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UF Health Jax CEO Leon Haley, 56, Dies In Jet Ski Accident

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UF Health Jacksonville CEO Dr. Leon L. Haley on Dec. 14, 2021 received the first shot of the Pfizer COVID vaccine as those gathered around the hospital's lobby cheered.

Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr. was lauded for his efforts in response to COVID-19. In December, he was the first person in Jacksonville to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, was killed Saturday in an accident involving a personal watercraft, authorities said. He was 56.

Haley was ejected from a jet ski in Palm Beach Inlet and was found about 10:33 a.m. in the water wearing a life jacket, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach, where he died from his injuries.

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Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr.

Haley, an emergency physician, was lauded for his efforts in response to COVID-19. The day before his death, Haley held a conference call with elected officials and community leaders in Jacksonville to report that the current wave of cases was not showing any signs of breaking.

"It is with great sadness we share that our CEO and dean, Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, has passed away unexpectedly," the hospital said in an online post. "Dr. Haley was a strong, inspirational leader and beloved son, father, friend and colleague. We ask that you keep his family in your prayers and thoughts. We ask that you respect the privacy of Dr. Haley's family, friends and colleagues at UF Health."

“Dr. Haley was such an incredible leader and colleague to all of us at UF Health, but he was also a good friend to so many, an amazing advocate for equality in health care, and most importantly a man of integrity who always wanted to do the right thing,” Dr. David R. Nelson, senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health, said in a statement. “This is not only a tremendous loss to Dr. Haley’s family, friends and the people he led at UF, but also to our communities in North Florida and elsewhere around the country. His leadership and friendship will be missed, but we will come together and continue his vision.”

In December, Haley was the first person in Jacksonville to receive the Pfizer vaccine when it became available.

“This is a humbling moment,” Haley said at the time. “This is just the beginning of a long battle."