Made to Order: Donna L. Schweers brings ideal qualities to her role as Foundation chair

December 05, 2016

If you could custom order qualities desired in a Foundation chair, they would likely include leadership ability, extensive knowledge of the health care industry, an understanding of human behavior and a sense of humor.

These are exactly the qualities that Donna L. Schweers brings to her role as chair of Saint John’s Health Center Foundation.

Donna possesses wide-reaching experience gained over a 30-plus-years career in health care consulting and management. Early on, she helped to develop the HMO-managed model of medical groups at Prudential. She progressed to positions with national health care consulting groups Ernst & Whinney and Towers Perrin before launching her own consulting practice. In her various roles, she has worked with hospitals, hospital systems, physicians’ groups, insurance companies and venture capitalists. Her expertise is in strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, and systems organization.

“I can’t think of anyone better suited to chair Saint John’s Health Center Foundation than Donna Schweers. She truly epitomizes the Saint John’s culture. With her confidence, efficiency and humor, and a background steeped in the health care industry, we are in good hands with Donna at the helm.” – Donna F. Tuttle

Even with her background, Donna would not have predicted her future role at Saint John’s when she moved to Santa Monica from the Bay Area in the early 1990s. She had no firsthand knowledge of the hospital when her friend Su-Z Schneider, a member of the Irene Dunne Guild, invited Donna to join the group, which supports Saint John’s through extensive volunteer and fundraising efforts.

“What attracted me to the guild was getting to know a group of women of all ages in my area who are engaged and committed to charitable community endeavors,” she says.

Through her involvement in the guild, Donna saw firsthand the gem she had in her own neighborhood. “Saint John’s is a community hospital but with the depth of specialties that attracts first-class researchers and physicians,” she says. “The Health Center competes with teaching institutions, yet maintains a very high-touch environment. Our Catholic roots and mission emphasize caring for the whole person, both body and soul.”

Donna was hooked and eventually became president of the guild. She also served on various Health Center committees, including co-chairing the strategic planning committee with Donna F. Tuttle.

Donna Tuttle could see how much Donna Schweers had to offer and invited her to join the board of trustees. Now Donna Schweers has just succeeded John M. Robertson, MD, as chair of the Foundation board.

“I can’t think of anyone better suited to chair Saint John’s Foundation than Donna Schweers,” says Donna Tuttle, past chair of Providence Saint John’s Health Center's local board of directors. “She truly epitomizes the Saint John’s culture. With her confidence, efficiency and humor, and a background steeped in the health care industry, we are in good hands with Donna at the helm.”

In her new role, Donna feels confident about Saint John’s bright future. “We’re at the precipice of stepping up to the next level,” she says. “The next 10 years will see progress toward development of the south campus and a new home for the John Wayne Cancer Institute. We’re in the process of launching the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, and Saint John’s has recruited world-class physicians and researchers for it.”

She notes that the Health Center is also enhancing its cardiac program, expanding its Women’s Health program and creating a new stroke center. “There’s a lot for the community to be excited about,” she says.

Donna shares her passion about the hospital with her husband, Thomas C. Geiser, a retired corporate attorney specializing in health care companies. Tom has just begun his term as chair of the Health Center's local board of directors. The couple live in Brentwood and have a daughter, Kelsey, who works for the National Academy of Sciences. Mother and daughter both attended Stanford University as undergraduates, and Donna earned her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

A native of Austin, Texas, Donna recently took a dream trip to Rwanda to see the silverback gorillas. “It was incredible. I’ve always been fascinated by the similarity of chimps and gorillas to the human race,” she says. “They exhibit many behaviors once thought to be unique to humans. As Jane Goodall [with whom Donna studied at Stanford] has said, it’s like holding a blurry mirror on ourselves.”

Summing up her thoughts, Donna says, “You feel like you’re with your family when you go to Saint John’s. I’ve never seen a hospital with the community involvement we have here. Through the Foundation, the community really does have a voice in the hospital and where it’s going. There’s tremendous enthusiasm with what’s on the horizon.”