Remembering Dr. Haley

The community of Jacksonville and UF Health employees share their memories and thoughts about Leon L. Haley Jr., MD.

UF Health Jacksonville Faculty and Staff

“Dr. Haley was such an incredible leader and colleague to all of us at UF Health, but he was also a good friend to so many, an amazing advocate for equality in health care, and most importantly, a man of integrity who always wanted to do the right thing.”

– David Nelson, MD, president of UF Health

“Dr. Haley’s impact on this campus and the entire community was nothing short of amazing. Dr. Haley was my mentor, friend, confidant and boss, and I’m grateful for all of those. In the time that he was here, he accomplished so much. We are a much greater organization as a result of his efforts. His legacy continues here as we carry out the mission to which he was so committed. He is the hardest working man I have ever seen. He literally lived and breathed UF Health. God speed, Dr. Haley — we will never forget you.”

– Greg Miller, COO of UF Health Jacksonville

“One thing about him was he was incredibly inclusive. He also touched many people at a personal level — that’s actually very hard to do, and he did that with incredible grace. He worked harder than anybody else. Dr. Haley led by example — his door was always open.”

– Pradeep Kadambi, MD, president and CEO of University of Florida Jacksonville Physicians, Inc.

“Dr. Haley was a leader, a physician and a professor. Most of all, though, he was a bridge builder. He connected individuals, communities and institutions. He connected science, medicine and people. He built bridges to bring health care to our most vulnerable. He made a difference always through bridge building. Everyone loved Dr. Haley.”

– Ken Fuchs, president of the University of Florida

“For the past 4 years, Dr. Haley has delivered graduation remarks to our residents and fellows who are completing their training and transitioning into new roles. His messages were invariably poignant and sincere. I was always touched by his remarks and left our graduations feeling uplifted, energized and proud to be part of a great organization with an absolutely incredible leader….Dr. Haley has been described as a servant leader… and he embodied all of that in every aspect of his being. He shared his vison and then he stepped back to allow others to execute it. He was not worried about being successful, although he was very, but he wanted everything he did to have significance. He taught others by his work ethic and his community engagement and he was an example of integrity, compassion, courage, and he was intentional and truly inspirational in all of his efforts. Dr. Haley, the life you have lived mattered and it mattered by choice. You have left an indelible mark on all of us across this campus and, of course, our community. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to work alongside you and learn from you and your utterly extraordinary leadership. We will be forever grateful for you and we will honor your legacy by continuing to be compassionate and courageous and sacrificing for those who need a voice. You will be missed, but we are Haley strong.”

– Linda R. Edwards, MD, dean, UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville

“Susan and I were so saddened to learn about Dr Haley’s death. Words cannot describe his loss to his family, the UF Health Jax organization and Jacksonville. I was fortunate to work with him and watched his tireless energy first hand. He made everyone around him feel better and his caring professionalism made everyone want to be a better person. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the UF Health family. May he Rest in Peace knowing he has accomplished so much. He is someone who will be truly missed every day.”

– Russ Armistead, CEO at UF Health Jacksonville

“Grief is defined as acute pain that accompanies loss. It is said to be a reflection of what we love. And like you, I loved working for Dr. Haley. In part, because he was an optimist, upbeat even in the face of a pandemic. He created a culture where quality and compassion were critically important, but never more so than the people: patients, employees, community partners, he took the time to consider and communicate with them all.

A quintessential emergency physician – he was always problem solving, unflappable, persistent, and forward thinking. He taught us not to get mired down in today, but to set our sights higher; to look out over the landscape and see what opportunities are coming and how to harness our expertise to seize them, bring solutions, make health care better.

Create the healthiest generation? “Got it.” On it. Face difficult conversations surrounding health equity and racism? Please do and I’ll be there. He inspired us by not shying away from the barriers standing in the way of our progress.

So, how to honor him while feeling a bit lost without him, that is the question many of us keep asking. I don’t have the answers but what keeps echoing in my mind is this: live the mission, follow the plan, fulfill the need, communicate, collaborate and care for one another along the way. We are grateful for all that he did to make us better as individuals and as a health system. And now, it’s our turn.”

– Kimberly Jones, vice president of development at UF Health Jacksonville
Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA and Kimberly Jones, vice president of development at UF Health Jacksonville

“Dr. Haley was my boss, my mentor and my friend. He was that boss that you could speak to freely and not expect judgment. He supported my efforts as CNO. He also supported our nursing staff. He listened to our concerns and needs and was always responsive. As an ED doctor he understood nurses and our challenges. He wore many hats and carried his responsibilities with strength and humility. If he did not respond to an e-mail or text within 30 minutes then you knew something was up. I appreciated him showing up at door to my office unannounced and saying, “Let’s go make round on some units.” He loved being out with the staff. Dr. Haley encouraged us all to take care of ourselves and he showed us how to have fun. Most importantly he challenged us all to be better than we thought we could be. Because of his leadership we are better and we are stronger. Thank you, Dr. Haley. Nursing will miss you deeply, but we will continue the work to meet your vision.”

