New Hospital Council President Glad to Be Back Home
by John Fries
As a child growing up in the Beaver County during the 1960s and 70s,
Alvin J. (AJ) Harper was fascinated by the world of medicine. It's something
he can't really explain, even to this day, but it must have run in the
family, since his uncle was a physician and he had cousins who were
In those days, the local Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill had a Young Explorers
club, which enabled students to spend a series of weekends with a healthcare
profession that interested them, with an eye toward making it a possible
Naturally, AJ chose to participate in the program hosted by Aliquippa
Hospital. He had the opportunity to observe a wide variety of departments
and to ask a lot of questions. One day, he felt truly in his element
as he shadowed Mr. Boone, president of the hospital.
He never forgot that day, and ultimately, he built a career on it.
Now, after 25 years as a hospital and healthcare administrator in the
Cleveland market, AJ Harper has returned home. This summer, he was named
president of Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania (HCWP).
"My career has come full circle," says Harper. "In Ohio, I worked in
community and tertiary hospitals. My work focused on such areas as medical
staff relations, project management, quality improvement, JCAHO, compliance
and other regulatory work."
As president, he has a list of areas in which he sees HCWP, with 70
member hospitals and healthcare facilities in 30 counties, playing an
"Our primary objective is to support our members as economically viable
organizations in their respective communities. We will do this through
meaningful initiatives that address reimbursement, expense reduction,
advocacy, quality improvement, medical staff development, bioterrorism/emergency
response, and community health" he says. "We'll continue to administer
Flash surveys, salary and benefits surveys, and work with nursing and
technology schools to help hospitals recruit key positions. I also plan
to work closely with the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania."
Harper's career began in 1980, after receiving a bachelor's degree in
health information management from the College of Medicine, School of
Allied Health Professions at The Ohio State University. He later earned
an MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College.
He began working in hospitals, first as assistant director of health
information management at Marymount Hospital in Garfield Heights, then
as director of health information management at Huron Road Hospital
in Cleveland. He performed independent consulting preparing long-term
care facilities and free-standing imaging centers for State of Ohio
Health Department surveys.
In 1985, he began a long tenure at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation,
a 500 physician group practice and 1,000-bed hospital, initially serving
as associate director of health data services and utilization management.
He soon became director of patient access and, ultimately, administrative
director of medical operations.
While at the Cleveland Clinic, he decentralized patient financial services
to improve the flow of patients and information and implemented a resource
utilization program using a cost-based clinical decision system. He
also served as project management leader of several start-up initiatives,
including a 34-bed observation unit, centralized pre-admission testing
center, patient bed placement algorithm, a customer service program,
and JCAHO survey preparation.
In 1992, he left for a time to serve as vice president of professional
services for the Greater Cleveland Hospital Association's Center for
Heath Affairs where he worked with hospital boards, administrators and
others on a range of issues. The organization was similar in many ways
In 1997, he rejoined Marymount Hospital, now a member of the Cleveland
Clinic Health System, as vice president of care management, serving
primarily as the hospital's liaison with the medical staff.
In 2004, he was hired as administrator at Lake/University Ireland Cancer
Center in Mentor, Ohio. There, he led the turnaround of a freestanding
cancer center, implemented a number of significant changes to operational
functions, established a medical advisory committee, implemented group
purchasing contracts and a new billing process.
Although Harper has only been at Hospital Council for a very short time,
he feels comfortable in the environment.
"Since Council's mission and culture is so similar to the Greater Cleveland
Hospital Association, it's very familiar to me."
He looks forward to leading HCWP into the future, working closely with
Council's long time partner Amerinet Central. His most important assignment
is to "provide our members value for their dues dollars."
When not at HCWP, Harper spends as much time as possible with Jamie,
his wife of 19 years and a native of Franklin, PA, and their two sons,
Ben, 16, and John, 13. They own property in the Allegheny National Forest
and enjoy hunting, fishing and camping.
And, as Harper is quick to point out, even after 25 years in Cleveland,
he's an avid Steelers fan.