PINE TOWNSHIP – The first day of Dr. David Tupponce’s tenure as president of AHN Grove City hospital turned out to be an eventful one.
Tapped as AHN Grove City’s new president in early January, Tupponce arrived for his first day, strolled through the hospital’s doors and prepared to introduce himself to the staff. After just 60 minutes at work, he wasn’t prepared for a phone call from his wife.
“She told me she tested positive for COVID-19,’’ he said.
Tupponce had no choice. Since he was in close contact with someone carrying the virus, guidelines required him to leave the hospital – immediately.
Days after quarantining with his wife he got another surprise.
“My test for the coronavirus came back positive,’’ Tupponce said with a grimace. “You never know where you may pick it up.’’
That lengthened his quarantine even further. It was a memorable introduction.
He’s very aware that he and his wife were lucky, because they didn’t have serious complications.
“I was asymptomatic the whole time, and my wife just had flu-like symptoms for a couple days’’ Tupponce said.
He kept track of daily events through phone calls to the office.
“But there’s no substitute for being in the facility,’’ he said.
Tupponce arrives to the area from Maine, where he served as executive vice president of Central Maine Healthcare and president of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Prior to that, he was CEO of Tenet Healthcare’s Abrazo Scottsdale Campus, in central Arizona.
Yet, Tupponce doesn’t need a full-blown greeting to the region. He and his wife grew up near Sarver, Butler County.
“We always had strong ties to this area with family and friends,’’ he said. “And we always talked about coming back.’’
Although a physician, he hasn’t practiced that trade for a dozen or so years. He found a home in the world of healthcare administration.
“This is what I love, to run a hospital,’’ Tupponce said.
He’s planning to return as a family practitioner on a limited basis. But the overwhelming amount of his time will be committed to administration. Interacting with the local community is a high priority.
“You can’t be at arm’s length when you’re talking about healthcare,’’ Tupponce said. “It’s not about what we (AHN Grove City) want, it’s about what the community needs.’’
There are fun times ahead. As a self-proclaimed “dirt-and-gravel cyclist,” he plans on discovering local bicycle paths for relaxation.
The quarantine delayed Tupponce’s first full day at the Grove City hospital until Jan. 21. In the following days he made introductions to staff members in hallways, cafeteria, nursing stations and all the medical departments.
Like Tupponce, AHN Grove City is undergoing a changeover. Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network acquired Grove City Medical Center in January 2020. AHN now has 13 hospitals and hundreds of clinical locations across western Pennsylvania.
With Tupponce’s appointment, each of AHN’s eight western Pennsylvania acute-care hospitals is now overseen by a president who is a physician.
Highmark Inc., a nonprofit Pittsburgh-based health care insurance provider, bought the assets of West Penn Allegheny Health System in 2013 and formed Allegheny Health Network. AHN Grove City is now upgrading its electronic records to the AHN system.
And, of course, the hospital is constantly monitoring the pandemic. As is the new local president, with his first-hand experience with the virus.
Tupponce said he’s finding that staff members are committed to the healthcare system.
“Everyone has a passion for Grove City and the region,’’ he said.