Thomas P. Gessner, M.D., a 1964 graduate of Saint Vincent College, lifelong physician, hospital medical director and the president of the Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation, will be honored with the conferral of an honorary doctor of science degree, and his son, Christopher A. Gessner, president of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), will be the principal speaker at the 11th annual December commencement ceremony of Saint Vincent College at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec.19, in the gymnasium of the Robert S. Carey Student Center.
One hundred and forty-two students – 65 undergraduates, 65 graduates and 12 doctoral candidates — who completed requirements in August or December will be awarded their degrees.
The commencement ceremony will be preceded by a Baccalaureate Mass at 9:30 a.m. in the Mary, Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel and followed by a reception in the Robert S. Carey Student Center lounge.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., archabbot and chancellor, will preside. He and Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president, will award the honorary degree and the student degrees. Graduates will be presented by Dr. John J. Smetanka, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean.
Thomas P. Gessner, M.D.
Thomas Gessner graduated from Saint Vincent College with a bachelor of arts degree in biology with highest honor and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1968 with a doctor of medicine degree with honor.
He completed his professional training at the Yale New Haven Hospital’s department of pediatrics as an intern and resident. He was a research associate at the National Cancer Institute Laboratory of Biochemistry and served as chief pediatric resident at the West Virginia University Medical Center department of pediatrics. He served in the military with the United States Public Health Service.
Thomas Gessner’s past hospital appointments include service as assistant professor of pediatrics and director of ambulatory services at West Virginia University Medical Center, assistant professor of pediatrics and senior staff at the University of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and as a member of the adjunct staff at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and as a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Medical School.
A member of the active staff at Latrobe Area Hospital from 1977 to 2006 and an emeritus member since that time, he served as president of the medical staff at Latrobe Area Hospital, as associate medical director and medical director. He also served as a member of the board of directors of Latrobe Area Hospital and senior physician advisor to Excela Health.
He is the president of the Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation board, serves as a member of the Saint Vincent College board of directors and is the chairman of the board’s academic affairs committee. He is also a member of the College’s advisory council for the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing.
In 1999, he was recognized as a Saint Vincent College Letterman of Distinction and in 2014 was honored as an Alumnus of Distinction. He has also been honored with the Howard A. Mermelstein Award for Excellence in Pediatrics by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in 2010.
He is a member of the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Family Medicine and served on both of their boards of directors. He was named to the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1974.
He has served as chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Maternal and Child Health to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as a member of the task force on topics for annual review of the American Board of Pediatrics, as an oral examiner for the American Board of Pediatrics, on the residency curriculum advisory committee for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and continuity clinic resident preceptor for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Thomas Gessner is the author of several publications in professional journals.
An usher at Saint Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Wilpen and a member of the church council at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Ligonier, he is on the board of directors of the Woodlands Foundation and serves as a driver for the Ligonier Meals on Wheels. Thomas Gessner and his wife, Penny Power Gessner, have three children, Christopher, Mark and Martin.
Christopher Gessner earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics at the College of William and Mary as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a master’s degree in business and health care administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
In his leadership role, he provides executive leadership to all areas of hospital operations including nursing, ancillary services, ambulatory services, physician practice plans, facilities/maintenance, clinical programs and community based services.
His leadership stint at WPIC began in July 2014 and since that time his major areas of focus have been negotiating higher reimbursements from third party payers, right sizing WPIC inpatient capacity, building a regional community based behavioral health network and improving access to care by integrating behavioral health services into medical practices.
During his tenure with Children’s Hospital, Gessner’s leadership has been instrumental to the success of many initiatives, including the integration of Children’s administrative services with UPMC; the design, construction and relocation to a new 10-acre, $625 million hospital and research campus; the transition to a fully automated, paperless hospital that incorporates an unprecedented level of technology to improve patient safety and quality outcomes; and the growth and development of numerous clinical service lines.
Gessner brought a wealth of knowledge and experience in hospital operations, business development, strategic planning, and group practice management to Children’s Hospital when he joined the staff in 2000 as the president of Children’s Community Pediatrics (CCP). His expertise and guidance led to the financial turnaround of the CCP an operation which has grown to become the largest pediatric and adolescent primary care medical network in Western Pennsylvania.
In 2001, he assumed the additional role as vice president of ambulatory and professional services. Under his leadership, Children’s Hospital experienced a significant expansion of its outpatient services and improved access to pediatric specialty care in Western PA.
In 2005, Gessner’s responsibilities expanded when he was appointed to serve as the hospital’s chief operating officer. As the COO, he oversaw all aspects of the hospital’s day-to-day operations including execution of the hospital’s strategic plans, operating and capital budgets, and facilities planning.
Prior to joining Children’s Hospital, Gessner served for two years as the vice president of health services administration for Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield where he created strategic business relationships with key primary care groups and integrated health systems throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Prior positions included: service as vice president of business development for Penn State Geisinger Health System (Harrisburg, Pa.) where he was responsible for the system-wide third party payer contracting and business development for clinical services and the Geisinger Health Plan; Various senior-level administrative positions during a five-year period with Guthrie Healthcare System (Sayre, Pa.); and serving as administrative resident and administrative director of cardiovascular services for the Western Pennsylvania Hospital (Pittsburgh) where he handled line management responsibilities for all of the hospital’s cardiovascular programs and services.
Gessner is a member and chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation, and serves on the boards of the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, the Center for Emergency Medicine, the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.