US Air Force Brigadier General Thomas E. Schwark
(MICKEY SANBORN, BALTIMORE SUN)

Dr. Thomas E. Schwark, a pediatrician who had served as CEO of Wyman Park Medical Center and ended his career working for the United States Agency for International Development, died April 24 of a heart attack at his home in Harper House in Cross Keys. The retired Air Force officer was 76.

"He was an excellent physician, a wonderful Air Force officer and a very modest man," said Clark C. Rogers, a retired lieutenant general and fighter pilot who got to know him when Dr. Schwark was hospital commander at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C.

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"As a pediatrician, he cared for Air Force dependent children. We all thought very highly of him," said Mr. Rogers, who added that Dr. Schwark was also a flight surgeon and flew aboard Air Force jets.

The son of Edward Schwark, an accountant, and Dorothea Schwark, a credit bureau owner, Thomas Edward Schwark was born and raised in Connellsville, Ind., where he graduated in 1956 from Connellsville High School.

After attending Indiana University for a year, he enrolled at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1963. He completed an internship at Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a residency in pediatrics at the University of Washington in 1969.

Dr. Schwark was also board-certified in pediatrics and was a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics.

He was drafted into the Air Force in 1964, and during the next 23 years, his 12 global assignments took him from Seattle to Maine and to Turkey and Spain.

After serving as hospital commander at Seymour-Johnson, Dr. Schwark served as deputy command surgeon for the USAF Europe.

After being reassigned to the surgeon general's office at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, Dr. Schwark was chief of the quality assurance division that was responsible for protecting quality health care services for the Air Force Medical Service Corps.

William J. "Bill" Powers, who served with the Air Force Medical Service Corps, which is an organization of men and women health care administrators, was Seymour-Johnson's hospital administrator from 1978 to 1980.

"There are certain things you look for that define a hospital commander and you know it when you see it, and that was Tom," said Mr. Powers, who lives in Midlothian, Va. "He was a leader and highly respected. You never felt as though you worked for him but rather with him."

He said Dr. Schwark had very high standards, not only for himself, but also for his staff.

"Calm is a good word to describe Tom. He was very confident in his abilities as a physician, and he communicated that to the staff, and as well as commanding a hospital," he said. "He let everyone know he was on call all of the time and he encouraged nurses, technicians or anyone to call him if they needed to speak to him. I learned that very quickly."

Mr. Powers said it wasn't unusual for Dr. Schwark to go to the hospital at 2 a.m. to care for a patient.

"I'd come in the morning and he'd be behind his desk having been there all night after caring for a patient and now was busy doing administrative work," said Mr. Powers.

While serving as assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, Mr. Rogers landed a choice assignment for Dr. Schwark.

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"The secretary was going to take a tour of the Middle East and normally a physician on the secretary's staff would be taken to care for the secretary and his staff," said Mr. Rogers. "I approached Tom and asked if he would accompany us, and he did."

After being discharged from the Air Force with the rank of colonel in 1987, Dr. Schwark was named vice president of medical affairs at the Wyman Park Medical Center.

He oversaw all medical activities including supervising the medical staff, managing operations and programs of the center's clinical administration and overseeing the post-graduate and continuing medical education programs.

Six months later, he was appointed CEO of the hospital.

Dr. Schwark also served as executive director of the Wyman Park Medical Associates, the center's professional medical group.

Dr. Schwark stepped down as CEO of Wyman Park Medical Center in 1987.

"He then served as chairman of the consortium of former Marine hospitals and headed the organization that oversees all of the nation's Marine hospitals, when he established Tricare, which allows military retirees to access local medical facilities," said his wife of 54 years and high school sweetheart, the former Eleanor Lee Vreeland. "Tricare was his professional legacy."

Dr. Schwark established Tricare in 1992 with his longtime friend and colleague, retired Air Force Col. Daniel D. Holtz, who is now assistant commander, Administration, Health and Memorials, for the Georgia Department of Veterans Services in Atlanta

When Dr. Schwark and Mr. Holtz were helping put together the first HMO model for health care for the Defense Department, which was a precursor to Tricare, they often found themselves on opposite sides of the negotiating table.

"What an experience it was. But because of our long friendship, what could have been acrimonious wasn't. It was beneficial and positive," said Mr. Holtz. "He was a fantastic and very positive person. You always felt very warm in his presence."

Dr. Schwark was working with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Egypt, helping to establish a Medicare program, at the time of the revolution in 2011.

The former resident of Charlesmeade Road in North Baltimore retired in 2011.

"In my book, Tom Schwark was one of the giants. He was a gentleman of integrity, honor and principle," said Mr. Holtz.

Dr. Schwark was a fisherman and birder and liked playing golf.

A celebration of Dr. Schwark's life will be held at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Woman's Club of Roland Park, 5400 Roland Ave.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, Stuart H. Schwark of Alexandria, Va., Ryerson E. Schwark of Portland, Ore., and Thomas M. Schwark of Summit, N.J.; a brother, James Robert Schwark of Oklahoma City; and four grandchildren.

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