Prof. Howard Adams dies after fighting cancer

(Saddleback College)

Keith Cousins

Professor Howard Adams, member of the Saddleback College Division of Health Sciences and Human Services, passed away on Jan. 17 from a very aggressive malignant melanoma. Adams was 59.

Adams was born in Alberta, Canada on May 31, 1950. As a young child, his family relocated to Laguna Beach; were he later graduated from Laguna Beach High School.

Since childhood, Adams aspired to be a nurse, due largely to a long-term stay in the hospital as Orange County’s last polio patient.

Adams earned bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nursing at Loma Linda University. In 1975, he returned to Saddleback to begin his teaching career in the nursing department, were he was a student.

In 1988, Adams began lecturing in the college’s newly established paramedic program while continuing to teach nursing students. By 1994 he became a full-time faculty member in the paramedic program and worked to help solidify the college’s partnership with area fire departments.

Formally recognized for his excellence as a paramedic instructor, Adams received the Orange County Emergency Medical Services System Advocacy Award in 2007, however his true legacy remains with the students he instructed.

Patti Lash of Hoag Hospital originally met Adams while he was working as a member of the organ transplant program at University of California, Los Angeles. Lash spoke of the value and knowledge Adams brought to the paramedic program at Saddleback in a video message.

“I really value the wonderful work you’ve done with the paramedic program at Saddleback, you have produced such quality medics through the program and they all love you.” 
Adams instructed more than 2,500 students as part of Saddleback’s nursing and paramedic programs. Those students are now providing Orange County with most of its medical emergency services and also serve nationwide as vital members of hospital staffs.

When Adams was hospitalized as a result of the melanoma, various students, past and present, as well as his colleagues, gathered to produce a series of video messages for the Professor. The videos were a testament to Adam’s importance to the medical community and his value as a colleague, instructor and above all a beloved friend. 

Memorial services will be held Saturday Jan. 31, at 2:00 p.m. in McKinney Theatre. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the American Cancer Society ( or the American Melanoma Foundation (