A Proposal for
The Robert Sparks, MD Memorial Compound
Kisoga, Mukono District, Uganda
Main Housing for Volunteers in Kisoga, Uganda
The following is an adaptation of a mailing that was sent out to Omni Med board members, the Sparks family, and the WK Kellogg Foundation in May 2017. We are planning to name this house/ compound after him. The remainder of this document summarizes who he was and why we feel this would be an appropriate gesture toward his legacy. We welcome donations from all who knew Dr Sparks, through the University of Iowa, Tulane University School of Medicine, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and to those who simply support our work and would like to help us secure a permanent location for our staff, volunteers, and operations.
March 17, 2017
Omni Med is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1998 that has worked in five countries and published two volumes on global health service. Since 2008, it has worked closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to train and maintain community health workers, called VHTs (Village Health Teams). Omni Med has sent over 100 health volunteers to serve in this program and has conducted three clinical trials measuring program efficacy, a rarity for the service sector. Responding to local needs, Omni Med builds cookstoves, constructs protected water sources, and distributes bed nets to combat the three leading killers of children in Uganda: pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, respectively. Over the past 9 years, Omni Med has infused over $400,000 US dollars into the local economy, trained 1,250 community health workers, constructed over 5,500 cookstoves, 31 protected water sources, and developed a staff of six, all while redirecting the life paths of over 100 US physicians, nurses, medical and public health students toward social justice and service.
Dr Sparks was a major force in the development of Omni Med. In 2001, he became one of the first to join Omni Med's Board of Directors and stayed actively engaged until his passing in 2014. He guided the organization in its early years of development, sharing his considerable expertise and shaping the way we work in developing countries. Dr Sparks was a staunch advocate of Omni Med's approach to addressing health inequity through service. Having previously created the Kellogg Foundation's National Leadership Program, Dr Sparks imparted that wisdom to us, reflected in our approach: serving in local communities, engaging directly in long-term, sustainable programs, and fully immersing incoming volunteers in community life. On a personal level, he became an indispensible mentor and guide to me, always available by phone or e-mail, always with a thoughtful and considerate response. He read and revised several chapters of Awakening Hippocrates, serving as a counsel through the many years of writing. He left an indelible mark on me, as he did on all of us at Omni Med; his beliefs live on through the operating principles we follow still. It is clear that we would be a much different organization without his considerable influence.
Dr Sparks was also a huge figure in the medical profession. A member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine, he served as Dean of the Tulane University School of Medicine, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
Omni Med's work in Uganda embodies Dr Spark's passion to stretch young minds, challenge health inequity and subject all new program concepts to rigorous academic evaluation. All of us in the Omni Med family feel that naming this compound after him would be an appropriate and fitting legacy to the man. We would also like to expand our academic affiliation network to include Tulane University School of Medicine (with a student arriving in September), the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa.
In 2012-2014, we honored another long-time Omni Med board member, Ambassador Harry Barnes, by constructing ten protected water sources throughout our catchment area. These sites now bring clean, potable water to several hundred households with small children, significantly reducing diarrheal illness and death. We feel Dr Sparks similarly has earned such a lasting tribute.
We have been working in this compound for the past three years, having moved from a smaller facility in 2014. Given our program’s success and planned expansion, we need additional space for office, storage, and volunteer lodging. We currently rent the compound for a cost of US $200 per month, or $2,400 per year. This rent, along with the compound cost, is scheduled to rise considerably in the coming year. We seek to purchase the compound this year and then initiate several construction projects to develop an ideal location that will house staff, visiting students and faculty for many years to come. We plan to build a second office/ housing unit, a perimeter wall, gazebo, install an incinerator, and expand the solar panel coverage to meet all of our power needs.
Here are the specifics for what we seek:
Compound Cost, Land $ 47,000
Next Door Banana Plantation (for expansion) $ 20,000
New Construction (expanded space) $ 17,000
Legal Fees/ Title $ 5,000
Solar Panels $ 4,000
Perimeter Wall $ 3,000
Gazebo/ Incinerator $ 4,000
We would like to request any support from those who knew Dr Sparks so that we can purchase the current compound, adjacent banana plantation, and to expand our working and lodging space as above. We recognize that US $100,000 is a large amount of money. However, we also know the value of the work we do in Uganda, and how consistent our approach is with that laid out for us by Dr Sparks. We have already started to fund raise for this and other needs (vehicle, additional staff), and would be happy to accept any support for this compound. We believe that naming the compound after Dr Sparks is a fitting tribute to his remarkable career, and would honor his long-term commitment to Omni Med's work in the poorest regions of our world.
Edward O’Neil Jr., M.D.
Omni Med 81 Wyman Street #1
Waban, MA 02468
Phone: 617-332-9614/ Fax: 617-332-6623