From serving in the U.S. Navy and working in a UF research lab to teaching students and treating patients, Ralph Rice, PA ’91, DHSc, PAC, has worn many hats throughout his decadeslong career — but the cord that has carried through his many experiences has been an unwavering work ethic and desire to honor the Hippocratic Oath by sharing knowledge with the next generation.
After spending nearly 25 years educating future physician assistants, Rice will retire as associate dean and director of the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies once a new director is appointed.
Under Rice’s leadership, the School of Physician Assistant Studies flourished and strengthened, says Michael L. Good, MD, dean of the UF College of Medicine.
“Dr. Rice has proven to be an exceptional leader for our PA school’s team of dedicated and experienced faculty,” Good says. “He also has been a wonderful advocate for his students as they prepare to serve their patients as an integral part of a multidisciplinary health care team.”
Although his time as a PA has taken him everywhere from Missouri to Alaska, it seems fitting that Rice will end his career where it began.
Armed with a microbiology degree from the University of South Florida, he first forayed into the science field as a lab technician at the UF Health Science Center. In conducting research on everything from cystic fibrosis to liver disease, he discovered a passion for medicine and a desire to help people live longer, more healthy lives.
“Being a PA can be challenging and rewarding, and that’s exactly what I was looking for — I wanted not only the reward but also something where I could use my mind,” he says.
Upon receiving his PA degree from UF in the early 1990s, he stepped into the world of education as a faculty member and also treated patients at UF Health Shands Hospital — first in the emergency room and later in a full-time clinical position in the lung transplant unit. Although Rice left Gainesville in the late 1990s to work with PA programs at Missouri State University and Wake Forest University, the Florida native returned to UF as associate dean and director in 2011, determined to honor the legacy of his predecessor, Wayne Bottom, MPH, PA-C.