An executive with a proven track record of leading multimillion dollar fundraising campaigns is trying to bring the same success to Summa Health System.

Phylis Ferrara recently joined the health system as the new president and chief development officer for the Summa Foundation.

Prior to taking on the chief fundraiser role at Summa last month, Ferrara served as vice president for institutional relations and development for University Hospitals in Cleveland, where she helped boost annual giving from less than $14 million annually to nearly $70 million annually.

At Summa, her goal this first year is to increase donations to the nonprofit hospital system to $10 million, compared with previous annual averages between $5 million and $6 million.

“One of the things that really was intriguing to me was the opportunity to grow something here,” she said. “It reminds me of my days when we first started back at University Hospitals. … We built it and grew it. That’s really what the attraction was.”

Going forward, she said, she wants to focus on building major gift-giving at Summa.

“There are a lot of great causes,” she said. “That is really what we need to do ... attract more people and help them understand the great work that Summa is doing and make them part of the process with us and engage them more meaningfully.”

The Summa Foundation Circle of Women’s Health Philanthropists, led by a team of clinicians and women volunteers, is an example of engaging fundraising that could be adopted by other areas of the health system, Ferrara said.

Ferrara and the foundation staff of 14 employees are determining the strategic plan for fundraising going forward, she said. Areas of focus for support include cancer, cardiology, women’s health, senior services, orthopedics and the Summa Center for Health Equity.

“I think the foundation is the conduit between the community and the work we’re doing at the hospital — really getting the message out about the good work that’s happening at the hospital,” she said.

Ferrara, 58, a native of Northeast Ohio, lives in Gates Mills.

Her salary was not disclosed.

Summer scholars sought

Akron Children’s Hospital is seeking applications for its Summer Pediatrics Research Scholars program, a 10-week program beginning in early June.

Each college student selected for the program commits to working at least 24 hours per week at the hospital.

Participants are assigned a mentor and work on a research project that focuses on ways to improve patient experience, enhance patient safety or quality of care and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.

Students also will be able to shadow health-care teams in various areas.

Those selected for the program will receive a $1,200 scholarship.

Applications are being accepted today through Nov. 15. For more information or to download an application, go online to

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or Follow Powell on Twitter at