SCHAUMBURG, IL (August 12, 2016) – If you researched the term “healthcare supply chain industry purist” online or in print, the name Alex Vallas just might emerge prominently before you.
To those who knew him and worked with him for decades, they acknowledge that few loved the profession enough to want to nurture and protect it for the future as much as Vallas.
Bellwether League Inc. reports that Vallas, 84, Bellwether Class of 2008, died Sunday morning, August 7, after a long battle with cancer.
Richard Perrin, Bellwether Class of 2014, and Bellwether League Founding Board Member, recalled Vallas as an industry and professional leader back in the 1970s, venturing into largely uncharted territory for the function and role of supply chain in a healthcare organization.
“[Back then] he was making his mark on or in education and Value Analysis,” Perrin noted. “He was a true innovator and always established close working relationships with the leading clinicians. He always sought to understand their clinical patient care requirements and then to work with manufacturers and distributors to get the best contracts for quality care – an early leader in developing the path for AHRMM’s future ‘triple aim’ program of ‘Costs Quality and Outcomes.’ He worked closely with Bill McFaul and wrote numerous articles on Value Analysis techniques and benefits. He crafted and introduced the Value Analysis Shared Efforts program in 1981.”
William McFaul (Bellwether Class of 2008) echoed Perrin’s praise for Vallas who supported his career as well as the profession’s progression.
“As my planning for what would evolve into clinical value analysis was underway, Alex and I shared many ideas for how materials managers could gain access to value-based information to support comparative-effectiveness physician decision making,” McFaul said. “His input helped me formulate strategies that contributed to my success. In the early days of value analysis, Alex was one of the leaders that ensured the concept became of reality.”
John Gaida, Bellwether League Chairman, expressed sadness in learning of Vallas’ passing.
“He was a rebel,” Gaida recalled. “He and I tangled many times over the same issue, ‘what was the right place for vendors in AHRMM?’ way back when Alex was ASHPMM’s 16th President (1977-1978). When I was President (#25) (1986-1987) and it was called ASHMM, Alex would always seek me out at meetings and gripe about the way vendors ‘were taking over [the organization]. He hated them to be members and really hated them to sponsor events, sessions or anything at AHRMM. I remember telling him that that was just the way of the future and the Board was in agreement – yet he always fought the idea.
“Well, fast forward many years, when Alex and I crossed paths again (and especially at his Bellwether League induction) we both laughed at the heated conversations we had back in the day,” Gaida remembered. “I always admired his passion for the supply chain industry and his strong convictions. He was never afraid to fight for what he felt was right. He was truly a Bellwether in its truest sense and he will be missed. Under his sometimes rough exterior, he was a caring and passionate guy for his family and the supply chain profession!”
Rick Barlow, Bellwether League Inc. Co-Founder and Executive Director, and veteran healthcare supply chain industry editor and writer, reiterated Vallas’ staunch and steadfast advocacy for the supply chain profession.
“Alex was very helpful to me as a mentor early in my career and served on my editorial board at HMM, Hospital Materials Management newsletter,” Barlow noted. “He was a rebel with a cause – and that cause was bucking the status quo and silly fads, which he felt were dampening progress of the profession. He was blunt, direct and frank and knew doggone well where this profession needed to go. And to the best of his abilities, and often against the grain, he went.”
Vallas spent a considerable chunk of his healthcare supply chain career at Magee Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, first as Director of Purchasing and later as Director of Materials Management, from 1966 to 1993. He left Magee to serve as Corporate Director of Materials Management at OhioHealth in Columbus, OH, until 1999.
To view Vallas’ profile in Bellwether League Inc., the Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership, please click here.
Vallas earned the highest award given by the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management, the George R. Gossett Leadership Award, in 1979. In fact, he was one of only three recipients of the Gossett Award during the decade of the 1970s. AHRMM named the award in memory of Gossett, its first president, for his dedication to supply chain education and professional development within a profession he envisioned and promoted as a prominent participant the healthcare industry. Gossett was inducted into the Bellwether Class of 2010.
