When you ask Dena Sparkman, Community CEO of Whitesburg ARH, what her greatest accomplishment is, you might be shocked to hear the answer. With an undergraduate degree in biology, a residency at Duke University and a host of other academic and business accomplishments on her resume, Dena will tell you that she can prepare lunch and serve it to fifty hungry teenagers at one time!
This supermom has spent nearly all of her life serving not only her family and community but serving many throughout the Appalachian Region as a devoted healthcare employee. Aside from her short stint in North Carolina, first as a resident in medical technology at Duke University, then as a laboratory technician, Dena has spent her life in the hills of Eastern Kentucky.
Growing up in Wheelwright, Kentucky, just over the mountain (or a few) from Pippa Passes, Dena was the daughter of a coal tipple operator who worked long hours to provide for his family. Her mother was a stay-at-home wife and mother who volunteered at local schools. Multiple Aunts and a Grandmother who loved to cook, is perhaps where Dena inherited the genes to feed fifty hungry band kids at one meal! Dena was a first-generation college student who says she was not ready for the big city. “Being from a small, close-knit town, I wasn’t ready to go to a place where people didn’t know my name. I wanted to be close to home and close to my family.”
And stay close to home, she did. Dena came to Alice Lloyd College with just a desire to stay near to her roots, but she later realized the financial advantages that the college offered. “When I got to Duke, I realized how lucky I was. Everyone else was swimming in debt from their undergraduate degree and I didn’t owe anything!”
Dena used her experiences in North Carolina to grow both as a professional and as a wife. Exactly one week after graduation from ALC, Dena married her college sweetheart. The two moved back to Eastern Kentucky in 1993 and Dena felt it was only right to return to the place where she was born (literally!). Having been born at ARH Hospital in McDowell, Kentucky, she thinks that ARH is the perfect fit for her life’s work.
Dena currently resides in Jenkins, Kentucky with her husband Duran Sparkman, who also attended ALC, and their 16-year-old son, Jake.
From her first memory of Alice Lloyd College, at Appalachia Day at the ripe age of six, to her graduation day, Dena says that some of her fondest memories are those she made on Caney Creek. She had faculty and staff who believed in her when she did not even believe in herself. She received more than a degree – she received another family, a strong work ethic and a heart for serving those around her. And now, Dena says what better way to pay it forward than to give to the organization, her alma-mater, who strives to provide students with a character-based education and prepare them for service; service to God first and then to their fellow man.