research activities to better serve patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and other problems resulting from stressful or traumatic experiences. 

“The generosity of the Oelschlagers comes at a critical time in our society as more and more people are suffering from traumatic stress while at the same time there is insufficient access to care due to a shortage of professionals with specialized expertise in the most effective treatment methods,” said Dr. Palmieri. “PTSD from military combat, crime victimization and other types of traumatic experiences is a significant public health problem that must be addressed more thoroughly.”

In 2007, the couple made a gift to establish the Jim and Vanita Oelschlager Chair in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.  Dr. Joseph Varley has been the Chair holder since its inception.  “At Summa Health, we’re committed to providing effective treatments for people who have experienced significant trauma in their lives,” said Dr. Varley, who also heads the Summa Health Behavioral Health Institute. “This gift not only strengthens our Traumatic Stress Center but also helps focus attention on the importance of trauma and its relevance to psychiatry and medicine.”

With their latest gift, the Oelschlagers’ support of Summa Health totals nearly $4 million. They made their first gift to Summa Health in 1987 and have continued to support the health system philanthropically across three decades. The couple are members of the Thomas W. Cornell Philanthropic Leadership Society, which recognizes donors with lifetime giving of $1 million or more to Summa Health.

“Vanita and I are truly honored to support Summa’s Traumatic Stress Center in its mission to address this significant public health issue,” said Jim Oelschlager. “The work of Dr. Palmieri and his team is vitally important. We are very happy to help.”

In addition to their dedicated support of behavioral health issues over the years, the Oelschlagers have given generously to numerous initiatives at Summa Health including breast cancer research, medical education, capital projects and the Summa Health Sapphire Ball.


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