“Match Day is always an emotional time but it’s more emotional for me than usual. I’m vested in these students – more than any other group I’ve had. And today I’m saying goodbye.”
With those words, Dr. Sergio Salazar – bow-tie-wearing healer, educator and mentor – congratulated the College of Medicine’s newly matched seniors and then retired after eight years at the young medical school.
He joined UCF in 2011 after years of caring for patients in the clinic and hospital as an internal medicine specialist. His legacy: “To see every patient as an equal, as a person, no matter what their situation or their needs because the doctor-patient relationship is the most important thing in our profession.”
As a founding faculty member, Dr. Salazar had reworked the cardiopulmonary module and taught physical diagnosis to third-year medical students. For the past two years, he served as assistant dean of students. He started in medicine with his own practice in Tennessee. He visited patients in the hospital at 6 a.m., got to his clinic for appointments at 8 a.m. and saw patients until 5 p.m. when he returned to the hospital for rounds until 7 p.m. After 17 years as a primary care physician, he created and ran a hospitalist program in Tennessee, then moved to Orlando, where he helped run Orlando Health’s internal medicine residency before coming to UCF.
He said he’s most proud of teaching students bedside diagnosis – and instilling in them “old fashioned” physical exam practices even in light of today’s advanced technology. “You have to use all your senses,” he says. “And you have to master your technique so that all you are feeling and touching is giving you the right message, the right diagnosis.”
He has been honored throughout his career as a teacher, role model and a doctor whose actions honor the Hippocratic Oath. He interest in ethics, professionalism and the humanistic aspects of medicine let him to earn, as a member of the inaugural class, a Masters in Bioethics from Harvard Medical School. In addition to teaching and advising students, Dr. Salazar also saw patients at UCF Health, the College of Medicine physician practice.
“He is going to be missed, incredibly,” said Dr. Marcy Verduin, associate dean of students and Dr. Salazar’s boss in Student Affairs. “He has such an even-keeled nature. He didn’t get rattled by anything, so he was a very calming force for students when they were stressed or in crisis. There was always a group of people coming down to meet with him. The students just loved working with him and basking in all of his clinical knowledge.”
Dr. Salazar says he will dedicate his retirement to spending more time with his wife, four children, his “two grandbabies,” girls 4 and 2. He’s also going to spend more time to caring for patients at Shepherd’s Hope, an Orlando faith-based organization that cares for the uninsured. He’ll continue to serve UCF as a volunteer faculty member and looks forward to sailing his new 52-foot sailboat. “I love sailing,” he says “because it gives me freedom.”
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