Sikes, early Gwinnett Hospital System administrator, passes at 83

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Charles Sikes, an early administrator of the Gwinnett Hospital System and key contributor to its continued growth, passed away Monday at the age of 83.

Sikes, a graduate of the University of Georgia and former valedictorian at Lawrenceville High School, was administrator of the Gwinnett County Hospital System from 1971-78. When he began, the system had 20 physicians on staff, 18 of which were general practitioners.

When Sikes left to take a job with Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., 58 physicians and 146 total staff members called Gwinnett hospitals home. Recruiting those doctors paved the way for the creation of the county's first central hospital system in the 1980s.

"By the time he left, virtually every major specialty was represented on the staff by at least one practitioner," said Jason Chandler, president of the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation.

During a national nursing shortage, Sikes traveled to the Philippines to recruit nurses to serve Gwinnett, also bringing back nurses for Winder and other surrounding rural areas. He also identified community leaders to help accelerate a young hospital system's ability to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population.

Chandler estimated that more than $1 million in philanthropic contributions were pledged to GMCF's endowment "because they were invited by Charles to make a difference."

"Charles was the leading force in solving the health care staffing shortage for our growing community," said Joe Shafer, 82, a former Gwinnett Hospital System Board chairman recruited by Sikes.

"Charles was one person who made an enormous impact on the initial economic development of our community ... I have no doubt that Gwinnett would not have grown as quickly were it not for the servant leadership of one man who enhanced the health care offerings for the people here and those people and corporations considering moving to Gwinnett."

Sikes is survived by Irene, his wife of 60 years, and daughters Karen Sikes, Laurie Sikes and Sandra Phillips, as well as seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at the Lawrenceville chapel of Tom Wages Funeral Home between 6 and 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Funeral services will be held at the location at 120 Scenic Highway at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Sikes familiy has asked for contributions to the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation in lieu of flowers. Donations can be made by mail to 1755 North Brown Road, Suite 100, Lawrenceville, Ga. 30045, or by calling Chandler at 678-312-8500.

"Charles and his legacy will live on for many generations," Chandler said. "Gwinnett County has been blessed in more ways than can be counted to have had Charles Richard Sikes as a pivotal part of its history, and for that matter its future."