– Patrice Jones, chief nursing officer at UF Health Jacksonville
Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA and Patrice Jones, chief nursing officer at UF Health Jacksonville

“726 days, not enough. In this time span, I had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to hear and support your vision for innovative, quality and equitable access to healthcare for all. Your tireless energy (did you sleep?), determination and passion regarding the future of our organization, the prosperity of our community and your desire to help every individual that knocked on your door. It was all infectious and left an indelible mark on our hearts.

726 days, not enough, but grateful, mad, cried but now, I must smile. I will miss your leadership, our chats and watching you in action. The horizon is brighter due to the light you shed, a bit empty no doubt, but I/we remain #allin on your vision.”

– Ann-Marie Knight, vice president of Community Engagement and chief diversity officer at UF Health Jacksonville
Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA and Ann-Marie Knight, vice president of Community Engagement and chief diversity officer at UF Health Jacksonville

“Dr. Haley, was truly a “God-send” to UF Health in Jacksonville, the perfect leader for the perfect time in our history. Dr. Haley and I both assumed our role of CEO and CFO of UF Health Jacksonville within three months of each other. In addition to being my leader and mentor, he was also my colleague and friend. Dr. Haley’s unwavering commitment to the success of our organization and staff has been transformation for UF Health in Jacksonville like nothing of the past. Dr. Haley’s humble brilliance, which impacted so many, will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”

– Dean Cocchi, vice president and chief financial officer at UF Health Jacksonville

“Dr. Haley had incredible passion for people and doing what was best for UF. He has been a true inspiration during COVID and given us all the confidence we needed to continue fighting this pandemic. He has truly been the epitome of a Leader as well as a friend and will truly be missed. Rest in Peace Sir and your Memory will be Eternal!”

– Donna Farah Ghanayem, director of the Little Miracles program at UF Health Jacksonville

“This is shocking and heartbreaking, to say the least. Dr. Haley was hands down the most amazing, inspirational leader I have ever worked with. Praying for his loved ones during this difficult time.”

– Erin VanWey, director of Communications and Marketing at UF Health Jacksonville

“Dr. Haley was an amazing leader who accomplished so much for our organization and set us on a path for success for the years to come. Definitely the best CEO in my 20+ years at the organization. He will be missed. One anecdote I would like to share is from a few years ago when a hurricane was coming through the area. I and many other staff had to spend the night in the hospital during the storm. Dr. Haley was there with us. He was not only there at the hospital, but he was walking the floors and thanking everyone for their hard work and dedication to the hospital. That’s leadership.”

– Daniel Siragusa, MD, chief of the Division of Vascular and Interventional Radiology at UF Health Jacksonville

“An enormous loss not just for UF Health but for all Jacksonville, Florida and the universe. He was a transformative figure with all the attributes to impact meaningful lasting change. His brilliant mind and affable spirit touched all who knew him. I will always be deeply grateful for the moments he generously gave me. His leadership, guidance and vision will last with me forever. My thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with his family and all and each of us whose lives were touched by this remarkable man.”

– Gladys Velarde, MD, medical director of the UF Health Women’s Cardiovascular Program at UF Health Jacksonville

“This is truly devastating. A phenomenal leader. He made you feel like you mattered, no matter your role. An excellent communicator. This is a huge loss for our UF community.”

– Dawn DeSantis, GME administrator, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville

“He was an unflappable leader who conveyed a strong vision. He set a strong leadership example and I was lucky to learn from him. My heart breaks for his family. He will be greatly missed.”

– Allison Martin, director of Case Management and Palliative Care at UF Health Jacksonville

“Words cannot express the loss of a man who championed health care for everyone in our community. Working with him almost daily at times, since the start of this pandemic, Dr. Haley was a visionary, who worked tirelessly to serve the underserved of this community. This man did not waste one single minute, of his busy work days. He continuously worked to better the lives of his staff at UF Health and the people of the Jacksonville community. He spent his last day Friday at UF Health, making rounds around the hospital, administering the vaccine to unvaccinated staff. His professionalism and personality will be a lasting inspiration to me and all the people he touched. He will be truly TRULY missed. RIP.”

– Jeff Imperial

“This is such a tremendous loss. He was so down to earth, approachable, and friendly. He had a great sense of humor and truly cared about the organization and its members!! Love, condolences, and prayers to his family and everyone who knew him.”

