Hammond comes to Salem from Ruleville, Miss., where he served as administrator of the hospital there for three and a half years. He was the administrator of the Eureka Springs Hospital before moving to Ruleville. Hammond has also worked in several other health-related occupations including the Rural Hospital Improvement Project where he worked as a health care consultant. During this time, he said he was able to develop a national network of resources that will be beneficial to the Fulton County Hospital.
He has also worked in private counseling and the ministry. He helped open a food bank in Eureka Springs which is still going strong today. During the early 90's he made several trips to central and eastern Europe to work with home churches who, he said, were struggling with their identities as they were coming out of communist oppression. "I spent about two years going back and forth over there and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was probably some of the most meaningful times I spent in my career," he said.
Hammond was born in Baltimore, Md. "My father was a minister, an Episcopalian priest, and we moved around a great deal," he said. Hammond graduated from high school in New Jersey and headed off to college at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., where, he said, he "probably had one of the most wonderful times that any college freshman could have." After that first failed attempt at college, he waited seven years to begin his formal training and "get serious about getting an education." At age 25, he enrolled at Appalachian State University and graduated summa cum laude. He attended Baylor University to work on a PHD in statistics but did not get the funding to finish that degree. "I probably had the equivalent of two master's degrees in course work," he said. Hammond was then offered the opportunity and funding to work on a PHD in medical physiology at East Carolina University.
Hammond is the father of six children, "Eight," he said, "if you count the 6 year-old and 3-year-old grandchildren I raised the first three years of their life."
Hammond has a daughter who lives in Austin, Texas, where she and her husband are partners in a fine dining establishment that recently opened. He also has a daughter who is a Duke Law grad, another daughter who lives in Fayetteville and a son who just graduated from high school.
"I have one son who is a Marine," Hammond said. "I'm proud of all my children, but his commitment is pretty extraordinary. He's a load master on a C130 transport plane. He has been to Afghanistan and home safely and will be going to Iraq in August."
Hammond also has a daughter, Jennifer Whitlow, who could be called a television celebrity. "Jennifer was one of eight women and eight men who were on the Fox reality TV show 'Bootcamp.' They were put through a Marine style bootcamp and one person was booted off each week," he said. "Well, Jennifer was the one who won on that show. She took home $500,000. She and her husband now live in Fredricksburg, Va."
"They (my children) are all scattered out and I am here by myself, but I love it here," Hammond said. "My commitment is to rural healthcare. I'm very comfortable here."
Hammond said he is very impressed with the Fulton County Hospital and its staff.
"One of the primary assets of the hospital are the staff that are here," he said. "They are strong; they are committed. Bricks and mortar don't serve people, although it's an essential element, it's not the human touch. In this age of high technology, in a facility like this, we can use the technology that is necessary. But, people don't remember the bells and whistles, they remember the kindness, the compassion, the caring. A physician in Eureka Springs once said, 'Our goal needs to be high touch and appropriate tech.' I think we have an excellent foundation here."
Hammond said he has three priorities in his job as administrator.
"I told the staff in our department head meeting on Monday, 30 minutes after I came on board, that I have three goals, three priorities. First is patients. Without patients there is no hospital. Without a hospital there is no jobs. Second is physicians. Physicians are the doors to the hospital -- period. And, without physicians -- no patients, no hospital, no jobs. And, the third priority is the staff," Hammond said.
Fulton County Hospital's status as a critical care access hospital is another asset that Hammond said he hopes to build upon.
"Hopefully, we can diversify into some other areas. Critical care hospital reimbursement will cover costs, but there's more to running a hospital than just cost. We need to be able to replace equipment; we need to be able to maintain an appropriate margin so that we can adjust salaries as necessary and that kind of thing," Hammond said. "I would love, in five years, to see the Fulton County Hospital viewed by the community as the Fulton County Medical Center. Obviously, we're never going to crack a chest here, we're never going to do open heart surgery, but we want to have the diversity of appropriate service lines to meet the needs of this community and meet them well."
Hammond said he plans to take the first 90 days to become familiar with the organization and operation of the hospital and then begin the development of a strategic planning process. Part of the long term planning he believes should include working with UAMS and other medical schools to develop an active recruiting program for primary care physicians.
"To get a doctor to come to Salem, that's going to be someone who is looking at this lifestyle, maybe someone who has come from a major metropolitan area who is looking for the slower paced lifestyle of the rural areas. It's a matter of matching lifestyle with goals and commitment," he said. "Personally, I'd like to see a couple more primary care providers in this area. I'm a strong proponent of nurse practioneers and their work. They practice at a level that is very patient friendly."
Hammond said he looks forward to working with the hospital staff, doctors and the hospital board. He believes the future of the hospital is a good one and will use his knowledge and experience to keep the hospital moving in the right direction.
"Sometimes you acquire experience and information you realize is good to have, but that's not exactly where your level of expertise can best be utilized," Hammond said. "This is my element, working in small rural hospitals at the administrative CEO level and I'm absolutely thrilled to be here."