Akron General leads a coalition to restore a critical public service

In 2013, Summit County’s only formal Sexual Abuse Nurse Examiner (SANE) program closed its doors after decades of service to the community.

In an instant, Summit County was left without an organized SANE program, and victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse and neglect had to have evidence collected by nurses with little or no training in collection of these types of forensic evidence.

Elimination of the SANE program also negatively impacted the quality of testimony provided by non-SANE trained examiners at the time of trial and compromised the quality of care provided to the victims of sexual assault. Quite frankly, this was a dire community issue.

Akron General did not readily have the resources, the money or the training required to take on such a huge endeavor.

Regardless, as CEO and president of Akron General, I knew there was only one thing to do — we had to open a SANE unit — for the health of our patients and the well-being of our community. Under the direction of Dr. Jen Savitski, a physician entirely motivated to do the right thing for Summit County and the victims of such abuse, we did just that.

Filling a need

Last year, Akron General officially started its SANE program, formally called the Providing Access to Healing (PATH) Center.

Here, victims of assault are treated by professionals who have been extensively and specially trained in the systematic collection of DNA and forensic evidence in an atmosphere of support and compassion. At Akron General, the PATH Center was opened, nurses were trained and equipment was purchased — all with the specific goal of filling a pressing community need — not with an eye toward profit.

If you consistently do the right thing by your caregivers (employees), your patients, your customers, your visitors and your community, the finances will work out. While the PATH Center will not be a money generator for the health system, we know that it can sustain itself due to Akron General’s collaborations with organizations and community leaders who care about the cause.

Organizations came out of the woodwork from across the city of Akron, Summit County and the state of Ohio cheering this initiative and jumping on board to help. Our community needed this very valuable resource; their very lives depended upon it. But providing this service, without mind or matter to finances, helped Akron General in a much bigger way.

We found partners from every corner of the state willing to tackle this very difficult public health issue. These entities were willing to provide funding, training and more because it was the right thing to do. We will forever be grateful to our partners.

Doing the right thing is how you instill trust in the community, cultivate devoted employees and build a loyal customer base. When you put doing the right thing over making a profit, the patients, customers, visitors, caregivers and, yes, the revenue, will follow. And when the patients come, we will care for them with every resource we have, because it’s the right thing to do.

Thomas L. “Tim” Stover, M.D., MBA, is president and CEO at Cleveland Clinic Akron General