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Anderson, champion for the poor, underserved

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 9/22/2014, 9:18 a.m. | Updated on 9/22/2014, 3:13 p.m.
Ron J. Anderson, MD, was a national spokesperson for public health issues and a champion for the poor and medically ...
Dr. Ron Anderson, former president and CEO at Parkland Health and Hospital System for 29 years, talks about the changes taking place at the facility. Anderson died on Sept. 11 Tony Gutierrez

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Ron J. Anderson, MD, was a national spokesperson for public health issues and a champion for the poor and medically underserved. He led Parkland Health and Hospital System for 29 years. During that time, he actively tried to keep the city updated on new laws, medial research and hospital updates. He died Sept. 11 at the age of 68.

The news comes almost a week after state and federal regulators informed Parkland that the “Immediate Jeopardy” status issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2011 has been removed. CMS surveyors concluded the focused survey at Parkland earlier last week.

It was during that period in 2011 that Anderson stepped down as the president and CEO of Parkland – a job he assumed in 1982 at the age of 35 after serving for two years as medical director of Parkland’s Emergency Room and Outpatient Clinic and head of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Division of Internal Medicine.

In his final years at Parkland he led the successful bond campaign that secured public financing for the new $1.3 billion Parkland hospital due to open in mid-2015.

On Sept. 10, the Parkland Board of Managers unanimously endorsed a plan led by Parkland Foundation to place a commemorative statue in the new hospital and to name Parkland’s new medical/surgical outpatient clinic after Anderson. In the 1980s, Anderson suggested setting up health clinics in Dallas’ poorest neighborhoods, convincing skeptical board members and local officials of the need. Parkland now operates a dozen Community Oriented Primary Care clinics throughout the county, making primary and preventive health care more accessible.

“Dr. Anderson epitomized the ideal of the servant leader,” said Debbie D. Branson, chair of Parkland’s Board of Managers. “His passionate dedication to improve health care for the poor and underserved inspired a generation of caregivers. He successfully advocated on the local, state and national levels to expand services and helped to ensure the viability of Parkland and all public safety-net hospitals in the U.S.”

Fred Cerise, MD, MPH, who succeeded Anderson as CEO of Parkland in March, greatly admired his predecessor.

“Standing in the shoes of Dr. Ron Anderson is a humbling experience. Dr. Anderson’s focus was always on the patient, and he used his talents tirelessly to advance medical care and expand access for the indigent. The people of Dallas County and indeed, the entire nation, benefited from his vision and innovations,” Cerise stated.

To his colleagues and friends, Anderson was not only an outstanding doctor and administrator, but a man of the highest integrity and honor.

“I don’t know of anyone for whom I have greater respect than Ron Anderson,” said the late Charles C. Sprague, MD, who was president of UT Southwestern when Anderson was appointed to the top Parkland post. “He epitomized what a professional and committed citizen can do for his community and country. Our community is tremendously indebted to him.”

In the mid-1980s Anderson was thrust into the national spotlight when he spoke out against “patient dumping” – the practice of transferring medically unstable patients from private to public hospitals because of the patients’ inability to pay. Anderson’s championship of the cause led to the passage of landmark legislation concerning indigent care in Texas, and to passage of federal legislation in 1986 banning the practice.