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Ronald F. Caulk

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Ronald F. Caulk Obituary
Caulk, Ronald F.
78, of Cave Creek, Arizona passed away on April 29, 2016 at HonorHealth Scottsdale Thompson Peak Medical Center, Scottsdale, Arizona, surrounded by his loving family. Ron was the youngest of two children born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa until 1959 when he left to pursue a career in anesthesia at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) for more than 50 years, Ron started his career in 1956 upon his enrollment in nurses training at Mercy Hospital, Des Moines, Iowa, where he was the first male student to ever be enrolled and was the sole man among 60-classmates. Upon graduation in 1959, he left Iowa for Rochester, Minn., where he began his anesthesia education at the Mayo Clinic. In 1962, Ron earned his anesthesia diploma from the Mayo Clinic. As he often said, "Mayo had such a good reputation, and I knew I would have opportunities for experiences there that I wouldn't have elsewhere." After graduation, Ron worked for two years as the anesthesia provider at Sacred Heart Hospital in Fort Madison, Iowa. He then became the chief nurse anesthetist and director of nursing service at Hoemako Cooperative Hospital in Casa Grande, Ariz., and later the chief nurse anesthetist at Mesa Lutheran Hospital, Mesa, Ariz. While in Arizona, Ron began his career-long involvement in professional organizations. He always knew he wanted to be involved in his profession and become an advocate for nurse anesthetists. As a member of the Arizona Association of Nurse Anesthetists, he served on various committees within the organization before becoming president in 1968. His leadership in the Arizona organization led naturally to positions in the national organization, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), and after serving on several committees he was elected president of the AANA in 1977. Ron's highlights as President of the AANA were numerous. He was responsible for the purchase of the first AANA building; he established the Council on Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists, an organization responsible for the credentialing of all nurse anesthetists in the US and its territories; and began collaboration with European nurse anesthetists to discuss possibilities of forming an international organization, among many other achievements. His last position in Arizona was as a staff nurse anesthetist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Phoenix, where he practiced for 12 years. Following his AANA presidency, Ron followed his heart and returned to the Midwest. That is where he met his wife, Susan, also a CRNA, who served as the director of Continuing Education, Certification and Recertification for the AANA until her retirement in 2006. In Illinois, Ron was assistant director of Surgery and Allied Services at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria. He served as a staff CRNA and clinical instructor of anesthesia at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago, eventually retiring from clinical anesthesia at Columbus Medical Center. He also continued his involvement with the AANA, and was co-chair of the Liaison Committee between the AANA and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He was appointed to serve as the organization's representative to a planning committee for the first International Symposium of Nurse Anesthetists in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1985. Ron continued to devote an increasing amount of time and energy to making an international group of nurse anesthetists a reality. In 1989, the International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists (IFNA) was officially established, with Ron, as a founding member, and its first vice president. He assumed the presidency the following year and held the position until 1995, at which point he was named the organization's first executive director, a position he held from 1994 to 2004. Ron traveled extensively in his roles with the AANA and IFNA, helping to raise awareness of the profession worldwide. He lectured extensively throughout the United States, as well as England, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Austria, and Switzerland. One of Ron's most memorable trips was to the only nurse anesthesia program in Ghana, West Africa. When he visited the Ghanaian school, he brought some textbooks as a gift. There had been only one textbook for the entire school, so the textbooks Ron brought were like gold coins. The discovery prompted Ron to initiate a used textbook donation program through the IFNA, which has sent much-needed textbooks to Israel, Palestine, Cambodia and numerous African countries. Ron was the recipient of various awards during his professional career. In 1992, he received the AANA's most prestigious honor, the Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment. In 1999, Ron was inducted as a Fellow of the Academy of American Nurses. Then in 2000 he received the Mother McAuley Distinguished Alumni Award from Mercy College, Des Moines, Iowa. In 2002 Ron was awarded the Hermi Lohnert Award for Outstanding Contributions to Nurse Anesthesia Internationally and in 2011 received the Mayo School of Health Sciences Alumni Association's Recognition of Outstanding Contributions award. In 2004, Ron retired from the IFNA. He and his wife Susan moved to Arizona, where he became an active volunteer for the Heard Museum, which is dedicated to Native North American cultures and art. As Ron often mentioned, "It's a lot of fun to be doing something new, I work in the gift shop and get to meet the artists when they bring their art in to sell. I love it." Though the environment was new, this work had something in common with Ron's earlier roles. Whether caring for patients, advancing the role of nurse anesthetists around the globe, helping Native Americans sell their artwork and learning about various Native American cultures, Ron's focus has been the same. "It's all about the people, the relationships-that's what's most rewarding." Ron was preceded in death by his father, James Riley Caulk; his mother, Clara Riggs Caulk; and his brother, Jerry Caulk. Ron is survived by his loving wife of 36 years, Susan Smith Caulk; his three children, son Mark Jude Caulk (Sheila) and daughters Theresan Marie Peterson (Duane), and Aimee Beth Caulk; his aunt, Frances Riggs; 4 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and countless other friends and colleagues through his involvement with the AANA, IFNA and the Heard Museum. Memorials may be made to the Heard Museum Guild, Phoenix, Ariz.
Published in The Arizona Republic on May 8, 2016
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