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Dr. Mark Francis portrait
Dr. Mark Francis reviewing files

December 5, 2008

SIU Med School Awards Research Funds from Springfield’s “Night Officer”

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has awarded the first funds from the Bernie L. and Annie Marie Eskridge bequest, named the Eskridge Translational Research Award in Cardiovascular Disease.
Bernie Eskridge was a lifelong resident of Springfield who died in 2004.  He was best known as the night officer at Springfield City Hall and also worked at various other Springfield-based companies and agencies.  Because heart disease affected the Eskridge family, he directed $450,000 from his estate be used for cardiac research at the medical school.

Dr. Mark L. Francis, associate professor and chief of the rheumatology division, will use an award of $100,000 to determine whether people who live in rural areas are more likely to have heart disease compared to their urban neighbors.  He and his research staff will analyze data from sources including the National Center for Health Statistics and Center for Disease Control to see if people in rural areas are at greater risk for heart disease and if their care is similar to those in urban areas.

“I am grateful for Mr. Eskridge’s foresight in leaving this kind of legacy,” said Francis.  “My long term goal is to close any disparity we may find in the prevention, assessment or treatment of heart problems in people who live in rural areas in Illinois, especially in downstate Illinois.”
Francis joined the SIU faculty in 1999.  His training includes a master’s in epidemiology he recently completed at Harvard School of Public Health.  He previously completed a three-year fellowship in rheumatology and an internal medicine residency.  He earned his medical degree at St. Louis University (1983).  Francis is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology.

SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health needs through education, patient care, research and community service.  SIU’s research efforts cover a wide range of basic and clinical sciences.  Currently more than 230 research projects funded by outside organizations, primarily federal agencies, are underway in 100-plus laboratories.  For information, call SIU’s main number, 217-545-8000, or go online,

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thern Illinois University School of Medicine Office of Public Affairs News Releases P.O. Box 19621, Springfield IL 62794-9621, 217-545-2155