2019 Obituaries

December 31, 2019

Paul T. Werner

Paul T. Werner, MD, the former director of education for the College of Human Medicine’s Upper Peninsula Medical Education Program, died Nov. 22 at his home in Saginaw. He was 72.

Werner earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his medical degree from the MSU College of Human Medicine in 1973. In addition to directing education for the Upper Peninsula program, he was Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Mary's of Michigan Hospital, retiring in 2003.

While living in Escanaba, Werner helped establish the state’s first hospice program.

Before his death, his family created the Paul T. Werner, MD, Family Endowed Scholarship for College of Human Medicine students who intend to go into family practice in underserved rural or inner-city areas.

After retiring, Werner was trained as a Synodically Authorized Minister, serving many Lutheran congregations. For many years, he was a member of Saviour Lutheran Church and a volunteer at the Saginaw Metro Ministries Food Pantry.

Werner is survived by his wife of 52 years, Jane; children, Nathan Werner and Amanda (Craig Johnson) Werner; grandson, Silas; and his brother, David.

Harvey Sparks

On a whim, while still a college junior, Harvey Sparks sent his resume to the University of Michigan medical school “asking whether or not I could get in,” he recalled many years later. “Believe it or not, they said ‘yes.’”

Thus, without ever receiving a bachelor’s degree, he began studying medicine, a path that eventually led him to become a world-renown physiologist, a highly respected professor and a leader who built the Michigan State University Department of Physiology to national prominence.

Harvey V. Sparks Jr., MD, died Oct. 18, but his legacy lives on through his ground-breaking research and the generations of physiologists he taught. He was 81.

“He took a department that had no particular special focus and brought it into modern times,” said William Spielman, PhD, who was recruited by Sparks and succeeded him as department chair in 1993.

Spielman, at the time with the Mayo Clinic, recalled receiving a call from Sparks inviting him to give a talk at MSU and asking if he would be interested in a faculty position. Sparks “was an impressive scientist, and his personality was so strong that I had a good feeling about moving my laboratory to Michigan State,” Spielman said. “He was a magnetic scientific leader who people were drawn to, and I was one of them.”

After earning his medical degree from the University of Michigan, Sparks completed his post-doctoral studies at Harvard and in Gothenburg, Sweden. In 1974, he returned to UM to teach and conduct research. In 1979 he accepted an appointment as chair of MSU’s physiology department.

Sparks was named the American Physiological Society’s 60th president, and he traveled widely while serving as an accrediting visitor for medical schools all over the world. For a decade he and his wife Barbara lived in Zimbabwe, where he mentored faculty at the University of Harare and helped build its physiology department.

He published extensively on cardiac and renal function. After serving as chair of the Department of Physiology, he was named the university’s vice-provost for health, overseeing the colleges of Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing. He was a pioneer in remote learning technology and developed a competency-based curriculum in cardiovascular pathophysiology.

In recognition of his many accomplishments, Sparks was honored as a University Distinguished Professor.

Among his most important contributions was the generations of physiologists he trained and inspired, not only at MSU, but at universities throughout the world.

Spielman recalled attending conferences where he met many of the scientists Sparks trained.

“Harvey was a person that others were immediately drawn to, both personally and professionally,” Spielman said. “He was a man who cared deeply about everything he did. He embraced life and all of its riches whole-heartedly.”

That included his love of opera, poetry, theater and horseback riding, which he took up late in life.

In a 2018 interview for the American Physiological Society’s living history project, Sparks was modest about his contributions.

“I did what I could do,” he said, “and I enjoyed it immensely.”

William S. White

One of the longest-serving leaders of major philanthropy in the U.S., William S. White passed away peacefully on October 9 at age 82. We are grateful to Mr. White, whose contributions through the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, helped expand the College of Human Medicine and locate its public health program in Flint.

In 2011, the C.S. Mott Foundation supported MSU’s research and feasibility studies with a $2.81M planning grant, and in 2011, announced an additional gift of $9M. With that support, MSU College of Human Medicine created an endowment to be used, in part, to expand the number of medical students trained in Flint, recruit nationally-funded public health researchers focused on solving community health issues identified by the Flint community, and locate MSU’s Public Health Division in downtown Flint.

The expanded program is home to public health researchers, educators, and students, each working to help identify and address public health concerns in the Flint community – a cause that Bill White was always passionate about.

We thank Bill White and the Mott Foundation for making possible this public health research that is
focused on improving lives and making Flint a healthier community.

