YOUNGSTOWN – Dr. Ronald Dwinnells shuddered at the thought of the dog. But he had a graduate deal with his youngest daughter and she was getting the grades, so a drooling Labrador puppy moved into her home in Poland.
Yellow dog hair everywhere was driving the self-proclaimed Nettnik crazy – until he discovered a talent he didn’t know had.
It’s one of the real-life adventures that the 66-year-old founder and CEO of One Health Ohio writes about in his book, Don’t Pick Up All the Dog Hairs: Lessons for Life and Leadership.
A weekly publisher review said, “The common sense on offer here is just refreshing.” Dwinnells is already working on at least two other books and says he may have found a new career to retreat into – except that he is not ready to give up what he is doing.
In the book published in September by Greenleaf Book Group Press, Dwinnells examines what not to do to be successful and how FAME – failure, adversity, mistakes, and enemies – taught him that. The chapters include “Don’t Turn Down FAME”, “Don’t Be a Squirrel”, “Don’t Fly with Turkeys”, “Ignore crickets that live in walls” not “Don’t dress like a warthog” and “Don’t run over the cat.”
âIt’s not just about leadership. It’s also about life lessons, âsaid Dwinnells.
This is the dog story about a yellow Labrador named Charlie.
“At first it was okay to have Charlie in the house,” writes Dwinnells. “Shortly after, when I got back from a short business trip, Charlie had doubled in size and was walking around the upper floors. Dog hair was piled up everywhere. “
Dwinnells built a pen and ordered Charlie to go outside. It did not work. Charlie dug or broke every pen the Dwinnells had built. Charlie and all of his chaos have moved back into the house.
âI cleaned up like a devil,â writes Dwinnells. âI went crazy trying to pick up every single strand of dog hair and it didn’t work. When I announced my withdrawal from housework over dinner one evening, no one said anything; they continued to go about their food business. Nobody took care of it. “
Dwinnells retired to his back yard and began building a dahlia garden. This was followed by a pavilion, a water garden with three-tier waterfalls, a pergola, and then a Japanese garden.
Speaking of this adventure last month in his Youngstown office filled with artwork reflecting his Japanese heritage, Dwinnells said, âThe history of dog hair has two lessons: One – letting go. … Most executives find it difficult to let go. They were good at what they do and it’s hard to let someone else do it. But we don’t know everything. We can’t win everything.
“Two – adversity becomes a discovery,” said Dwinnells. âI had this beautiful back yard, like a park. I didn’t know I was good at it. “
JOURNEY TO FAME
Dwinnells was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and an American soldier father who left the country shortly after the birth of his baby. Her family denied his mother, and Dwinnells said he learned he didn’t fit into their family.
Five years later, his father finally came back to marry his mother. They moved to Fort Knox, Ky., Where his father was next stationed. Dwinnells was enrolled in first grade as a six year old who spoke no English. Soon he was speaking English as if he had been born here.
“It was a messed up childhood, that’s for sure,” he said.
After high school, Dwinnells studied medicine at the University of Kentucky. In 1983 he began residency training at Tod Children’s Hospital in Youngstown. “I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
“When I was intern at Tod’s, one of the things that was very daunting to me as a young idealistic doctor was when people didn’t have insurance or even Medicaid, a lot of doctors didn’t take them.”
In his third year of residence, Dwinnells received a federal grant to set up “safety net clinics” for those who could not afford medical care.
“I wanted to do this in 1986 from an idealistic perspective, and it grew out of it,” he said, noting that One Health Ohio now has 10 locations, most in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties with one in Stark County. âWe currently have around 120,000 patients. About 60 percent of them are Medicaid and the rest are a mix of insured and uninsured. “
One of the first things Dwinnells found out was, âI had a good education in the medical profession, but when I became CEO, I didn’t know how to be a boss. There is no real management school. The management school is there. “
Dwinnells said his ability to accept mistakes and learn from them has helped him and his company grow. In addition to One Health, Dwinnells is the founder and president of the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation, which was created to support and improve the lives of children, adolescents and young people with behavioral and mental health problems.
Dwinnells said the letter came about by chance.
âAbout 25 years ago I was asked by professors at what was then NEOUCOM (now NEOMED – Northeast Ohio Medical University) to give a talk on leadership for medical students. By then I had 10 years of it and was a doctor, âsaid Dwinnells. âOne day I told a story about a mistake I made and how it affected my business. They thought it was good. I’ve told more stories. People can relate to mistakes. “
Dwinnells said that people remember stories better than standard lectures, and therefore remember what to do – or not – to do when they find themselves in a similar situation.
âI started writing these stories down as handouts. A friend sent some of my writings to some publishers. Thatâs how itâs developed for over 25 years, âhe said.
“I’ll write two more,” he said.
A book explores the creeds by which he lives. The preliminary title is “Why not wear those red suede shoes ?: Reflections and Pursuits for a Better Life”.
He calls his other book “Thirty Days in September,” a life novel based on a time he was doing a month-long rotation in medical school. On September 1, he admitted a patient with a spot on her stomach, and a rapid-acting pancreatic cancer was discovered later that month. “She died on September 30th, my last day.”
In his spare time, Dwinnell climbs mountains including Mounts Rainer, Fuji, Hood, St. Helens and two continental peaks Mounts Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, runs road races, gardening, traveling, reading and exercising.
He and his wife, Kathy, have four daughters, Erin, Sarah, Emily, and Abbey, and one son, Adam.