Published on May 17, 2018

Huffman to Retire from NMMC-West Point after 41 Years

WEST POINT, Miss.—Robert Huffman became a “search engine” long before the term was coined. After all, with a 41-year history at North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point, he knew the answer to most questions and, if not, he knew where to find it.

Huffman will retire June 1 as the hospital’s director of facility management. A reception will be held in his honor from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, May 31, in the hospital’s education center, 150 Medical Center Drive.

“On behalf our NMMC-West Point family, I want to personally thank Robert for his 41 years of dedicated service to our hospital,” said Barry Keel, administrator. “We wish him only the best in everything he does as he transitions to this next phase of life in retirement.”

A 1971 graduate of Mathiston High School, Huffman earned a certificate in refrigeration/air conditioning from Holmes Community College in Goodman. He played baseball and football there, making the All-State team in football his sophomore year. Huffman also trained in electrical controls at East Mississippi Community College. Later he earned certifications as an Executive Housekeeper and in Hospital Emergency Preparedness.

Huffman moved to West Point to work in maintenance with refrigeration and high pressure boilers at Bryan Foods in 1974. He worked there until 1977, when he was hired as director of maintenance at Ivy Memorial Hospital located in downtown West Point. “Director” seems somewhat a misnomer, as he was the only employee in the maintenance department; all of the department positions had been vacant for several months.

After Ivy Memorial Hospital became the first hospital to affiliate with North Mississippi Health Services in the early 1980s, Huffman was integral to the design and construction of the new hospital on Hwy. 45 Alternate north of town. The hospital’s original design featured an outdoor courtyard, and hospital Administrator Mike Reid was not satisfied with the design for the Administrative and Business Office area. Huffman had another vision for it. “I proposed that we could locate the business offices inside the courtyard and install skylights for the same cost,” he said. “The architectural firm revised the drawings, but there were no codes for such a design in hospitals. We were the first hospital in the nation with an atrium.”

In fact, a friend from Columbus told Huffman that he attended a National Fire Protection Association meeting and was surprised when they unveiled their example of a futuristic hospital—it was the West Point hospital.

His first major undertaking, Clay County Medical Center opened on Oct. 1, 1985. Since that time, Huffman has overseen the design, construction and renovation of multiple buildings on the hospital campus and even a few offsite.

He has also been active with several local, state and national organizations throughout his tenure. He served consecutive two-year terms as Region 4 representative for the American Society of Healthcare Engineers Board of Directors, covering Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. He served as president of the Mississippi Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Engineers/Facility Managers from 2008- 2011.

Huffman has been a dedicated member of MHA since his initial membership in 1979. He first served as the society’s Prairie Council Representative in 2000. In 2001 when the MHA Society for Health Facilities Management began participating in the ASHE Affiliation Awards Program, he chaired the original committee and provided extensive leadership to create education guidelines for his local chapter.

In 2003, Huffman attained Fellow Member status, the MHA society’s highest level of achievement. In 2008, he accepted the ASHE Gold Level Affiliated Chapter award for the MHA Society for Healthcare Engineers/Facility Managers. The chapter achieved ASHE’s Platinum Level in 2009 and continues to attain the Platinum Level.

“There are so many highlights—the buildings, the people, serving on the national board,” Huffman said of his career. “Serving in health care has been so rewarding. It’s so fantastic to provide a service to those who need it. Being service-oriented is something I’ve always had in me. I have always enjoyed helping people.”

In retirement, Huffman looks forward to traveling, including a long-anticipated trip to Hawaii. His wife Ronda will no doubt have plenty of honey-dos for him to finish while she continues to work as director of the Career and Development Center for Choctaw County Schools. Married since 1975, the Huffmans have five children; sons Daniel (wife Katie), Brad (wife Dana) and Drew live nearby, while daughter Meredith (husband Phillip Kirby) lives in Benton and daughter Madeline (husband Nick Poe) lives in Jacksonville, Fla.. They have six grandchildren—Maddox, Kali, Micah and Mia Huffman, and Michaela and Merella Kirby.

Huffman is a member of First Baptist Church in Mathiston. He also serves on the West Point-Clay Count Emergency Planning Committee.

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