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First president and CEO of the CMA Foundation dies

July 10, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership Professional Development & Education 

Robert Dean Sparks, M.D., the first president and CEO of the California Medical Association (CMA) Foundation, died on July 1, 2014.

He received his B.A. degree and M.D. degree (1957) from the University of Iowa. He completed his graduate medical education at Charity Hospital, New Orleans, and Tulane University School of Medicine where he specialized in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

He joined the faculty of Tulane University School of Medicine and served as the Dean (1969-72). Dr. Sparks was one of the youngest deans of an accredited U.S. medical school. Dr. Sparks was Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, and Vice President of the University of Nebraska System (1972 -1976).

In 1976, Dr. Sparks joined the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he ultimately became president and a trustee of that Foundation (1982- 1988). He was elected to membership in the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988. International activities include being a Fellow of the U.S.-China Educational Institute (now Wildflowers Institute) and being a member of the five-physician U.S. Delegation for medical exchanges with the U.S.S.R. under the sponsorship of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S.S.R. Academy of Medical Sciences in 1988.

Dr. Sparks was elected to the Board of Directors of Syntex Corporation, a multinational pharmaceutical company, in December 1987. He later served as that Corporation’s Vice-President for Product Safety and Compliance (1991-93).

Dr. Sparks was a Fellow and Master of the American College of Physicians and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society at Tulane University School of Medicine. He received an honorary Doctor of Humanitarian Service Degree from Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, 1978.

Every year the CMA Foundation gives the Robert D. Sparks, M.D., Leadership Award to an individual or organization that has demonstrated extraordinary interest and efforts in improving community health, consistent with the mission of the CMA Foundation to champion improved individual and community health through a partnership of leaders in medicine, related health professions and the community. The deadline to submit nominations this year is September 26, 2014.

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