Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of UF College of Medicine Jacksonville, died Saturday in a jet ski accident, the hospital announced.
Haley was ejected from a personal watercraft in Palm Beach Inlet, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was 56-years-old.
“Dr. Haley was a strong, inspirational leader and beloved son, father, friend and colleague,” the hospital statement read.
Haley became the hospital’s first black CEO in 2018.
He led Jacksonville’s COVID-19 response and effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and was the first in line to receive a vaccine when UF Health Jacksonville was the first in the state to offer vaccines to frontline workers on Dec. 2020.
Haley met with local officials regularly to discuss the city’s pandemic response. He spoke with community leaders on the rise in COVID cases the day before his death, The Florida-Union Times reported.
His colleagues said he walked around the hospital that day, administering vaccines to healthcare workers.
Haley is survived by a daughter, Nichelle, and two sons, Wesley and Grant, who is a cornerback for the New Orleans Saints.
He was born and raised in Pittsburgh and earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University. He went on to earn a medical degree from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Michigan.
Haley was executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine and deputy senior vice president of medical affairs at Grady Memorial Hospital before arriving at UF Health Jacksonville in 2017. Both are academic centers and safety-net hospitals. He retained his title as dean of the medical school and vice president for Health Affairs at the University of Florida throughout his term as CEO.
The hospital said there are not yet plans for his memorial service.