“We wrote a grant proposal to the Lightning, and the Brandon Outreach Clinic and I were chosen,” Parks said.
The doctor told Lightning owner Jeff Vinik that the $50,000 award the Lightning Foundation gave him would be used to help defray the cost of laboratory work and medicine for the clinic's patients.
In the 25 years of the clinic's existence, this “is by far and away the largest and most helpful donation ever received from a private organization,” Parks said.
Parks' name became identified with the facility because he spoke at so many area service clubs to promote the clinic in its early days, he said. The facility receives no government money and serves the area's uninsured residents totally through volunteer funding.
“This is a very, very giving community. Everywhere you go, there are volunteers doing something to help somebody else,” said Parks. “There are many, many volunteers who deserve just as much or more credit as I do. They're really, really good people. Some of them have been (at the clinic) for 20 years, and one or two have been there the entire 25 years.”
All his life, Parks wanted to be a doctor. Not because his mother died when he was 8 and not because he took care of his ailing father afterward. He enjoyed and was good at science, he said.
After graduating from medical school, he worked as the sole physician in a National Health Service Corps rural clinic and then as a Brandon Regional Hospital emergency room physician.
He believes “the medical profession is much more than just a job, it's a vocation,” he said. “You're working 20 hours a day and weekends and holidays, and sitting with sick people's families and having to tell people they're going to die from cancer — it's not just a job or a position in a company. … It has to become a vocation or you won't be able to do it.”
In the early 1980s, he opened his own practice, Brandon Area Primary Care, 500 Vonderburg Drive, and discovered that some of his patients struggled to obtain health care because they did not have insurance.
“We got together with some very involved community people and developed a clinic,” he said.
He acknowledged Marian, his wife of 42 years, who “has been by my side every minute to support me and what I've done. She's a wonderful mother (to our two grown sons), a wonderful grandmother (of four) and a wonderful wife.”
Parks insisted that starting — and continuing to see patients at — the Brandon Outreach Clinic “isn't a matter of giving back, but simply of giving … because it's the right thing to do, the right way to live. … There are people out there who maybe have caught a bad break in life, and we're there to help them through those bad times.”
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.