Our History Timeline

1887 – A stranger named Gerhardt is injured in an accident at the railroad yard. He is taken to a boarding house and left. The rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Rev. George Degen, finds him in a worsened condition with no one to care for him. Degen collects $500 from merchants along Garrison Avenue, rents a building and sets up a hospital. It is named St. John's after the church people who established the hospital.

1888 – St. John's Church ladies form the Woman's Board of Managers to help care for the patients.

1888 – St. John's Hospital moves to 302 North 2nd Street – the old Atkinson home, which has three rooms. A portable house is added, making space for 12 more beds. A nurse training school opens.

1890 – On November 21, St. John's is incorporated by the state and a nine-man board is established with Judge Isaac Parker as president.

1892 – St John's moves to a better and more commodious building at the corner of 4th and Oak Street (the former residence of L. Rogers). There are 10 large rooms and modern conveniences so the staff can handle 19 patients.

1896 – City Charity Hospital opens September 9 in a building on North 4th Street and organizes a training school for nurses.

1899 – St. John's and Charity consolidate under the name of Belle Point (after the beautiful spot at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers) and move into a two-story house at North 10th and B Streets. Mrs. George Sparks suggested the name.

1903 – Belle Point moves into new two-story red brick building at 916 South 12th Street, valued at $35,000.

1903 – Twelve young ladies organize as a volunteer group and call themselves the Sparks Young Ladies Guild.

1908 – George Sparks bequeaths $25,000 in memory of his wife, Ann Dibrell Sparks, and Belle Point changes its name to Sparks Memorial Hospital on June 2.

1910 – A new wing, funded by Mr. Sparks' bequest, is opened. Sparks can care for 100 patients.

1922 – Sparks Auxiliary organizes through the efforts of Mrs. H. C. King, wife of a staff physician.

1934 - On April 2, Dr. Charles Holt agrees to merge his private hospital (also called St. John's) with Sparks and takes over the management of Sparks.

1945 – Marvin Altman succeeds Dr. Holt as administrator.

1947 – Sparks Young Ladies Guild sponsors a fundraising performance of the play, “Mr. & Mrs. North,” leading to the formation of the Fort Smith Little Theater, the oldest continually operating community theater in Arkansas. 

1953 – Sparks dedicates new 150-bed facility at 1311 South I Street.

1956 – Sparks School of Radiologic Technology opens.

1958 – Sparks Manor - a model for geriatric care - opens.

1966 – Sparks builds East Wing and increases bed capacity to 326.

1970 – Sparks changes name to Sparks Regional Medical Center.

1971 – Sparks dedicates West Wing; making Sparks the largest hospital in Arkansas.

1971 – Sparks School of Nursing closes.

1971 – Sparks Foundation is organized to carry out long-range fund development.

1972 – Sparks inaugurates Heartmobile.

1972 – Sparks Board of Advisory Trustees is organized.

1973 – Marvin Altman is named president.

1976 – Sparks dedicates Julia Welch Yantis Spire, gift from John Yantis in memory of his wife.

1978 – Charles Shuffield succeeds Altman as president.

1979 – Sparks opens Ambulatory Surgery Center and east patient tower.

1984 – Sparks Manor closes.

1984 – Stanley Evans Heart Institute is established as an umbrella for all heart services.

1986 – Sparks opens co-generation plant to produce own electricity.

1987 – Sparks celebrates 100th anniversary.

1988 – Sparks opens the Mabee Health Fitness Complex, which houses the Marvin Altman Fitness Center.

1989 – Sparks dedicates the Hennessy Cancer Institute.

1990 – Sparks dedicates the maternity, pediatric and gynecological areas as The Nancy Orr Family Center.

1990 – The Heartmobile is retired.

1991 – Sparks expands Ambulatory Surgery Center and dedicates the R. C. Goodman Institute for Pain Management.

1994 – Labor, delivery and recovery area is named the Kelsey Birthing Suite in honor of Dr. J. F. Kelsey.

1994 – Sparks and Holt-Krock Clinic establish PremierCare Health Systems.

1996 – Sparks completes new Education Center.

1996 – New gift shop is dedicated and renamed Jennifer's at Sparks.

1997 – Sparks completes renovation of lobby and front of Medical Center.

1997 – Degen Chapel is renovated through a gift from Charlotte Donald in memory of her sister, Zola Lancaster.

1997 – Nursing administration suite is dedicated as the Mr. and Mrs. Collier Wenderoth, Sr., Nursing Center.

1997 – Michael Helm succeeds Shuffield as president.

1998 – Sparks establishes Sparks Medical Foundation to keep doctors from leaving the area.

1999 – Education Center is named Charles Shuffield Education Center.

1999 – Sparks establishes the Sparks Health System, a fully integrated healthcare delivery system.

2000 – Sparks opens Women's Center at Sparks Medical Plaza.

2000 – Sparks inaugurates the area's first totally bilingual medical clinic.

2001 – Sparks opens The Women's Center at Sparks.

2001 – CT heartscan is used as an effective screening tool for future heart disease.

2002 – Sparks doctors perform the region’s first coronary brachytherapy (radioactive “seeds” used to prevent re-blockage of arteries).

2002 – The Women's Center becomes the first facility in the area and only the second in the state to introduce digital mammography.

2002 – Extensive renovations/expansions are made to the Emergency Department, Labor and Delivery, Mother/Baby and Nursery areas.

2002 – meals@home, a home-delivered meal program, is sponsored by Sparks Food and Nutrition Services and Sparks Home Health.

2002 – The Women's Group, the first all-woman obstetrics/gynecology practice in the area, opens in Sparks Medical Plaza.

2002 - Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure to provide relief from spinal compression fractures, is introduced at Sparks.

