Dr. Richard M. Ikeda, a Sacramento physician who was committed to providing medical care for disadvantaged people as the founder of a community-based health organization, died Jan. 24 of cancer, his family said. He was 81.
A Harvard graduate with a medical degree from the University of Vienna, Dr. Ikeda learned about basic health needs in Sacramento while working downtown in 1980 at a vaccination clinic for children run by five mothers and two California State University, Sacramento, graduate students. Concerned that 40 percent of babies living in poverty were not getting inoculated, he incorporated Health For All in 1981 to provide health and prevention services to low-income families.
Besides the central city, Health For All set up clinics in the Meadowview and Del Paso Heights neighborhoods to serve families who face language, cultural and educational barriers to services. In 1983, the program added an adult day health center on Florin Road to provide medical and social services for low-income seniors at risk of losing their independence at home. In 2008, the nonprofit organization was certified as a federally qualified health center, making it eligible for enhanced Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursement and other benefits.
Under Dr. Ikeda’s leadership as longtime executive director, Health For All grew from immunizing about 125 children each month to serving about 7,000 clients annually. Although the economic recession has hurt fundraising, the program expects to “grow and bring in 25,000 patient encounters a year” within two years, executive director Anthony Ikeda Kolar said.
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“Dr. Ikeda was very much a community leader who dedicated himself to bringing health care services to underserved communities,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia of the California Primary Care Association. “As a doctor, he was in a unique position to see patients and to go beyond providing care one-on-one to bring more services to the entire community.”
Health For All also has carried out Dr. Ikeda’s goal of recruiting volunteers and staff from the communities being served, officials said.
“The whole thing has been about empowering the community,” said Ikeda Kolar, the founder’s grandson. “Just about all of our staff are from the people we serve.”
A Hawaii native, Dr. Ikeda’s commitment to disadvantaged people was inspired by his father, a dentist trained at the University of Southern California who returned home to serve sugar plantation workers who had no dental care.
A grandson of Japanese immigrants, Dr. Ikeda was born June 13, 1932, in Waipahu, Hawaii, and grew up watching U.S. military planes fly training missions overhead. He was 9 when he looked up on Dec. 7, 1941, and thought to himself, “ ‘Wow, this is so realistic,’ ” said his daughter Arielle, recalling a story her father often told of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “He thought they had even changed the insignias on the planes, because he could see the Japanese insignias on them.”
Dr. Ikeda graduated from Harvard University in 1954 and enrolled at the University of Vienna in Austria. Besides learning German for his studies, he married Jacqueline Ricaut, a French woman, and had two children before earning his medical degree in 1964 and settling in Sacramento.
He worked as an intern and pathology resident at the UC Davis Medical Center. He continued working and teaching at the hospital for many years and performed autopsies at the Sacramento County morgue. He earned a master of public administration degree from USC’s Sacramento campus.
Dr. Ikeda served on the boards of medical groups and was active in the Asian American community. He was a past president of local chapters of the American Heart Association and the Japanese American Citizens League.
His marriage ended in divorce. Besides his daughter, he is survived by a son, Steven; a sister, Karen Masaki; and two grandchildren.
Information about services is available from Health For All at (916) 441-2811.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Health For All or to Amigos de las Americas. Donations for both groups may be sent to Health For All, 420 I St., Suite 7, Sacramento, CA 95814.