By STEVEN NALLEY
Ask Clifton Story about his new job, and he’ll say it mostly consists of running a machine his predecessors built.
Bob Collins has been executive director of Mississippi State University Health Services since 1988. His direct predecessor was John C. Longest, namesake of the Longest Student Health Center where Story is a staff physician. Longest spent 40 years at MSU, Story said, but Collins has left a legacy of his own.
“He did a great job navigating (MSUHS) into the computer age, and he has really given us state-of-the-art medical technology,” Story said. “If nobody came in (as Collins’ successor), you could almost say the health center is running so efficiently, it would keep running on its own. Of course, you need leadership ... but right now, he’s got a well-oiled, fine-tuned machine.”
MSU selected Story to succeed Collins when he retires in May as MSUHS executive director.
Bill Broyles, assistant vice president for student affairs, said the spring 2013 semester will serve as a transition period for MSUHS, as Collins helps Story acclimate to his new position.
“Dr. Story will work closely with Dr. Collins through the spring semester to ensure that we have a smooth transition in the leadership of this vitally important service to our campus,” Broyles said.
Story said he will spend this transition learning about Collins’ various duties, including his int
eractions with various committees, his approval of research and his work with MSU athletic teams. A key component of Collins’ legacy Story said he wants to continue and enhance is health education, particularly programs that target smoking cessation, obesity, mental health and prevention of health conditions.
“One of the biggest health problems in Mississippi is obesity,” Story said. “If we’re going to make any dent in that, we have to focus on prevention.”
Story himself has lost 60 pounds since 2010, and he said he was motivated to take drastic action in January 2011 after back surgery exacerbated a long period of weight gain for him. He said he made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape for a triathlon that summer, which he was able to finish. By 2012, he said, he had done five triathlons throughout the year.
“I’m training for five to six more triathlons this year,” Story said. “It took a big motivator like the triathlon to really make myself work hard.”
Story is a 1991 MSU graduate who earned his medical doctorate from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1995. In the intervening years, he has practiced in West Point, Madison and Oneida, Tenn. and spent two years as a missionary physician in Colombia and Costa Rica, but he said he and his wife have always wanted to return to Starkville, leading him to become an MSU physician in 2008.
“I really enjoy being around college students. I really enjoy working at MSU (and) the energy dynamic college students bring to the campus,” he said. “They’ve just left their home. They’re starting to learn life, and I have the chance to have a positive influence on them as they learn how to live.”