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About Dr. Robert Sparks

Dr. Sparks was born in Newton, Iowa on May 6, 1932 and died July 1, 2014 in Placerville, California. He received his BA from the University of Iowa in 1955 and his MD in 1957. After doing a residency at the Tulane University School of Medicine in internal medicine and gastroenterology, he joined the faculty of Tulane and later served as Dean of the School of Medicine. In 1972, Dr. Sparks became the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Vice President of the University of Nebraska System.

Dr. Sparks joined the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in 1976, serving as its president and trustee from 1982 to 1988. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988. He became the president and CEO of the California Medical Association Foundation in 1995 and retired from active employment in 1998.

After retirement, Dr. Sparks continued to serve as a Senior Associate of the California Medical Association Foundation and as an Advisor to the Quincy Foundation for Medical Research. He also was a major supporter of fundraising and awards, including the Newton High School Endowment Fund, the University of Iowa College of Medicine Class of 1957 Endowment Fund, the California Medical Association Foundation's Robert D. Sparks Community Health Endowment Fund and Leadership Achievement Award and the University of Nebraska's Chancellor's Award to recognize Nebraskans who demonstrated leadership in public health for the state's citizens.

Dr. Sparks' interests included international collaboration and cooperation, and he served as a Fellow of the U.S.-China Educational Institute (now Wildflowers Institute) and was one of the five physicians appointed to the 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. He played an active role in programs for alcohol and drug treatment services, including serving on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence from 1981 to 1993.

Dr. Sparks had a distinguished career of leadership in academic medicine, education, public health and philanthropy. When the UI College of Medicine established an annual award to recognize Distinguished Alumni (1998), Dr. Sparks was one of the first to receive this important acknowledgement of the contributions he has made in many areas of community life, from county boards of public health to international committees.  In 2011 Dr. Sparks was named Master of the American College of Physicians [MACP], a very significant honor for his long and notable career.

For more information about Dr. Sparks and the University of Iowa, see Leah Klevar, "What Goes Around Comes Around," Iowa Alumni Magazine, April 2004. Dr. Sparks received the Carver College of Medicine's Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement.