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Dr. Leon Haley laid to rest in his native Pittsburgh

Dr. Leon Haley served as the first Black CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and was a leading voice in the fight against COVID-19.

PITTSBURGH — Dr. Leon Haley was laid to rest Saturday morning in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, leaving behind a legacy that will outlive the scores of people who looked up to him.

Haley, who died July 25 in a jet ski accident in South Florida, was widely celebrated within the local medical community for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic as the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.

Dr. Haley previously served as the dean of Emory School of Medicine and deputy senior vice president of medical affairs at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

In 2017, Haley moved to Jacksonville to serve as dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville. In 2018, he was chosen as the hospital's first Black CEO in its history.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Haley took an active role in the fight against the virus. In December 2020, he became among the first medical professionals in Florida to take a COVID-19 vaccine, inspiring many others to do the same. 

"His last day at the hospital, he was giving vaccines here on one of our surgical floors," Chad Nielsen of UF Health remembered. "He walked the walk and he talked that talk."

"His reach was immeasurable," Mia Jones, CEO of Agape Community Health Clinic, told First Coast News. "He might have been small in statures, but his reach was one that covered this community."

Following his death, numerous people both within and outside the medical community released statements and posted to social media memorializing Dr. Haley.

"Dr. Haley was the embodiment of leadership, compassion and kindness. He greeted everyone with a warm smile," Dr. Adriana Cantville, a Pediatrician at UF Health, said. "He spent his last day at UF going from unit to unit helping vaccinate staff. This is a devastating and tragic loss for our hospital and the community. He provided us such clear guidance and led with strength and grace through the uncertainty of the pandemic. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones."

Haley served on the JEA Board of Directors after being appointed in April 2020. JEA CEO Jay Stowe shared his condolences on behalf of JEA’s employees.

Haley served on the JEA Board of Directors after being appointed in April 2020. JEA CEO Jay Stowe shared his condolences on behalf of JEA’s employees.

“It is with great sadness that we share the news of the tragic and untimely death of Dr. Leon Haley Jr., JEA board member and CEO of UF Health. Our heartfelt condolences and thoughts are with Dr. Haley’s family, friends and colleagues at this terribly difficult time. We thank Dr. Haley for his untiring service to the community and the JEA Board of Directors.”