UF Health Jacksonville gets $80M to upgrade trauma center, will name it in memory of Dr. Leon Haley

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was at UF Health Jacksonville on Monday to announce that though he hadn’t signed the state budget yet, the hospital’s trauma center would be getting $80 million to upgrade its trauma center.

The trauma center will also be named in memory of Dr. Leon Haley Jr., who died in a jet ski crash in South Florida in July 2021. Haley was the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville at the time of his death.

RELATED: Northeast Florida scores big in 2022 budget, but will the local projects survive the veto pen?

DeSantis said that the new trauma center is expected to see 125,000 patients a year and said it is “fitting that we’re able to use this facility to honor Dr. Haley’s legacy.”

Russ Armistead, the CEO of UF Health, said the hospital’s trauma center was the first trauma program to open in the state of Florida in 1983.

He said the center “was in dire need of upgrades. This funding will change that dramatically.”

STORY: Florida rejects 41% of new math textbooks, claiming Common Core and CRT as cause

UF Health Jacksonville’s trauma center is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, serving surrounding counties such as Baker, Clay and Nassau counties. The next closest centers are in Gainesville and Savannah.

Haley’s son Grant said when he would come visit his father at the hospital, he said he “got to see his vision of what he wanted the community to be like.”

“My father envisioned himself as a hero,” Grant Haley said. “ ... His legacy goes far beyond just being a trauma doctor or CEO. He taught me to be a man of service, a man of faith.”

Tax Day 2022: What you can get for FREE today

Haley’s father Dr. Leon Haley Sr. spoke about grief and gratitude -- the grief he and his family have felt over the past year of losing his son in such a tragic way, but also the gratitude for the years they had with him.

“We’re grateful for the love he had for this city and this hospital,” Haley Sr. said of his son.

He said the naming of the trauma center in his son’s memory filled him with a “deep, deep sense of gratitude.”

STORY: 17-year-old shot and killed on violent holiday weekend

Armistead said the naming of the trauma center after Haley is “a wonderful way to honor our colleague.”

Armistead said the idea to name the center after Haley was borne out of Haley’s friends taking a fishing trip to the Keys and deciding they needed to do something to honor Haley’s legacy.

“I’m personally touched to be a part of this because of my connection with Dr. Haley Jr.,” Armistead said.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.