A bold vision for our academic health center

The dean reflects on the past academic year and looks ahead to a new season driven by a revamped vision.

By: Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, C.P.E., FACEP

Greetings Colleagues,

Welcome to the summer 2018 edition of Academic Matters, the e-newsletter of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

This is an exciting time of year, filled with finales, celebrations and fresh starts. We recently recognized more than 100 residents and fellows who completed training programs at UF COMJ. The Celebration of Education event is always a joyous and momentous occasion, and I’m glad to have been there to help commemorate the graduating physicians’ successes and wish them well in their next endeavors.

Russo Award residents

Bashar Al-Turk, D.O., and John Mooney, M.D., were both named resident winners of this year’s Louis S. Russo Jr. Award for Outstanding Professionalism in Medicine.

2018 graduates

Shashank Shettar, M.D., at left, received one of several awards during Celebration of Education. Afterward, he and other graduates enjoyed a reception.

Fortunately for us, several of them will remain at UF Health Jacksonville for further training or to enter practice. This retention of talent and expertise not only benefits our campus, but also bodes well for the entire region from an educational, health and economic standpoint.

Along those lines, we’re excited to welcome nearly 100 new physicians who are beginning their training here. Our health center continues to attract the brightest minds from across the country and beyond. As such, we’re confident our educational and medical infrastructure, steered by esteemed and renowned faculty, will meet their expectations, providing the type of dynamic and challenging training needed to excel as a practitioner.

Our vision

Haley speaks

Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, delivers the keynote address at the JAXUSA Partnership quarterly luncheon.

In addition to an elevated educational focus, clinical excellence and community engagement are core pillars of our new vision to be the region’s most valued health care asset.

The key word is region. Our old vision statement was essentially restricted to the city of Jacksonville. We see our impact being more far-reaching. Strategic partnerships are essential as we move along in this quest. In June, I delivered the keynote address at the JAXUSA Partnership quarterly luncheon downtown. This JAX Chamber-affiliated function gave me the chance to tell the UF Health story in front of some of the most influential businesspeople, stewards and stakeholders in the region.

It’s critical for them to know about the amazing things happening at our health system and the great people who make it go. I will continue meeting and speaking with key groups to discuss developments and visions, including the desire to make our campus a vital component of the city’s downtown revitalization efforts.

Haley and Curry

Haley listens as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry speaks during a visit to UF Health Jacksonville. Key partnerships, such as those with the city of Jacksonville, are vital to our health system’s continued growth.

Building the leadership team

K.C. Balaji, M.D.

K.C. Balaji, M.D.

We are excited to welcome K.C. Balaji, M.D., our new chair or urology, who comes from Wake Forest University. Balaji is a urological oncologist whose novel expertise includes robotic cancer surgery and research on prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, I want to congratulate Paul Mongan, M.D., a professor at UF COMJ, who’s been chosen as the new chair of anesthesiology.

Paul Mongan, M.D.

Paul Mongan, M.D.

Mongan has led departments in the military, education and nonprofit sectors. Before coming to UF Health, he held appointments at Mayo Clinic and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, among other institutions. We are looking forward to what he and Balaji will bring to their departments.

We have chosen Darrell WuDunn, M.D., of Indiana University to be our next chair of ophthalmology. WuDunn’s wife, Susanne Ragg, M.D., will also be joining us as our director of cancer integration, a newly created position. Ragg, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, will work with Pradeep Kadambi, M.D., M.B.A., to better integrate our cancer program on campus. WuDunn and Ragg will both begin here Oct. 1.

Also on Oct. 1, we will welcome Alex Parker, Ph.D., as our senior associate dean for research. Parker, a cancer epidemiologist at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, will work with our department chairs and other faculty to support research initiatives on campus. Meanwhile, we are looking to make final decisions for chairs of obstetrics and gynecology and neurosurgery. More announcements will be coming soon.

Dr. Guzick’s resignation

Dr. Guzick

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D.

As you probably know, David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., recently stepped down from his roles as senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. Guzick oversaw our health system during times of immense growth in Jacksonville and Gainesville. As UF President Kent Fuchs pointed out, Guzick’s leadership over the past nine years was transformative, with regional and national distinction for UF Health obtained along the way. We wish him the very best in his next chapter.

On a personal note, I am grateful to him for choosing me to be part of the UF Health family and welcoming me as I’ve transitioned and acclimated over the past 18 months. It has been a great journey so far, and I am excited to keep going as we strive to be the region’s most valued health care asset.


Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, C.P.E., FACEP