On Thursdays, we highlight an oral history featuring a health care leader who shaped the past and laid the foundation for the future. Since 1978, the AHA has conducted more than 100 interviews as part of this project, and transcripts are available in the oral history collection on the AHA’s Resource Center webpage. The following oral history with Robert Harman comes from an interview conducted in 2014.

Robert L. Harman, who served for more than four decades as CEO at Grant Memorial Hospital, held the record for the longest tenure with one hospital of any hospital CEO in the nation at the time of his retirement in 2011. Spending nearly his entire life in Grant County, WV, Harman’s roots run deep in this rural community. He helped with chores in the poultry houses of his father’s business as a child, and today Harman helps his son in the Harman family poultry business. He played in the high school band in 1957 at the cornerstone laying ceremony for Grant Memorial Hospital and, less than 10 years later, accepted his first full-time leadership position at this same facility. Harman exemplifies the benefits of growing your own, particularly in rural communities.

Harman, encouraged to consider a career in health care by his undergraduate dean of students, attended George Washington University’s new hospital administration master’s degree program. After finishing his residency program at Prince George’s Hospital in Maryland, Harman relocated back to his hometown of Petersburg, WV, where he later accepted the CEO position at Grant Memorial before his 25th birthday. 

In this oral history, Harman discusses the challenges of running a small rural hospital, including recruiting and retaining physicians and employees. He also highlights the cooperative efforts among local health care providers and businesses to address population health and wellness concerns in the community. 
To read the full oral history transcript, click here