"I told them if they could get me released from my military service obligation, I would be their doctor," Ruffing recalled.
In the years prior to Ruffing's service, Hemingford had several doctors come and go. Unlike the others, Ruffing had a very strong determination to stay wherever he started his practice.
"I knew this was where I would start my practice, and this was where I would end my practice," Ruffing said.
A rural country doctor is a busy person. So busy, in fact, Doc Ruffing could have decided not to get involved with other community projects. However, he is not the sort of man to sit and wait for people to come to him. When he arrived in Hemingford, one of the first things he did was join the fire department and rescue squad. When emergency medical technician (EMT) training became available, he took it with the rest of the volunteers.
"At one time," Ruffing chuckled, "I was the only physician in the area who was also a licensed EMT."
Ruffing also began holding stop-smoking seminars in Hemingford and the surrounding area. He still has people who thank him for helping them stop smoking nearly 40 years ago.
After he had been in Hemingford for several years, a vacancy on the village board opened, and a friend encouraged Ruffing to run. He was elected, reelected and then served as mayor for two years. After 12 years of public service he decided he needed a break.
Ruffing's interests are not limited to medicine and public service. He also enjoys music.
"I miss the large choirs from my college and university days," said Ruffing. "I really enjoyed singing in those."
Hemingford does not have large choirs with an orchestral accompaniment, but occasionally Doc Ruffing goes down to the nursing home and plays the piano while the residents eat lunch. He also fills in as an organist for other churches in town when they need someone.
His willingness to be involved in the community has endeared Doc Ruffing to the community. His community participation has earned him Hemingford's Man of the Year Award, the Distinguished Service to Medicine Award from the Nebraska Medical Association and Nursing Home Medical Director of the Year. Loma Linda University has also recognized him as Family Physician of the Year. Most of these awards require nomination from the community. Nominating Doc Ruffing is one way the townspeople have shown their appreciation for the man who has lived and served among them for more than 40 years.
Ruffing continues to share his time with Union College as well. Several Union physician assistant students have gone to Hemingford to get a taste of rural medicine under Ruffing's guidance.
"I tell them this is as rural as it gets," Ruffing said with a smile.
A year agoÃ¢â‚¬â€in preparation for retirementÃ¢â‚¬â€Doc Ruffing gifted his practice to the Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance, Neb. This gift ensures a full-time practitioner will be in the area for as long as the hospital is operational.
Doc Ruffing's mission to serve has always been clear. He also knows it's difficult to get acquainted with a person from only a brief medical contact.
"If you're here in the community and you expect them to support you, I think it is important that you also support the community."
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