It was the work of respiratory therapists that intrigued Joe Harrelson (1980, Bachelor of Science, Respiratory Therapy) to take a look into the profession. While working as a nurse assistant, he met a Georgia State graduate who encouraged him to take a look at the program.
“At that time, Georgia State’s Respiratory Therapy program was known as one of the nation’s best and offered great clinical training sites. That coupled with a convenient location and a schedule which allowed me to continue work was very attractive” said Harrelson.
After graduation, Harrelson worked for 20 years as the vice president of development for Pediatric Services of America. In 2005, he founded Healthcare for Kids and soon after in 2006 the company merged with Pediatria. Harrelson is currently the president and COO for Pediatria Healthcare for Kids. He says his respiratory therapy degree has been fundamental because having a clinical background helps him manage the company’s operations and resources in a cost-effective manner without compromising patient care.
Pediatria Healthcare for Kids provides innovative and superior health care services for medically complex children at their pediatric day health centers or through pediatric private duty nursing services. The children they help have a variety of medical needs and diagnoses such as prematurity complications, chronic lung disease, tube feedings, colostomy care and other specific needs.
“I love working with all the dedicated nurses and therapists and seeing how the children we serve progress,” says Harrelson. Pediatria Healthcare received the 2012 Pacesetter Award as one of the fastest growing private companies in Atlanta.
Harrelson takes time to be an active alumnus. He serves on the advisory board of the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions and participates in as many alumni events as he can.
“It is a way to give back to a program which was instrumental in my education and success. It also allows me to give input on the needs of the healthcare community which Georgia State serves. Healthcare education will need to evolve to meet the rapid changes and use of technology. The prevalence of home and community-based healthcare also requires an increased knowledge of cultural diversity,” he says.
Harrelson’s commitment is very tangible. Students and faculty members are benefiting from his vision and passion. The Pediatria Healthcare Endowed Scholarship in nursing was established in 2013 to benefit students who are studying pediatric nursing. Harrelson created a summer paid internship for one of our students at one of the Pediatria locations. He has even provided support to students in the study abroad program with donation of airline mileage.
A research partnership between The Lewis School and Pediatria will examine the effect of a computer gaming intervention with and without music on the arm function in children with cerebral palsy.
“The child will play with our newly designed game, Super Pop VR game, for one session about 30-60 min at the place where is convenient to the parents (school, Pediatria, child’s home). After playing the game, the child will be asked few questions regarding how s(he) feels about the experience. We will as well quantify the child’s reaching movement,” says Yu-ping Chen, assistant professor of physical therapy.
“The scholarships given by Pediatria Healthcare allow a student to be one step closer to their goal of finishing college. The scholarship lightens the financial burden and allows the student to focus more on learning. Joe Harrelson’s generosity will inspire students to give back to the community and possibly help other students achieve their goal”, says Bob Harwood, chair of the Department of Respiratory Therapy.
“Never lose sight of the fact that you a caring for people. Always think of what would be best for your patients,” advises Harrelson to healthcare students.
Harrelson is able to remain constantly busy while loving what he does, but he also knows how to take time and enjoy his personal life.
“I own a farm in Alabama and enjoy doing work on my tractor. I also have a five-year-old granddaughter and often say that if I had known she would be such a delight I would have had her first,” he says.