PETERSBURG, W.Va. - The longest tenured CEO in the same hospital on record nationally is retiring on Dec. 11 from Grant Memorial Hospital.
Robert L. Harman, 70, has been associated with the hospital since January 1965, when he was appointed administrator after having served as an administrator resident in Prince George's General Hospital in Cheverly, Maryland.
"Bob is well known locally, regionally, statewide, nationally and in other countries," said Petersburg attorney James Paul "Buck" Geary, a hospital board member since 1965. "We have been fortunate beyond words to have him."
A LONG HISTORY — Robert Harman points out the changes he’s seen at Grant Memorial Hospital during his 46-year tenure as chief executive officer. Julia Barr will be replacing him as CEO when Harman officially retires on Dec. 11. (Photo courtesy of Joan Ashley)
Grant Memorial Hospital is a 61-bed rural facility serving the Grant, Hardy and Pendleton tri-county area in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia with a broad spectrum of service for all ages, said Community Services Coordinator/Public Relations Fran Welton.
Raised in Petersburg, the son of Ralph Edward and Helen Louise Boor Harman, Harmon graduated from Petersburg High School in 1958 where he was senior class president, captain of the basketball team and a member of the National Honor Society. He graduated Fairmont State College with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 1962 and George Washington University with a master's in Health Care Administration in 1964
People have asked him why he didn't move on from GMH to larger and larger hospitals - the normal career path for hospital administration.
"I was happy to come back home - I'm a small town person. There are a lot of positives in a small town where there's always room for growth. You don't need to go somewhere else to find challenges, they are right here," Harman said.
He ended up enlarging his small hospital into a larger and larger hospital while staying in the area where he was happy on his 500-acre farm running beef cattle and four poultry houses processing 26,000 eggs a day.
During his tenure, Harman has overseen two major hospital expansions and renovation projects with associated financing drives including special levy and bond authority elections, Welton said.
"In addition, the hospital has developed a variety of patient and community service programs to meet area needs, such as home health, hospice, and subsidiary clinics, which were turned over to private clinics to meet later state regulations, Welton added.
Harman noted the hospital has not changed anything in its striving for excellent patient care over the years. "We've just been very progressive into developing new programs that help the community."
Harman stated: "If I could endow every employee with a last gift, it would be customer service: 'treat everybody the way you want to be treated - then we'll continue to be successful in our endeavors!"
Harman became involved with hospital association activities early in his career, Welton said. Becoming a board member of the West Virginia Hospital Association (WVHA) in 1971, he served as chairman of the board in 1978-1980 and another year in 1997.
"He has served in a variety of capacities within the state in the area of public policy development and healthcare education services," Welton said.
Instrumental in the formation of the Committee on Small and Rural Hospitals with the WVHA, he served as its chairman from 1983 to 1989. "He received the WVHA Excellence in Leadership Award in 1994 and 2004," Welton said.
Becoming involved with the American Hospital Association (AHA) in 1974 and serving on its board as the West Virginia delegate, Harman served on the Regional Advisory Board for several terms until 1996.
Harman was among the original group of hospital executives brought together by the AHA in the early 1970s to explore the concerns and issues of small and rural hospitals around the AHA's regions and served on its Advisory Panel. Later he served on the Governing Council of the Section of Small and Rural Hospitals for two terms and served as chairman in 1989.
Harman also served on other AHA advisory committees, including the Committee on Biomedical Ethics, IOM-Pediatric Emergency Services Committee, and the Hospital Research and Educational Trust. He was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health, Office of Rural Health Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a term ending in 1994.
Harman was the recipient of the 2006 AHA's board of trustees award and in 2008 was presented the Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent's Award in recognition of significant contributions toward the achievement of healthcare management excellence. In 2010 he was awarded the Outstanding Community Partner Award by the West Virginia Rural Health Education Partnerships. Last October the AHA recognized him for a "Career of Outstanding Leadership."
Harman was cited as a "Distinguished West Virginian" in 2004 by former West Virgina Gov. Bob Wise.
He will be replaced by Mary Beth Barr, the current chief operating officer, who has been with GMH for more than 20 years.
Harman plans to continue involvement with Community Needs Assessments, reviews of the community, its resources, and what needs to be done to improve. "A hospital now needs to prove to the IRS that it is meeting identified needs of the community so it can be considered tax exempt. GMH has already been doing this," Harman said.
Harman's list of awards and community/professional activities and memberships covers two pages in his retirement celebration brochure.
"Whatever you say about him, it's never too much," Geary added.