Read more about Mr. Whites countless achievements.

Barry Saltman

Dr. Barry Saltman passed away on September 9, 2019. Saltman graduated from MSU College of Human Medicine in 1977 and later served as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine. He also taught Sparrow Hospital medical residents, ran a medical practice in Mason and started a free medical clinic at Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing.

After retiring from his practice in 2004, Saltman and his wife Suzanne, a nurse practitioner, founded Care Free Medical in Lansing, which serves thousands of local uninsured patients and those with limited access to healthcare. Saltman believed in supporting uninsured patients, and made sure that they received the care they needed. He was passionate about serving the community and inspiring others to volunteer as well.

Saltman is known for his selflessness and sense of humor. He was often called “Dr. Barry” because he would introduce himself as Barry to his new patients, preferring to be called by his first name. Saltman traded his white medical coat for a shirt and tie, and could be seen wearing MSU apparel on game day.

Annie Yang

Second-year MSU College of Human Medicine student Annie Li Yang passed away on June 25, 2019. Yang received her a bachelor of arts in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University, with certificates in Global Health and Health Policy, as well as Planets and Life. In 2018, Annie was accepted to the College of Human Medicine and completed her first year in Lansing, at near the top of her class. She won second place in the Shared Discovery Curriculum student essay contest, for her essay Patiently Gazing into Patients’ Lives.” 

Annie would have received her medical degree in 2022. She planned to pursue a career in ophthalmology.

It was clear from the familiy's stories of Annie, that she loved her fellow students and deeply appreciated her time with staff and faculty of the college. Annie has a very special and loving family who will miss her very much, as we all will.

Norbert Enzer

Dr. Norbert Enzer passed away on June 8, 2019. Saturday at the age of 88. He came to Michigan State University in 1973 as a professor and the second chair of Psychiatry for the Colleges of Human and Osteopathic Medicine. In addition to assuming the challenging administrative responsibilities of a developing department, Dr. Enzer assumed a leadership role in the medical student program. He was a major participant in the development of the problem-based learning (PBL) and behavioral medicine components of the early preclinical curriculum. He also was one of the great pioneers in developing residency training opportunities in public sector psychiatry and recruitment strategies to help meet the shortage of psychiatrists in underserved areas. 

He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University before attending medical school at McGill University Faculty of Medicine, where he graduated in 1956 with highest honors. He completed his formal training with a dual residency in pediatrics and psychiatry and a fellowship in child psychiatry at Duke University.

Dr. Enzer is a widely published author, a member of numerous professional societies and committees, a fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists and a frequent visiting professor. He has served with leadership and prominence on virtually every child and adolescent psychiatry board, as well as on federal government review groups for child psychiatry and education. In recognition of his vast contributions to the field of psychiatry, Dr. Enzer has been a most deserving recipient of numerous awards including the 1997 Career Services Award from the Mental Health Association in Michigan in recognition of his professional lifetime achievements.

Nikolay Dimitrov 

Dr. Nikolay Dimitrov passed away on November 10, 2018. A faculty member in the College of Human Medicine for more than 38 years, Dr. Dimitrov was Professor Emeritus in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. He published nearly 150 papers in the field of medicine-oncology, including biologic response modifiers, breast cancer and micronutrients.

Naomi Breslau 

Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Naomi Breslau, PhD, died peacefully October 13, 2018, of complications of cancer of the uterus in the company of her loving family, including her husband, Glenn Davis, the former Dean of the College of Human Medicine. Dr. Breslau joined the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 2003 and made important contributions to understanding the epidemiology. Retiring in 2016, Dr. Breslau inspired many, especially young scientists, by her example of strength, intelligence, resilience and independence.

James M. Harkema 

Professor Emeritus of Surgery, Dr. James M. Harkema passed away on October 9, 2018. Dr. “Jim” Harkema retired from the College of Human Medicine in 2011 and joined the development task force for the Shared Discovery Curriculum, where he made lasting contributions to our reimagined curriculum and the medical school experience.

Houria "Suzy" Hassouna

Dr. Houria “Suzy” Hassouna died peacefully October 24, 2018, at her home in Okemos. Dr. Hassouna joined the Department of Medicine in 1978 and became an Endowed Rehberg Professor in 2007. Among her scholarly accomplishments, Dr. Hassouna published dozens of articles, was a member of several scientific societies and held two patents.