It’s a little past high noon in Downtown Waterbury. This Tuesday afternoon isn’t just warm… it’s a downright scorcher. Like, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot. Run-through-a-hose hot. Streets-look-like-a-mirage hot.
Leaving his comfy, climate-controlled confines, Steve Schneider makes his way out of his conference room, down the hospital corridor, in and out of the elevator, down a staircase and – pow – out into the swelter, the humidity immediately hitting his face. He’s wearing the antithesis of “weather-appropriate attire” – a black suit, white business shirt, maroon patterned tie, black socks, brown shoes.
“You’re going to need to Photoshop out all of the sweat,” he jokes, in a calm and well-mannered tone. And then, he’s off.
Dr. Steve Schneider is the recently-retired President of Saint Mary’s Hospital, an acute care, community teaching hospital that has served Waterbury since 1909, and is a member of the Trinity Health of New England family.
Where Schneider’s off to, is “around town.”
He often takes lunchtime walks throughout the neighborhoods in the City. His jaunts are part business, part pleasure. “When I'm walking, you look at the Clock Tower, you look at the churches, and it almost feels like you're in an Italian city. It's wonderful… the architecture and what we have here.”
He also loves seeing the people, observing the alchemy of the city, often stopping for chats. It’s in these interactions where Schneider gets a clear sense of what the City needs – each person and the community as a whole.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Chicago was a very polarized and segregated city. Martin Luther King Junior was a prominent national figure. He marched through Chicago several times, and I actually watched some of the marches that he did there. And I remember seeing neighbors I actually knew, screaming at Martin Luther King and the people marching with him to get out of there and actually throwing bricks and things like that.”
“It was a very disillusioning thing for me to see. I had no idea that those capabilities existed in the hearts of neighbors of mine – and it really set my thinking in a very different direction. That's pretty much lasted the rest of my life.”
His family stayed in Chicago through Scheider’s junior year of high school. One could argue that Steve raised himself during senior year, as months prior, his parents decided to move the family to Omaha, Nebraska. Young Schneider refused to go – and instead, crashed on friend’s couches, bedroom floors and such.
He would reunite with the family in Cornhusker country – spending the next eight years there, earning his Bachelor’s in Biology, Pre-Med and Doctor of Medicine from the University of Nebraska.
While as a high schooler he was terrified of getting drafted for the Vietnam War, Schneider ironically wound up in the U.S. Army anyways – a concession for having his medical school tuition paid.
At Fort Lewis in Washington state, Steve got trained in Emergency Medicine, which was a new specialty at the time. This experience came in handy when he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia – and he immediately became, at 28 years old, the only person there who knew Emergency Medicine.
Undeterred, Schneider dove into the work and subsequently reorganized the Emergency Department at Benning’s Martin Army Hospital – which he cites as one of his most notable accomplishments.
Schneider in the U.S. Army.
So many of Schneider’s accomplishments are notable over his four-plus-decade career – none more so than advances he has helped bring to the Waterbury region in the last few years.
A new Breast Imaging Center at the hospital, a joint venture with the City of Waterbury to launch walk-up COVID-19 testing locations, and the selection of Saint Mary’s as one of the Most Wired Hospitals in the country, are all accolades that Schneider is proud of – and feels underscore the high quality of healthcare in Waterbury.
“We do benefit from proximity. In a very small state, we have three good medicals schools – Yale, the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac – and a lot of our medical staff come from the local medical educational communities.”
Not only is Schneider complimentary of the advancements that Saint Mary’s has made, he also tips his cap to the other City healthcare leader, Waterbury Hospital. Before Saint Mary’s, ironically, Schneider was at Waterbury Hospital for 22 years – serving as the Chair of Psychiatry for five, and as the Chief Medical Officer for seventeen.
For everything from a hip replacement to a broken ankle, from a heart attack to needing open heart surgery, I believe that you're served as well here as you are in any community in this state.
Schneider quite likes this spot in the crowd, as it offers a true perspective on what people need to succeed. This “universal view” strongly informs his leadership style.
At the end of his walk, back at the hospital, Schneider offers an analogy – and a clear message to prospective investors:
“Waterbury is like very fertile soil, and there are seeds here that will grow and sprout with a little bit of fertilizer. We're already seeing some of it, that the workforce is here – eager and ready to go. If you want to be in a place that's growing, that's ambitious, that's hungry to develop, that has a true sense of community and spirit… you're not going to find a better place than Waterbury.”