Growing up in rural Missouri, attending a one-room schoolhouse and having an “everything doctor” who made house calls all helped Dr. Ronald Swinfard to gain the small-town values that shaped him into the leader he is today.
Swinfard incorporates those values into his role as the president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network, building relationships with employees, the community, government officials and other hospital executives – making him one of the most influential people in the region.
“I am a little bit unsophisticated and simplistic,” said Swinfard, whose office is at LVH-Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township. “I live by small-town values, where people matter; people treating people with mutual respect, honesty and transparency.”
After a career as a dermatologist in private practice and as the chief of dermatology for the University of Missouri, Swinfard arrived at LVHN in 2003 as chief medical officer. In 2010, he became LVHN president and CEO after the resignation of Dr. Elliot Sussman, who had held the post since 1993.
Among the relationships that Swinfard maintains are with the network’s board of trustees and with government officials such as U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. He also stays in touch with other hospital CEOs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, especially the six CEOs who joined him in the creation of AllSpire – a consortium of seven health networks formed to create cost-effective and efficient health care.
“Part of what attracted me to LVHN is that it is a charitable, nonprofit organization committed to its community, committed to its staff and committed to education,” Swinfard said.
Swinfard said he recently wrote a note to each of the five most influential people in his life and career, and not too long ago he even spoke to one of them on the telephone.
“It’s humility that we need to recognize,” he said. “We are not successful on our own merits; it’s what we learn from others that stretches our opportunities.”
Swinfard is on the board of trustees for DeSales University in Center Valley and on the board of trustees for University HealthSystem Consortium.
Swinfard’s main goal for LVHN in 2014 is to position the network for success in the era of health reform and to continue to heal, comfort and care for the community.
“The reward is not external,” he said. “It’s the relationships with the 13,000 people that work in the system and being sure that the network is postured in the community so that people can support their families and live out the goals in their lives. That’s what matters to me.”