Guaccio took Swedish Hospital to new heights

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At one point in his career, Anthony Guaccio left a healthcare organization where he’d worked for several years after it was bought by a for-profit entity.

The reason? “I am a big believer of nonprofit education,” he explains. “I don’t think shareholders should be profiting from anybody getting ill.”

Guaccio stuck to that mission for the last 28 years while working at Swedish Hospital in Chicago, from which he will retire as president and CEO in December. Altogether, he’s had a 40-year career in healthcare administration.

Guaccio has led Swedish Hospital since 1996, first as vice president of human resources, then as chief operating officer. He’s held his current role for seven years. The hospital on the Northwest Side of Chicago is within NorthShore University HealthSystem, part of NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Guaccio says he’s proud of all Swedish Hospital has accomplished in terms of growth, as well as its commitment to serving populations who experience barriers to health care, such as lack of transportation and limited knowledge of English.

When Guaccio first joined Swedish Hospital, there were about 1,100 employees. Nowadays, nearly 2,600 employees work there, and 60% to 70% live within three miles of work. “We really are the economic engine for that part of the city of Chicago,” he says.

During his tenure, “Guaccio and his team championed state-funded programs that enable specialty physicians to deliver care in local neighborhoods and reduce emergency department reliance; advanced COVID vaccine testing and treatment; and addressed health disparities from food insecurity for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking,” a news release from Swedish Hospital stated. “He worked continuously to build coalitions and connection, bringing together civic leaders from local schools, churches, police and fire departments to improve the health and well-being of the Swedish-area community.”

When he became CEO, Guaccio knew Swedish Hospital wouldn’t have a long-term future as a standalone, independent hospital. “We probably would have been good for 10 years, but we needed to be there for another 50 or 100 years,” he says.

So four years ago, after vetting several options, the hospital merged with NorthShore University HealthSystem. Among its many positives, the merger brough in cost savings that, for example, allowed Swedish Hospital to invest in the electronic health record technology Epic, which Guaccio calls “best in class.”

“We have been blessed with this partnership,” he says, adding it’s been beneficial for NorthShore University Health System as well.

Guaccio’s Italian roots trace back to Salerno, in the Campania region, from where his paternal grandparents and their five sons emmigrated to the Chicago area. Guaccio recently visited his ancestral home and had lunch with relatives there. “It was amazing. Probably one of the best vacations of my life,” he says.

After serving on the front lines in the Korean War, Guaccio’s father and one of his brothers opened a grocery store in Harvey, in suburban Chicago. Later, the family moved to nearby Hazel Crest and then Olympia Fields.

Growing up, Guaccio loved working at the grocery store, where his father and uncle cooked big spaghetti meals to feed their employees. He also remembers driving all the way to Chicago to get authentic Italian pastries, and learning to make pasta sauce “the old-fashioned way.”

After he retires, Guaccio plans to take a couple of months off to spend time with his “beautiful and wonderful” wife of 37 years, Sandra, whom he described as a “fantastic” mother to their sons, Anthony Matthew and Austin William. “She has sacrificed a lot, and I need to make up for lost time with her. I owe a lot of my success to her.”

Eventually, he might take on part-time work, perhaps with NorthShore, where he currently leads the government relations initiative, he says. “I have been presented with a lot of opportunities. I have been very lucky.”

When Guaccio’s parents were alive, visiting their home for Sunday dinner was a requirement for their children, and later their grandchildren.

Guaccio is determined to reinstitute that family tradition after he retires. “It’s going to be a requirement, and I will cook for everyone.”

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About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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