Campus mourns passing of long-time administrator
Tom Zirkle, MD, FACS
Born in Loma Linda in 1936, Tom Zirkle, MD, FACS, joined the medical pursuits of his father in a distinguished professional career that focused on cleft palate, hand, and cosmetic surgery, burn and trauma care, and emergency medicine, as well as myriad administrative duties.
He served as senior vice president of Loma Linda University Medical Center, assistant dean of the School of Medicine, special assistant to the president at the University, and president of the School of Medicine’s alumni association.
In a career that spanned the globe, Dr. Zirkle taught, treated, and consulted in six continents, and covered hospital appointments at the Medical Center, Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Hospital, Riverside General Hospital, and City of Hope Medical Center, in Duarte. He often traveled to places where he would perform medical missionary services.
His 2008 calendar shows proposed continuing education appointments in Greece and at Camp MiVoden in Idaho, the latter being a long-time annual commitment.
Overseeing Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, China, from its inception, he made more than 70 trips to ensure the building and operation met Western standards.
A complex spectrum of interests brought balance into Dr. Zirkle’s life. His marriage to Carol Rudy, a nursing student from Spokane, on December 26, 1961, came a few months before the two were awarded their respective medical and nursing degrees. The couple’s children recall rich conversations initiated by their father at the dinner table. They also remember airplane trips, often with their father piloting flights to Spokane, Monument Valley, San Diego, and the Grand Canyon. During his plastic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, the family was evacuated to avoid the 1969 neighborhood riots. Secure in his father’s protection, Dr. Zirkle’s son recalls watching with absorbed interest from a high-rise apartment the violent outbreaks.
Spearheading an emergency medical service program for Loma Linda fire fighters, Dr. Zirkle developed and taught the courses, and ultimately became deputy chief of the department, active in all aspects of fire fighting. According to his colleagues, “His knowledge of the fire service was impeccable, even though he was a physician. A great asset to the community, his medical skills gave added dimensions to his service.”
An interest in media developed when young Dr. Zirkle participated in radio productions at the Campus Hill Church’s radio station. In the 1970s with Roland Zimmerman, MD, he determined to transmit Loma Linda University Church events to patient rooms in the Medical Center. He raised funds, purchased cameras, and learned production skills for the project. The effort has grown to become a 24/7 operation at Loma Linda Broadcasting Network, where he was serving as LLBN board chair, moderator on several programs, and presenter for a devotional “One-on-One” weekly television show.
His adventurous spirit took Dr. Zirkle and Norman Meyer to Alaska in 1974 to purchase Army surplus helicopters for the Medical Center, which has had helicopter ambulance service ever since.
Interspersed with flying, gardening, reading, and musical talents have been Dr. Zirkle’s church affiliations, serving as board chair and head elder at Loma Linda University Church, as board chair of Loma Linda Academy during its successful fund drive to build a grade school accommodating more than 1,000 students, and as associate director of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Department of Health Ministries, which took him to the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, Africa, and India.
Active in spite of a week-old bypass surgical procedure, Dr. Zirkle helped granddaughter Maddie with her homework in science and mathematics on his final day. His attention to family ties will be cherished by those mourning his death: wife Carol; daughter Karen of Redlands and her children, Madison and Forest; sons Jonathan and Thomas (and wife Jennifer) and their children, Thomas and Theodore of Tempe, Arizona; brother George of Redding; and brother-in-law Larry Rudy (and wife Carol) of Spokane, Washington.
By Edna Maye Loveless, PhD