Patrick Carroll, Bellwether League Secretary, recalled Vallas’ industry and individual leadership.
“Alex was clearly a leader in Supply Chain Management in an era when leaders were few and far between,” Carroll said. “Despite his having a problem with me being a consultant and being on the AHRMM board and eventually becoming AHRMM president [in 1989-1990], he supported me and mentored me. He was a kind man, passionate always in his convictions.”
Vallas served as AHRMM president more than a decade earlier in 1977-1978.
Jamie Kowalski, Bellwether League Founding Chairman, remembered Vallas fondly as “a colleague, a voluntary/unofficial mentor and client over the years.”
Late in Vallas’ career, Perrin recalled some of his more personal connections with him.
“My most memorable experiences were spending evenings with Alex sharing a glass of Ouzo at a fine restaurant and listening to stories about his Greek family and heritage. [He was a first-generation American born to Greek immigrants]. We also toured the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in downtown Columbus (OH) where Alex would explain the finer points of his religious foundations. We talked a lot about his love of fine cuisine – dolmades, moussaka, spanakopita and, of course, baklava.”
After Vallas retired, he returned to Pittsburgh to be closer to his daughters and family. Yet his connection to healthcare didn’t waver, according to Perrin.
“His quest for value analysis and the best deal continued, and we discussed the various attributes to be considered when he bought a new car,” Perrin said. “At home, he loved his garden and the fresh tomatoes and herbs for his Greek dishes, and flowers for his table. His home was filled with memorabilia and pictures from his years supporting the U.S. Foreign Service and his healthcare awards. Alex was a fine gentleman and a professional highly regarded for his innovative contributions to healthcare.”
Vallas led a storied life even before his trailblazing healthcare supply chain career. At 17, he left home to join the Army, serving in the Korean War. After his tour ended, Vallas joined the Foreign Service where he traveled the world with his wife Jeanne at the time and met numerous U.S. and foreign dignitaries.
At 55, Vallas was very proud of and humbled by his completion of a Master’s Degree in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Vallas is survived by his two daughters Catherine (Dave) McKinzie and Niki (Frank) Senchak; his grandchildren, Alex, Christina, and Sean; and his nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his older sister Pearl. Vallas was preceded in death by his sister, Mary; and brother, Earnest.
Prior to his death, Vallas extended heartfelt thanks to his friends and to Dr. Leonard Appleman and staff at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center for “their kindness and support during his difficult journey.”
Bellwether League Inc.’s Board of Directors, a veteran group of industry advocates, selects deceased, retired and currently active professionals with a minimum of 25 years of exemplary service and leadership performance in supply chain operations that meet its criteria to be publicly recognized. Honorees demonstrate their qualifications by advancing the profession through work experience and performance and active participation in professional organizations and their communities. Future Famers represent supply chain professionals early in their healthcare careers who do not yet qualify for Bellwether consideration, but have contributed to the healthcare supply chain profession in a meaningful way.
To date, Bellwether League has honored 86 innovators, leaders and pioneers in healthcare supply chain management in five distinct categories: Education & Media, Supply Chain Management, Group Purchasing, Supplier and Consulting Services. Bellwether League also has recognized 12 Future Famers to date.
Launched in late July 2007 by a group of influential veterans in the healthcare supply chain industry, Bellwether League Inc., is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation that identifies and honors men and women who have demonstrated significant leadership in, influence on and contributions to the supply chain from healthcare providers, healthcare product manufacturers and distributors, group purchasing organizations, consulting firms, educational institutions and media outlets.
Bellwether League currently is funded by three Founding and Platinum Sponsors – Halyard Health, Owens & Minor and Premier Purchasing Partners – and a host of additional sponsors.
For more information about Bellwether League Inc., visit www.bellwetherleague.org.