Richard Bucciarelli, M.D., a longtime professor at the University of Florida, passed away on September 20, 2015, after a long battle with malignant melanoma at the age of 69. Throughout his career, Dr. Bucciarelli was a well-known and respected national health policy leader, caring neonatologist, and staunch children’s health advocate who worked tirelessly to benefit the health of children across the state and country.
A native of Michigan, Dr. Bucciarelli attended the University of Michigan for his undergraduate education and medical school, earning his medical degree in 1972. He first came to UF as a resident in the UF College of Medicine, completing a residency in pediatrics as well as fellowships in neonatology and cardiology. After leaving UF, he served on the faculty at the University of Utah prior to returning to the College of Medicine in 1982 as Chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics. At UF, he also held faculty appointments in the College of Nursing and in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Greatly interested in how federal and state health policies affect patients, Dr. Bucciarelli became heavily involved in health policy efforts. In 1990, he was named a Robert Wood Johnson health policy fellow. During his fellowship, he worked in the office of former West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, where he helped to draft legislation about the Medicare physician payment system and universal health care.
The following year, he was named Associate Chair of Pediatrics and he continued his work in health policy efforts, joining UF’s Institute of Child Health Policy (ICHP). As a member of ICHP, Dr. Bucciarelli worked closely with colleagues to study Florida’s KidCare children’s health insurance program, which was a model for the nation. His efforts to ensure children are insured did not end there. In 2003, he also 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.
After serving as Associate Vice President for Health Affairs for Governmental Relations, Dr. Bucciarelli was appointed Vice President of Government Relations for the entire University in 2002, leading all state and federal government relations activities for the University. In 2004, he stepped down from this role, returning to his position as Associate Vice President for Health Affairs. In 2007, he was named interim Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, then Chair in 2008, a role he held until stepping down in 2011. As Chair of the Department, Dr. Bucciarelli led efforts to establish a dedicated emergency room for children, which opened in 2011. He also oversaw renovations to the pediatric oncology unit and infusion center, which debuted in 2010. He established a new, much-needed Division of Hospital Medicine and recruited 45 new faculty members to the department.
Nationally, Dr. Bucciarelli played a crucial role in the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Federal Government Affairs, serving as Chair of the committee from 1998 until 2002. He also served as Chair of the AAP’s Subcommittee on Access to Care. During this time, he helped engineer the Medikids health insurance proposal aimed at providing universal coverage for children until age 23, which was championed by Rep. Pete Stark in Congress. At the state and local levels, Dr. Bucciarelli served as President of the Florida Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics and was a fervent supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network.
Despite all these accomplishments, to those who knew him, Dr. 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 neonatal intensive care unit throughout his career. His son, Dr. Chris Bucciarelli, chief resident in the Department of Emergency Medicine, recalled how often, during his time as a medical student and resident at UF Health, he’s been asked if he was Dr. Bucciarelli’s son. When he said yes, he always got the same reply, “He’s an amazing man!” And he was. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Lynda, and his two loving children, Amy and Chris.
We will miss him greatly.
If you would like to contribute to a cause that Rick was so passionate about, please consider making a donation to the Richard L. Bucciarelli Child Health Advocacy Fund.