By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Early this morning, a contingent from North Mississippi Health Services headed east to bring back the nation’s highest honor for business.
The Tupelo-based hospital system will be recognized Monday with three other organizations in Baltimore with the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The award represents an intense commitment to quality improvement sustained throughout the system’s six hospitals, 31 clinics and two nursing homes and verified by national examiners.
In all, 62 members of the North Mississippi Health Services family will attend the award presentation.
“Having a broad base of participation not only gives more people the opportunity to attend, but allows them to come back and share their experience with their co-workers,” said NMHS chief executive John Heer.
North Mississippi Medical Center-Pontotoc administrator Fred Hood will do the driving for a large part of the NMHS group, piloting a charter bus to the Birmingham, Ala., airport. Hood, who has driven charter buses as a hobby for more than a decade, volunteered his services to help.
“I probably drive 30 to 33 trips a year,” primarily on weekends, Hood said. “I love doing it. … I’m literally living out my childhood dream.”
In addition to 31 hospital system leaders and Baldrige committee members, the NMHS group includes 31 lottery winners drawn from across the North Mississippi Health Services family.
The number of lottery slots for each group were determined proportionally. The community hospitals, clinic employees, physicians are all represented, along with a board member and a volunteer. NMMC-Tupelo, which has the largest workforce in one location, had the biggest group drawn in the lottery. Another 11 guests are traveling with the group at their own expense.
Among those making the trip are Fulton family physician Dr. Ben Kilman, and his wife, Nicole, for whom the trip is a celebration of the system’s accomplishment and a personal getaway following the birth of their third child.
“I don’t believe in luck,” said Kilman, who joined the Fulton Medical Clinic staff in July after completing the NMMC Family Medicine Residency Program in June and won a spot on the trip through the lottery. “But I often tend to be lucky.”
The Baldrige award and the hospital system’s quality journey were part of what brought the young physician from Clinton to Northeast Mississippi.
“When I interviewed up here (for the residency program in 2008) the Baldrige was a big thing they talked about,” after NMMC-Tupelo won the 2006 award, Kilman said.
Then when Kilman was looking for a post-residency position, the system’s quest for excellence stood out again.
“The quality of NMHS was the main factor,” Kilman said. “I interviewed with several other systems. None of them compared.”