2003 – Sparks is the first in Arkansas to acquire a computerized IV system that greatly reduces opportunities for potential medication errors.

2003 – Sparks introduces PET scanning services to the region. PET is a valuable diagnostic tool for cancer and neurological studies.

2003 – Sparks embarks on exploration of possible new venture (building a new hospital in a different location)with Triad Hospitals of Plano, Texas.

2004 – Sparks is the first hospital in Arkansas to achieve Disease-Specific Care certifications for stroke care and congestive heart failure from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

2004 – After more than a year of talks, Sparks' proposed venture with Triad Hospitals is called off.

2004 – Sparks enters a hospital advisory services agreement with Triad subsidiary Quorum Health Resources (QHR), and chooses John A. Guest of Houston as Sparks Health System's new CEO.

2006 – Sparks introduces PET/CT scanning services to the region. PET/CT merges the metabolic imaging of PET with the anatomical detail of CT, to produce a more precise image.

2006 – The Sparks stroke and CHF programs are re-certified by JCAHO.

2006 – Sparks breaks ground on the $40.4 million Sparks Renaissance Project (a 142,000-square-foot Emergency/Critical Care Center).

2006 – Eight Sparks primary care physicians achieve recognition in the National Council on Quality Assurance (NCQA) Heart/Stroke Recognition Program for meeting quality standards in the treatment of heart/stroke patients. They are the only physicians in Arkansas to attain the honor.

2007 – Sparks adds 64-slice CT scanning and CT Angiography, which provides a non-invasive means of acquiring highly-detailed images of the heart and coronary arteries.

2007 – Frederick D. "Ted" Woodrell of Florida, a 30-year veteran of healthcare administration, is named as Sparks Health System's new CEO.

2007 – Sparks successfully launches Stage 1 of Sparks OneChart, a $17 million electronic medical record system.

2008 – Sparks opens the $40.4 million Sparks Renaissance Project (a 142,000-square-foot Emergency/Critical Care Center).

2009 – Sparks Health System is purchased by Health Management Associates, a premier operator of 54 acute care hospitals in 15 states, primarily in the southeast and southwest areas of non-urban America. D. Melody Trimble is named as Sparks Health System's new CEO.

2009 – Sparks helped form the AOK (Arkansas/Oklahoma) Healthcare Consortium, and became Northwest Arkansas’ exclusive telemedicine provider of 24/7 emergency stroke care to now, 11 regional hospitals.

2010 – Sparks becomes the area’s first Sinus Center of Excellence, and first facility in the state to provide Balloon Sinuplasty procedure.

2011 – Sparks introduces Arkansas’ first and only Rio Robotic Arm Interactive Orthopedic System for MAKOplasty, (partial knee and hip replacements).

2011 – Sparks updates the daVinci robotic surgical technology for even greater accuracy in minimally invasive surgery. Still the only provider for robotic surgery in this region.

2011 – Sparks holds “wall breaking” ceremony for the construction of a new surgery center, featuring 10 new state-of-the-art operating rooms, scheduled to open Spring 2012.

2011 – Sparks becomes the region’s only Accredited Chest Pain Center.     

2011 – Sparks Radiation Treatment Center is opened, featuring Arkansas’ first and only TrueBeam linear accelerator, the most sophisticated technology available for radiation therapy.

2011 – Sparks holds ribbon cutting for North America’s first PET/CT Image Scanning Suite featuring Ambient Experience Technology, designed to make scans more comfortable for all ages.

2011 – Sparks surgeons perform area’s first “awake” craniotomy (brain surgery performed while patient is awake and communicating with a neurologist).

2011 – Sparks intra-cranial neurosurgeon performs this region’s first filum terminale release surgery for the treatment of an extremely rare Type 1 Split Spinal Cord Malformation.

2012 – Sparks performs the area’s first minimally invasive brain coiling procedure for aneurysm

2012 – Sparks performs the area’s first minimally invasive brain clot removal procedure    

2012 – Sparks celebrates its 125th Anniversary with the grand opening of a new state-of-the-art surgery center on the second floor of the Renaissance Building.   

2012 – The Sparks Guild and Woman’s Board vote to combine their organizations into the new Sparks Auxiliary.

2012 – Sparks performs this area’s first procedure using the tiny Impella Heart Pump, which temporarily relieves the heart’s pumping function so physicians can perform life-saving interventions on patients whose hearts are too weak to sustain traditional surgery

2012 – Sparks performs first open heart surgery “off pump” while the heart is still beating

2012 – Sparks and Summit hospitals are designated Level III Trauma Centers by the Arkansas Department of Health

2012 – Sparks and Summit Medical Center are named Top Performers on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission

2012 – Sparks performs the region’s first radiofrequency ablation procedure for the treatment of spinal cancer tumors

2013 – For third year in a row, Sparks receives the American Heart and American Stroke Associations’ “Get With the Guidelines” Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award    

2013 – Arkansas Department of Health presents Sparks with first-ever stroke “defect-free award to large volume hospitals”

2013 – Sparks Regional Medical Center becomes a certified training center for Advanced Stroke Life Support   

2013 - Charles Stewart is named new Sparks/Summit CEO

2013 - Sparks Regional Medical Center was named Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America. Sparks excelled in four key measures: Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia and Surgical Care.  

2013 - Sparks Regional Medical Center honored with 2013/2014 Consumer Choice Award winner in three of four healthcare categories. Sparks outranked other area hospitals in Overall Quality and is also the first choice for Best Doctors and Best Nurses in the area, according to a survey of local residents by the National Research Corporation.

2014 - In January, Community Health Systems, Inc., completed its acquisition of Health Management Associates, Inc. Sparks Health System and Summit Medical Center became part of a nationwide system of 206 providers in 29 states. 

2014 - Tim Schmidt named interim CEO of Sparks Health System and Summit Medical Center.