Summa Health System

by | Sep 19, 2014

When Michael Dalton, advocacy director of Summa Health System, sees a problem, he doesn’t waste time finding a solution. 

Take, for instance, Dalton’s establishing a young professionals group at Summa in response to the lack of engagement opportunities for his talented, passionate colleagues, or his efforts to orchestrate a piece of legislation that would prevent his employer from being unfairly penalized for high readmission rates.

“I’m persistent,” he said. “I have strong convictions. I know what’s right. I don’t really give up on things.”

A native of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, a small town northeast of Madison, Dalton moved with his family to Akron in 1988, and has called the city home ever since. The relocation was prompted by his father taking the COO post at Community Support Services, an Akron nonprofit that provides health services to adults with mental illness. His father’s work had a notable effect on him, as he realized for the first time the kind of impact philanthropy can have on a community.

At the University of Akron, Dalton served as student body president and prepared for a career in politics, seeing that as another avenue to affect positive change. After spending some time in Washington, D.C., as an intern for then-U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dalton has focused his work in Northeast Ohio. He has served as Summit County Campaign Coordinator of the Ted Strickland for Governor Campaign, Election Services Manager of the Summit County Board of Elections, and District Director for former Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D-13th District).

Now, as a lobbyist, Dalton approaches politics from a bit of a different vantage point. “I have to work with both sides,” he said. “I have to find some ways to work in the middle.” And he has done so quite successfully.  

Dalton worked closely with Rep. James B. Renacci, a Republican from the 16th District, and a number of other representatives from both parties, including several from Ohio, on HR 4188, a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. At its most basic level, the bill seeks to ensure that hospitals that treat the most vulnerable populations are not unfairly punished. A number of studies show that socioeconomic status affects readmission rates, and so hospitals that treat a disproportionately high number of low-income individuals may experience high rates of readmission, for which they are currently penalized. The bill has since been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Dalton brings a sense of urgency to everything he does, even in his personal life. Last summer, he completed his master’s, got married and bought a house within a span of less than two months. If there’s anything that frustrates him, it’s that “change still takes place at too slow a pace for me,” he said.

And so, Dalton has found kindred spirits in the Fund for Our Economic Future, an energetic group with a penchant for driving positive change. When Dalton joined Summa—which was already a Fund member—in 2010, he became involved right away at the encouragement of Christine Mayer, president of GAR Foundation, also a Fund member.

“The work that the Fund does gets people excited,” he said. “I was excited about being at the table with really intelligent people who were committed to positively affecting the community.

“The value of the Fund is informational and relational,” he added. “The people that are around that table have just a wealth of knowledge about the region.”

In addition to the many relationships he would be able to build through his involvement, Dalton saw in the Fund a shared mission.

“The common denominator there is we’re trying to help people,” he said.

Likewise, Dalton felt Summa could be a real asset to the Fund.

“Summa, as Greater Akron’s largest employer, is of course an important organization to the Akron area,” he said. “Not unlike some of the other members of the Fund, Summa believes the economic health of our region is intertwined with the physical and mental health of its citizens. It’s important to be able to share our perspective and advocate for this region and for Akron.”

Dalton has since been instrumental in bringing Catholic Health Partners, which owns a minority stake in Summa, to the table as well.

Dalton holds a Master of Science in positive organization development and change from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Akron. He serves on the board of Project Learn of Summit County, a nonprofit that provides GED preparation, literacy and English language classes for adults, many of whom are recent immigrants or refugees.

Last spring, Inside Business magazine named Dalton “One to Watch,” and he received a “30 for the Future” award from the Greater Akron Chamber in 2012. He and his wife Dana live in West Akron, where he enjoys hiking and running in the Metro Parks.