Kimberly Jones remembers how Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CPE, FACEP, took pies to the face in the name of good causes, riled up Gator fans with the Mr. Two Bits cheer and read children’s books for a community reading program while working in Jacksonville.
“There’s really no shortage of examples of who he was at his core — a fun-loving dad as well as a great leader,” said Jones, MBA, UF Health Jacksonville chief development officer and assistant vice president of development. “He was the kind of person who didn’t take himself too seriously.”
Haley, 56, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, passed away unexpectedly July 24 in South Florida. The Jacksonville community regarded him as a strong, inspirational leader and a beloved son, father, friend and colleague. In addition to his roles as CEO and dean, Haley was a professor of emergency medicine and vice president for health affairs at UF. He assumed his UF roles in January 2017 and became CEO of UF Health Jacksonville in January 2018.
“Dr. Haley was a bridge builder,” said David R. Nelson, MD, senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “He connected us to one another and connected communities to each other to share principles of common human decency and inclusion.”
The Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, Memorial Fund was recently established to build upon Haley’s goals — including his dream of creating a full UF College of Medicine campus in Jacksonville — and to fulfill his vision of making UF Health Jacksonville the region’s most valuable health care asset. To date, it’s raised more than $150,000.
Sunil Joshi, MD ’98, a Jacksonville allergist and immunologist, said he was grateful to have worked alongside Haley while serving as a member of the UF College of Medicine alumni board and as president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation.
“He would say that if you view medicine as a job, you might as well be a banker,” Joshi said. “It was something he enjoyed — getting to know the community and serving them. Hearing him say that impacted the way I practice medicine.”
Haley became a trusted voice for science in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic — sharing insights with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as he developed policies to keep the community safe. Haley was one of the first people vaccinated against the virus in the state and spent his last day at work in the hospital vaccinating others. After his passing, hundreds of UF Health Jacksonville employees and community members received vaccines at events held in his honor.
“When you were doing business with him, Dr. Haley was very direct and focused on the goals, but at the same time he was easy to talk to,” Curry said. “The idea that he only came into the community three years ago and became such a force in the city and the region really speaks to his impact.”
This story originally ran in the Winter 2021 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.