Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In memory of Ross Spark (1954-2013)

Another tragic death. Another one gone far too early.

Over the weekend I was shocked and saddened to hear of the early death of my good mate, friend and esteemed professional colleague Ross Spark, who was Head of School and Professor of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Reahabilitation Sciences at James Cook University in North Queensland.

Ross died in hospital in Cairns on Sunday after suffering massive strokes on Friday evening and Saturday.

Originally trained as school teacher, Ross had a long and distinguished career in public health and tropical medicine across Northern Australia. He worked in the Kimberley (WA), the Northern Territory and Darwin, North Queensland, Cairns and Brisbane and outside Australian in the Pacific Islands and Vietnam.

I first met Ross in 1983 when he was working for the Queensland Department of Education and I was working for the WA Ministry of Education. Ross subsequently moved to Darwin to run the Northern Territory Government's Health Promotion Unit and pioneered the development of health promotion and public health programs in Aboriginal communities.

Ross moved to Perth in the late 1980's to complete a PhD and teach graduate and post graduate programs in health promotion at Curtin University. He and I shared a house during that time.

Ross's PhD focused on Aboriginal community health promotion in the Kimberley. He then moved to Cairns to run Public and Tropical Health programs and services across Northern Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands for the Queensland Department of Health.

Ross became an expert in public health in tropical settings and moved seamelessly between public health work, academia and overseas consultancies for WHO and the Australian Government. In 2008 he made the fulltime move into academia with an appointment at the Menzies School in Darwin and in 2010 he returned to Cairns to his current position at James Cook University.

Ross also wrote and published books on health promotion and public health, and in the days prior to his death he completed a revised edition of one his most successful books Health Promotion Strategies and Methods.

A memorial service and funeral will be held in Cairns this Friday. I can't get there, but thankfully Ross's many friends  and colleagues here in WA will be  represented by a WA contingent.

No comments: