Remembering a great Gator
By April Frawley Lacey
Throughout his career, Richard Bucciarelli, M.D., worked to improve the health of children through policy reform and advocacy, and one-on-one in the neonatal intensive care unit, where he cared for the hospital’s tiniest patients.
Bucciarelli, who passed away Sept. 20 after an extended illness at age 69, had been a faculty member in the College of Medicine department of pediatrics since 1982. He served as chair of the department between 2008 and 2011, and prior to that had held key roles in government relations for the university.
“Rick had the amazing ability to touch the lives of tiny infants directly in his care as a neonatologist, and touch the lives of thousands more through his amazing advocacy in pediatric public service. Rick was a leader in pediatrics, not just in Florida, but nationally. Sadly, most of all, we have not just lost a spectacular and gracious physician and leader, we have all lost a kind and genuine friend,” said Scott A. Rivkees, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of pediatrics.
In 1990, Bucciarelli took a sabbatical, working as a Robert Wood Johnson health policy fellow. During this time, he began working with Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, helping to draft legislation about the Medicare physician payment system and universal health care. His work in shaping health policy efforts continued at UF and at the national level.
In 2003, he devised a successful care model for children with special health needs, called Ped-I-Care. Ped-I-Care received national honors in 2011 from the Medical Group Management Association.
He also took on crucial leadership roles with the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2013 he received the Clifford G. Grulee Award for outstanding service to the AAP.
An accomplished cook who took classes on French cuisine, Bucciarelli also was known to team up with Ira Gessner, M.D., former chief of cardiology, offering their culinary expertise to raise money for charity.
“Dr. Bucciarelli did it all,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine. “He provided lifesaving care to newborns with extreme health challenges, he taught thousands of medical students and trained pediatricians how to become exceptional physicians, and he significantly helped to shape health policy for children throughout our state and nation. In one way or another, he touched the lives of millions. And much of the time he served these causes behind the scenes, preferring to direct credit for accomplishment to his partners and colleagues.”
Despite all these accomplishments, to those who knew him, Bucciarelli will be remembered most for his kindness, positive outlook and unwavering commitment to his family, friends and the tiny patients he cared for in the NICU.
“People always say, ‘He is the nicest guy in the world,’” said his son, Chris Bucciarelli, M.D., chief resident in the department of emergency medicine. “Hearing that, it makes me feel proud to be related to him. He served as a role model in so many ways: family values, having an amazing bedside manner and being able to establish good relationships with colleagues … those are things I try to emulate and make a part of my practice.”
Bucciarelli is survived by his wife of 46 years, Lynda, his daughter, Amy, and son, Chris.