– Victoria Billings

“Dr. Haley will be greatly missed. He was an inspirational leader, visionary and a compassionate man. I absolutely loved his vision for the future of UF Health and our community. I loved his dedication to continue to create “A Few Minutes with Us” videos almost daily to keep us all informed. What a great man! I’m so blessed to have known him and very sad knowing today, yesterday would be the last time to see him. He spent his last day at the hospital rounding unit to unit administering vaccines because he cared for all of us. Thank you, Dr. Haley, for all you have done for all of us. We will never forget all you brought and all you have done. We will make you proud. We will continue to do the great work you started! God bless you and your family. My sincere condolences.”

– Tara Cornett

“Dr. Haley knew everyone by name. If he saw you on the elevator, he greeted you and asked how you were doing. He truly wanted to hear from the staff and made many great changes. Such an inspiration and a strong leader. RIP sir, you will be missed and difficult to replace. Prayers to your family.”

– Mandy Ratliff

“Dr. Haley was the most visible and respected leader of any organization I have worked for. This is a huge loss for our healthcare community. My condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.”

– Melissa Rae

“He will leave a legacy of dedication, hard work and compassion. He advocated for our patients and was a true leader. Praying for his family.”

– Kimberly Nolen

“Dr Haley was an inspirational leader who kept us growing to be better. I still remember when he hosted the UF Health at the Zoo evening, and he took the time to meet my family. Even though he was very busy, he told me that he knew I was doing an amazing job as a CQNL…The fact he even remembered me, as I had only been working at UF for a few months. I will miss seeing him rounding in ED regularly talking with patients, residents and nurses. Sending love and prayers to his family.”

– Kristen Eakins Ray

“He made it a point to call us by our names or in such a way he knew we would remember that he recalled our conversations. He would call me ‘Ms. Colorado.’ He fought for his employees and for the patients and community we served. He was brilliant at getting so much taken care of in an ever changing and demanding profession in health care. May his family be given comfort. May he Rest In Peace. Thank you, Dr. Haley, for giving me a wonderful place to work and call my "home away from home."”

– Michele Robison

“Dr. Haley made me feel important and really excited me when he spoke with such passion and endearment for patients and the growth and vision of our hospital and city. I have never felt as inspired to be a leader and being a leader as I have since he has been our CEO and Dean. This is an unimaginable loss to so many.”

– Lindsey Wheaton

“My station at work allowed me to have brief insightful (and even humorous) exchanges with this man, however his real personality was in the way he led. A remarkable spirit, sincerely connected to the pulse of his team, his patients and the greater community. Dr. Haley, thank you for your leadership, the mentor you have been to me and so many, and the legacy of a life well lived. Farewell, Sir.”

– Faith Higgins

Community Leaders

“Dr. Haley was such a strong voice for the underserved and was an example for the rest of us. This is a tragic loss for our community. Our thoughts are with his family and our UF Health Jacksonville colleagues.”

– Darnell Smith, market president for North Florida region at Florida Blue

“I was so sad to hear this. As I said in opening of recent interview with him, I thought he was one of the true good guys in healthcare. He was a wonderful, thoughtful leader. This is a terrible loss. Condolences to his family and his colleagues.”

– Thomas H. Lee, MD, chief medical officer for Press Ganey

“Leon was not only a fellow Safety Net Hospital / academic medical center colleague he was someone I admired, respected and appreciated. He was a kind person with a clear commitment to his community, health system and university. I know that Leon leaves a legacy of excellence, compassion and respect for his institution to continue to build on. Rest In Peace my friend you will be missed but never forgotten.”

– John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital

“Dr Haley meant so much to so many people and to Jacksonville. Losing him is tragic and painful. I’m praying for his family. I always enjoyed our professional interactions but really enjoyed him as a person. We often talked about our families.” (News4Jax)

– Lenny Curry, mayor of the City of Jacksonville

“I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Haley at Grady Hospital and at UF Health Foundation. He never stopped smiling while always pushing to ‘be better.’ His vision was infectious and motivating, such as the move to get back to branding UF Health. He leaves very large shoes to fill. I wish his family peace in knowing he was loved by so many.”

– Bill McClure, vice president of MBA TPA

“Although Leon departed this earth far sooner than any of us expected, he accomplished more, taught more and made a bigger difference for more patients than most doctors could do in five lifetimes — and it did it with class, never drawing attention to himself. Throughout his 20 years in Atlanta and later in Jacksonville, he never lost sight of his calling — to serve the poor, to treat everyone with respect and to inspire all who worked with him to do the same. His greatest gifts were his compassion, his unflappable calm in times of crisis, and his ability to inspire all of us to be better than we ever thought we could be.”

– Art Kellerman, MD, former colleague at Emory emergency medicine and current CEO of the VCU Health System.

“Leon lived to make a difference at the individual level …Leon cared about people. He focused on each individual heart, each individual handshake and each individual smile, he has left a global legacy. He was a gifted, brilliant, inspirational leader. He was propelled by the love and the admiration of his family and … he leaves an exceptional legacy, one of love, service, sacrifice and humanism.”

