Harper, left, was joined in Nashville by hospital board member Susan Keller, who has worked with Harper in personal and professional capacities.
Harper accepted the Healthcare Hero Award from the Tennessee Hospital Association in Nashville on Thursday, Nov. 1, with his family by his side.
MARYVILLE – Licensed clinical social worker and Blount Memorial Senior Services coordinator Edward Harper was recognized by the Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) as a Healthcare Hero for the state. Harper received the award as part of THA's annual conference in Nashville on Thursday, Nov. 1.
Harper, a 27-year employee of Blount Memorial, was recognized for the work he does and the passion he has for the area’s seniors and caregivers, and their distinct needs. He is credited with establishing a senior services program after more than 12 years ago, when he approached the hospital's leadership team with a desire to carve out a strong, focused plan to support the health care needs of seniors. Harper said he saw the demand that the then soon-to-be baby boomer generation was going to have for health care, and he wanted to help Blount Memorial be in a position to meet their unique needs.
Through his efforts, the hospital now offers a full-time senior services program, which Harper oversees; provides educational and programmatic outreach that includes five monthly support group meetings and two health education programs; and it is active with local senior centers and church groups, as well as health-related organizations that work directly with seniors. Harper’s efforts also have helped to further relationships with local agencies, such as the Blount County Veteran's Affairs Office.
Harper also established Caregiver Consultations at Blount Memorial, which he describes as "conversations with a purpose." To Harper, these meetings aren't anything more than conversations. But during these conversations, he listens to the caregivers talk about the person they are providing care to, and he listens to the things caregivers are saying – also listening for what's not being said. He can then help caregivers navigate available resources to help with their individual situations, and Harper does this any day of the year, any time of day – and for those who are in town, or those in travel to Blount County for his assistance.
As one caregiver said in a letter of support for Harper, "He never tells you no. He always finds the time to help. I once called Edward on Christmas Eve, and he was there for me." Without him, this caregiver also said, "I would’ve been a caregiver casualty."
Blount Memorial CEO Don Heinemann says he receives numerous letters of appreciation for Harper and the assistance Senior Services provides. "He identified a need for our community before it became a need. He used a solid foundation of working relationships to build the framework of resources for seniors and caregivers in our community," he shared. "He's found ways to incorporate things that he loves and that are important to him personally with opportunities to help others."
Heinemann added that since 2001, when the senior services programs began, more than 10,000 individuals have been directly served by Harper and Beverly Sherrod, the staff of Senior Services.
Harper, a native of North Carolina, holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Mars Hill College and a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In addition to his work with seniors and caregivers, Harper continues to work in the psychiatric and addiction treatment areas of the Blount Memorial Emotional Health & Recovery Center.