If you’ve been with Charleston Allergy & Asthma for quite some time, you’ve likely had the opportunity to share a smile with Dr. Harper! Whether it’s for his love for sharing a good laugh, his incredible necktie collection or his understanding and compassionate care, patients of all ages have grown to love Dr. Harper over his 40 years of owning an allergy practice.
While it’s bittersweet for our Charleston Allergy & Asthma team, we are excited to celebrate Dr. Harper’s retirement and honor the tremendous impact he has had on our staff, patients and community. After all, he’s been with Charleston Allergy & Asthma since day one, having founded the practice with Dr. Bruce Ball in 1992. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to share many fond memories, walk through life’s highs and lows together, and become our own little “work family” here in the Lowcountry.
We took a moment to sit down with “Dr. H” and learn more about his story, his experience in caring for generations of families throughout his tenure, and to hear what he has planned next!
Where are you originally from and what brought you to Charleston?
My family is from Berkeley County, although my dad was an air force pilot and we moved 14 times in 10 years. We lived in Tokyo, Honolulu, Maine and New Hampshire. I come from a family of seven MDs over the course of three generations. My dad was from St. Stephens, SC and my mom from Moncks Corner. After going to medical school in New Orleans and fellowship in Denver, I wanted to be back with my folks here in the Lowcountry.
How long have you been practicing medicine and why did you decide to go into the allergy field?
I’ve been practicing medicine for 40 years. Initially, I wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist, then decided during my residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans that I wanted to be in the busiest field; and at that hospital, it was allergy/immunology. I stayed in New Orleans for an additional two years at the National Institute of Health (NIH) for my immunology research fellowship and then my mentor helped me get into the National Jewish Hospital where I studied immune function of Cystic Fibrosis patients. I had the opportunity to study and treat children with various lung problems and received a lot of specialty training. When I came back to SC, there was no pediatric pulmonologist in the lower half of the state, so I became the de facto lung specialist.
How did you come to begin Charleston Allergy & Asthma?
I decided to join forces with Dr. Bruce Ball after working alongside each other. We quickly realized we would make a great team. Bruce is incredible at the “business side” and I don’t care for it, so we were a good fit! We eventually brought on Dr. Davidson four years later and have continued to grow over the years with an extraordinary team of board-certified allergists. There are seven of us now!
How has the field of allergy and asthma transformed over the years?
Forty years ago, the allergy field didn’t have the greatest reputation. A lot of people thought it was some sort of “hocus pocus.” There were also some major misconceptions about allergy injections and allergists putting everyone on allergy shots, like it was a shot factory. Our field has now developed tremendously and has a strong scientific footing with justification for what we do and the treatments we choose.
A huge positive change has been seen in severe asthma. Decades ago, individuals were considered invalids if they had asthma. There was little good medicine available in the 60s and 70s and the few medications that were prescribed had a lot of side effects. It’s been rewarding to treat people who weren’t aware of good asthma control medications and change their lives.
What is your favorite part about being a doctor?
The one-on-one interaction with patients, particularly the children. The opportunity to teach patients over the years, whether for their own care or their children’s care, has been rewarding. I’m the doctor but what I really want to be is your expert advisor. It is ultimately the patient’s role to choose their therapy. My job is to share what the problem is and then provide options for treatment. Working alongside patients on their health journey is what I enjoy.
How many patients do you believe you’ve had the honor of caring for over the years?
I’ve seen three generations of patients throughout my career. It’s been amazing for some of my patients who I took care of as children, to now take care of their children and their grandchildren!
What will you miss most after retirement?
The people! The patients, my staff, my colleagues. I’ll miss improving patients’ quality of life. Seeing the benefits of the therapies that people didn’t know were available. I’ll miss seeing them healthy, when they didn’t think they could feel any better!
It’s amazing to share a treatment plan with a patient, to tell them that it will change their life and then to see them become healthier, breathe better and start enjoying activities again.
What are you most excited about in this new chapter?
Time off doing other things that I love! I haven’t had more than three days off in five years. I haven’t taken a week off in 15 years. I know my dog Gabe will be really happy! I’m looking forward to spending time out on the water, hanging out with Gabe, white water paddling, kayaking and traveling around the U.S.
Can you share a bit about your family?
I’m excited that retirement will bring more time with my family as well! I have a wife, Joanna, a daughter, two step kids and a granddaughter. Here’s hoping they don’t get too sick of me now that I’ll be around more.
Are there words of encouragement that you would like to share with the Charleston Allergy & Asthma family?
I’ve enjoyed working with our team. It’s incredible to see that the average employee in doctors’ offices nationwide lasts around 18 months. Most of our staff has been with us for many years, and some even decades! It’s been wonderful to have a staff that works well together, that I work well with, and to see how we’ve come to know each other and anticipate what needs to be done.
We are thankful that while Dr. Harper is retiring, he will remain on our staff as a consultant for our allergy and asthma practice. We’re also thankful for the six talented board-certified allergists on our team that will continue to provide care for patients throughout the Lowcountry. Interested in requesting an appointment? Contact our team today.