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Dr. von Gruenigen is first physician to endow chair at Summa Health

Women's Health Institute benefits from former chair's vision

Edward M. Ferris, M.D., chair and medical director of the Summa Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, holds the Vivian E. von Gruenigen, M.D., Endowed Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Vivian E. von Gruenigen, M.D., longtime former medical director of the Women’s Health Institute, is one of three esteemed donors — and the first physician — to establish a prestigious endowed chair at Summa Health.

“We as physicians are very fortunate,” said Dr. von Gruenigen. “We have a purpose-driven life with the ability to pay back and pay forward.”

Endowed chairs are fundamental to the health system’s mission. These highly sought positions attract and retain accomplished physicians and specialists, providing vital annual income in perpetuity to support leading-edge research, innovative care and training the next generation of physicians.

The Vivian E. von Gruenigen, M.D., Endowed Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology is held by Edward M. Ferris, M.D., chair and medical director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He and Dr. von Gruenigen worked together at the Women’s Health Institute for nearly 20 years.

“She has been a very good friend and mentor,” Dr. Ferris said. “She provided vision and leadership for our department, and she continues to be a great role model for our staff.”

Under Dr. von Gruenigen’s leadership, the Women’s Health Institute grew to become a cornerstone of Summa Health’s commitment to improving the health of the community.

The Maternal-fetal Opiate Medical Home Care (MOMH) program for opiate-addicted mothers and babies — developed during Dr. von Gruenigen’s tenure — was the first of its kind in the region. MOMH is just one example of the dramatic impact that the Women’s Health Institute has on healthcare for women in the Akron region. With more than 15,000 patient visits each year, the institute is the highest volume access point for obstetrical and gynecological charity care services within Summa Health.

MOMH and CenteringPregnancy®, another vital program that serves expectant mothers in need, are among the many patient-centered services that benefit from funds generated by Dr. von Gruenigen’s endowed chair.

“As a former department chair, I know that funds are hard to come by and we are doing more with less dollars,” Dr. von Gruenigen said. “I wanted to give the chair the flexibility to prioritize unmet needs from the front line.”

The Women’s Health Institute continues to grow rapidly to meet community needs. Patients have access to more than 100 specialists who provide numerous women’s health services including gynecology, obstetrics, minimally invasive surgery, breast surgery, gynecologic oncology, perinatology, urogynecology, certified nurse midwifery, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, behavioral health, physical therapy, lactation, and integrative medicine.

“Where we are today and where we’re headed are direct results of Dr. von Gruenigen’s work,” Dr. Ferris said. “It’s quite an honor to hold the von Gruenigen Chair in Obsetrics and Gynecology.”

Dr. von Gruenigen also served as senior vice president and chief medical officer at Summa Health. She is an acclaimed author, researcher and lecturer on a variety of women’s health issues
and continues to teach and conduct grant research.

“An endowment lasts forever,” Dr. von Gruenigen said. “My parents taught me to treat people right, make a difference, and do what you can to help others. In a way, it is a legacy to them.”

NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Promise magazine.

For more information about donating to Summa Health, contact Shelley Green, senior director of development, 330.375.6891 or


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