COMJ faculty mourn loss of esteemed colleague

Robert Wears, MD, PhD, a longtime professor of emergency medicine at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, died July 15 following complications from a recent surgical procedure. He was 70.

Robert Wears, MD, PhD, was regarded as an expert in patient safety

As faculty members toggle grief and shock over the death of Robert Wears, MD, PhD, they are also reminiscing about the brilliance and humility he exhibited throughout his time on campus.

Wears, a professor of emergency medicine and revered researcher at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, died July 15 following complications from a recent surgical procedure. He was 70.

Wears was one of the country’s leading experts in patient safety. His research has been recognized globally and has led to improved patients outcomes, especially pertaining to emergency care. His research included examining continuity of care when staff members change shifts, arrangement of emergency room patients and note-taking methods among medical staff.

“Dr. Wears was a brilliant physician and researcher, but he was also incredibly modest, and that’s what many of us will remember him for,” said longtime colleague David Vukich, MD, senior associate dean for hospital affairs at UF COMJ and former chair of emergency medicine. “Bob was truly dedicated to making health care better and safer for his patients here and people throughout the world. He was a great man who will be dearly missed.”

Wears joined the UF COMJ faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor and was a founding member of the department of emergency medicine. He received tenure in 1993 and was promoted to professor in 1995.  

He studied the impact of information technology on safety and quality in health care organizations. His work has been funded by organizations such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Patient Safety Foundation; the Emergency Medicine Foundation; the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine; the Army Research Laboratory; and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. He published more than 150 articles in medical journals and wrote more than 20 book chapters that detail his work.

“Dr. Wears was known for his compassion for his patients and particularly for his passion about patient safety and improved patient outcomes. For his many contributions to the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, to the profession and to society, Dr. Wears will be missed,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, dean of the college.

Wears earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University. He also earned a master’s degree in computer sciences from the University of North Florida and a doctorate degree in industrial safety from the Crisis and Risk Research Centre at the Ecole des Mines de Paris (MINES ParisTech) in France. His interests were in technical work studies in complex socio-technical systems, joint and distributed cognitive systems, and the impact of information technology on safety and resilient performance.

Wears was a member of several state, national and international societies and organizations, including the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare. He served on the board of directors for the Emergency Medicine Patient Safety Foundation and as an associate editor for Annals of Emergency Medicine, the specialty’s most prestigious publication. He also served as chair on several committees of the American College of Emergency Physicians and ultimately received that organization’s Life Fellow distinction.  

Andy Godwin, MD, chair of emergency medicine at UF COMJ, said words will fall short when expressing how much Wears meant to the department and the college. He and other colleagues regard Wears as a pioneering force in academic emergency medicine who was masterful, yet humble, and was always in pursuit of new knowledge.  

“He was an irreplaceable friend and mentor who touched us all in a way that made us better people and doctors,” Godwin said. “In the coming days and months, we will mourn him but we will also celebrate the amazing and brilliant statesman that he has been for patient safety, emergency medicine and patient care across all disciplines.”

Wears is survived by his father, Lewis Wears; his wife, Diane; his son, Matthew Wears; his daughter, Sarah Garcia; and six grandchildren.

Featured Faculty

Steven A. Godwin, MD, FACEP

Steven A. Godwin, MD, FACEP

Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine; Assistant Dean, Simulation Education; Program Director, Patient Safety Fellowship

David J. Vukich, MD, FACEP

David J. Vukich, MD, FACEP

Emeritus Professor