By Amy Long | Photo by Jenniffer Merida
Today, baby boomers often fall into time worn tales of misspent youth or the cliché aging hippie who sold their soul to the decadent 1980s. For Fran Weisberg, those pivotal years of activism and social change at the University of Rochester allowed her to find her voice. She’s kept it ever since.
Weisberg has dedicated herself to the welfare of the Rochester community for over four decades. Her leadership skills and record of success have helped her to draw members of the community together to solve critical problems facing many cities across the nation including here in Rochester.
“Rochester is an amazing community,saysWeisberg. “It’s small enough that if you have a good idea, passionate people will come along with you.”
Weisberg’s proudest call to serve came as the CEO and President of Lifespan for ten years. As elder care and advocacy in tough economic times becomes even more crucial, the organization offers a comprehensive support system for Rochester elderly who need assistance with health care and everyday issues that become difficult to manage with age.
“I can honestly say it’s the work I’m the most proud of,” she says.
In addition to making Rochester a community that doesn’t allow its seniors to fall through the cracks, she co-chaired an elder abuse consortium at the State Summit on Elder Care, where she helped to create a statewide model to combat elder abuse. She also served as the Program Director of the Monroe County Long Term Care Ombudsman as well as the Regional Council on Aging.
Currently, Weisberg serves as the Executive Director of Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency. The organization works to create better coordination of care between the community and health care facilities. “We look for ways that people can get the health care they need in the community before they use the most expensive resources, like the ER.”
It’s an ambitious task, but Weisberg’s experience and a deep-rooted belief that it’s one’s obligation to give back to those who need it the most, underscore her success.
FLHSA and Weisberg create roundtable discussions with a variety of agencies including physicians, hospitals and consumers.
“Basically, we work to create health care reform within the community. We were doing health care reform way before the state and national models.”
Weisberg’s hard work has paid off. The organization recently received the largest Health Care Innovation grant in the nation at 26.6 million dollars to go into the strategy and services for Rochester.
Added Weisberg, “Rochester has one of the best health care systems in the nation because of community partnerships.”
While the nation and many states grapple with the economic downturn, Weisberg’s lifetime of advocacy and dedication have only benefited the city of Rochester. “I came to Rochester to go to school, and I never left. I believe Rochester is a great community. People really do like working together here.” Weisberg credits much of her successes to the culmination of the collective work of the community. While that certainly has been the case, Rochester owes a debt of gratitude to the woman who came here years ago and never lost her voice.