– Michael Forbes, a physician and chairman of the Pediatrics Department at Akron Children's Hospital

“Leon was a trusted friend, colleague, physician, and a worthy competitor. He was always full of class and while we competed at a high level as CEOs of different systems, he was incredibly collaborative and professional on matters of public health policy to improve the lives of the greater Jacksonville community. He will be incredibly missed and his legacy in many areas will continue on for the foreseeable future.”

– Bradley S. Talbert, CEO, Memorial Hospital Jacksonville

“Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr. was an exceptionally gifted physician, an exemplary leader, and a close personal friend. I developed deep respect and admiration for not only what he accomplished and the depth of his lived experience, but how he led and comported himself. Dr. Haley was as genuine, humble, and transparent as he was intellectually and scientifically intelligent, emotionally intelligent, and courageous. Leon was one of those rare individuals who made you feel special in his presence. Our community is better for his time with us, and I am better for God having crossed our paths. Rest In Peace, my good friend. You are so deeply missed.”

– Thomas VanOsdol, CEO, Ascension/St. Vincent’s North Florida and Gulf Coast

“It is hard to find words that express the tremendous sense of loss and sadness I feel with the passing of my good friend and colleague, Dr. Leon Haley. He was the man you wanted to be – a compassionate caregiver, a loving father, a true advocate for the vulnerable, a trusted friend. Beyond everything else, I miss him. His leadership at UF Health and in the community leaves a lasting impact on thousands. My prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

– Jason Barrett, President & CEO of Flagler Health+

“Dr. Leon Haley was a transformational leader and a personal friend whose loss is felt not only by his family, friends, and colleagues but also by the patients he served and the community he loved. It was an honor to work with Dr. Haley in the Jacksonville community, and his thoughtful support, collaborative engagement, and committed leadership will be greatly missed. The health and connectedness of our community will be positively impacted for decades to come as a direct result of Dr. Haley’s leadership. My heartfelt condolences go out to Dr. Haley’s family, friends, and the entire community as together we navigate this great loss.”

– Kent Thielen, MD, CEO, Mayo Clinic in Florida

“His sudden passing is an incredible loss, not only to his many family and friends who loved him, but was felt deeply by our Jacksonville medical community. His colleagues have shared their tremendous respect for Dr. Haley, remarking that he led his team with integrity, kindness and commitment to all he was called to serve. As the first Black CEO of UF Health, Dr. Haley prioritized the importance of providing high-quality and compassionate care to patients of all backgrounds, and was known as an advocate for equality in health care. On behalf of our Northeast Florida community, I offer my heartfelt prayers for peace and comfort for his family, friends and all who were blessed to know Dr. Haley. We come together during this difficult time to honor his memory as a great medical leader, doctor, colleague, friend and father. May he rest in peace.”

– John H. Rutherford, congressman in Florida’s 4th District

“Dr. Haley will always be remembered for his dedication to health care education and compassion for others. He played a pivotal role in the well-being of Northeast Florida communities and families, especially during the recent COVID-19 vaccine rollout. His service to his fellow Floridians and the City of Jacksonville will undoubtedly remain an inspiration to countless others.”

– Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida

“When it was time for vaccines to come out, you didn’t see him hesitate. He was ready and was the first one to step up and say let me lead this effort not by speaking, not by directing, but by doing.” (First Coast News)

– Mia Jones, CEO of Agape Health

“Back in 2018, Dr. Haley was one of the first persons that reached out to me and welcomed me to the city. As matter of fact, he made an appointment and came over to introduce himself and really was just a great friend and resource for me.” (News4Jax)

– A. Zachary Faison Jr., president and CEO of Edward Waters University

“Leon was a great leader who was always willing to help with important community initiatives.”

– Douglas M. Baer, president and CEO of Brooks Rehabilitation Center

“Dr. Haley was an inspirational leader who fought for the health of all of us in Jacksonville and beyond. We will work hard to continue his legacy.” (Action News Jax)

– Dr. Larry Moss, president and CEO of Nemours

“He was one of Jacksonville’s strongest leaders, a visionary for our future, and most importantly a good friend.” (CBS 47/Action News Jax)

– Michael Corrigan, president of Visit Jacksonville

“Leon was an incredible executive and healthcare professional but even more than that, he was a kind person and a wonderful friend. Words cannot express our sincere shock and sadness at his sudden loss. His legacy at UF Health will live on for generations to come. He dedicated his career to caring for those who often had no health insurance or way to pay for hospital care. His time at UF Health Jacksonville transformed healthcare in Northeast Florida and the training of physicians all across our state.”

– Justin Senior and Lindy Kennedy, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida