Reaction to the death of Dr. Rubens Pamies

by UNMC public relations staff | February 28, 2011

Members of the UNMC community and beyond react to the news of the death of Rubens Pamies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs.

picture disc.
Rubens Pamies, M.D.


"When I first heard the news I was numb. Dr. Pamies was a strong proponent for a community and statewide effort to take more seriously the problems of behavior health in our city and state, especially among our youth. His loss is a devastating blow." -- Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray


"This was a shock to all of us. ... Rubens was a valued colleague and an integral and essential part of our leadership team at UNMC." -- Don Leuenberger, vice chancellor for business and finance


"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Dr. Pamies. His commitment to the people of Haiti, Omaha and every community where he lived, should serve as an inspiration to all of us to do our part." -- Willie Barney, president of the Empowerment Network


"Rubens was one of those unique individuals who performed on a national stage while he worked tirelessly on behalf of his local community. His achievenents are profound. ... Yet, it is the personal moments spent with Rubens that I will always cherish: talking about his beloved Latina pro-baseball players, receiving a big hug from him at his Obama election-night party, and sharing his next, big idea on getting more young people into the health professional pipeline. He will be missed." -- Bob Bartee, vice chancellor for external affairs


"Rubens was a bold pioneer, exposing and describing health and health care disparities. But I will miss him dearly ... because he was my good friend, because he had a generous heart and because there can be no substitute for that Pamies sunny smile and wry humor." -- Tom Rosenquist, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research


"The news about Dr. Pamies' death came as a rude shock to my wife and I. ... Dr. Ruben Pamies in his short time in Omaha has left a lasting legacy in the community." -- William Femi Awodele, executive director of Christian Couples Fellowship International, Inc.


"While his policy work at national levels to address racial and ethnic health disparities will be remembered, Dr. Pamies' genuine concern for helping others and his understanding of the importance of a personal touch didn't go unnoticed in Omaha." -- Doris Lassiter, president and CEO of the Nebraska Center for Healthy Families


"Dr. Pamies led the Building Bright Futures Health Task Force with skill and determination to improve access to quality health care for every child in the Omaha metropolitan area. His contributions will have a lasting impact on the children of Omaha." -- Michael Yanney, president of Building Bright Futures


"I am speechless at the loss of this man, our brother, who has become such a key member of this community. He will be missed so much as a person and a professional." -- Chris Rodgers, Douglas County Commissioner, District 3

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Nelson Gordman, member, UNMC Board of Counselors
March 08, 2011 at 11:22 AM

It was hard for me to believe when I saw the article about Dr. Pamies. He was virtually the same age as my kids (my oldest is 48). I met him and admired him for what he has done for the Med Center and for Jamaica - and he just seemed to be a decent and classy guy. I'm sure he leaves a hole at UNMC.

James B. Milliken, president, University of Nebraska
March 08, 2011 at 8:34 AM

Rubens Pamies touched the lives of people throughout the University and throughout the world. His dedication to eliminating disparities in health care and his passion for helping those in need were an inspiration. Nana and I will miss his friendship and his compassion.

Magda Peck, ScD, associate dean for community engagement and public health practice, UNMC College of Public Health
March 04, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Rubens lived at the dynamic intersection of vision, passion, and stubborn tenacity, unwilling to accept that the right thing could not be done. He was one of the earliest champions of public health at UNMC, and his behind the scenes advocacy helped make what we have now possible. I shall always remember my social justice buddy and loyal friend.

Ahmad Yusuf
March 03, 2011 at 10:18 PM

This has been a very sad news. I had the honor to work under his supervision for the SMDEP in 2008 and 2009. I also had the honor to work with him in the outpatient clinic in May of 2010. Dr. Pamies will always remain as one of my heroes, and I consider his death a big loss to healthcare, medical education and humanity. He will be missed.

Teresa Hunter
March 03, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Few have the courage to do more than TALK about the issues they see daily. Dr. Pamies was a rare gem who could see and FEEL the issues associated with health disparities and educational opportunities, and he created WORKABLE solutions for change. He truly made an impact—nationally. We will certainly miss him and his work with the Empowerment Network.

Bill Williams, Chair, and Don Melnick, President, National Board of Medical Examiners
March 02, 2011 at 11:02 AM

On behalf of the membership and staff of the National Board of Medical Examiners, please accept our most heartfelt condolences on the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend. Although the world has lost someone very special, Rubens’ legacy of caring and commitment to others will remain a shining example to all who carry on his work and will continue to inspire his colleagues in the governing board of the NBME.

Janet King
March 02, 2011 at 9:17 AM

What saddness...for a moment on February 26, 2011, the world stood still. He will be missed by everyone whose life he touched.

Terence Freeman (ALT Technologies)
March 02, 2011 at 9:06 AM

I cannot express how sad I am at the news of Rubens' passing. Although I had only known him for a short while, having met on our travels to Haiti, he was a very close friend. He was caring, a real gentleman and passionate about helping others. He had asked that I help with his efforts to rebuild the Health System in Haiti, which of course I was more than willing to do. What we must now do is ensure that his Plan is followed through and that we achieve all that he hoped for the people of Haiti. Rubens will be missed by many but his legacy will hopefully endure.

Kevin Harris, VCU Health Sciences Diversity
March 01, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Understanding that we all are eventually called "home", it still hurts to know that such a pleasant and giving man has passed. I wish his family finds comfort in his life and his friends and colleagues find the will to continue his work. Peace, Rubens.

John W. Ewing, Jr. Douglas County Treasurer
March 01, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Dr. Pamies was a tremendous asset to the world because of his expertise in the medical field. More importantly Dr. Pamies was an asset because of his care and concern for people. Many people know of the tremendous effort he exerted on behalf of the Hatian people, not as many know of his leadership roles in Omaha including his leadership of the Health Covenant for the Empowerment Network. This giant of a human being will be missed greatly by all who knew him.

John and Mary Wilson
March 01, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Mary and I just heard the news this morning. Sorry for your loss of such a good friend and partner at UNMC.

Darrell Kirch, M.D., president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges
March 01, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Rubens' many friends at the AAMC were deeply saddened by the news. Please know that our thoughts are with you and his family.

Steven Wartman, M.D., Association of Academic Health Centers
March 01, 2011 at 3:45 PM

This is indeed very sad news. Rubens was a wonderful person and great friend. He was motivated throughout his career to take on pressing social issues and served as a role model for many. His loss is deeply felt.

John Christensen,Ph.D., chancellor, University of Nebraska at Omaha
March 01, 2011 at 3:41 PM

I was deeply saddened to hear about Rubens over the weekend. We worked closely together as vice chancellors and I quickly learned he was a quality professional and person as well as an asset to the university and community.

Bob Whitehouse, University of Nebraska Board of Regents
March 01, 2011 at 3:21 PM

I am in total shock. I have worked with him on OPS stuff as much or more than any UNMC person. I'm truly stunned!

Randy Ferlic, M.D., University of Nebraska Board of Regents
March 01, 2011 at 3:16 PM

A tragedy. Promise cut short.

Donal Burns, University of Nebraska Central Administration
March 01, 2011 at 3:15 PM

This is terrible news. Rubens was an exceptional person and a superb human being who was an example to all of us. He wrote me the most beautiful letter a couple of weeks ago when I told him of my retirement. I will treasure it.

Tim Clare, University of Nebraska Board of Regents
March 01, 2011 at 3:10 PM

I am so sorry to hear about his passing. He was such a compassionate, caring man...a real asset to UNMC and to the entire University of Nebraska system. No doubt, he will be missed.

Jasmine Hardman
March 01, 2011 at 2:40 PM

I just want to take a moment of silence in the remembrance of one of the most inspirational Dr.'s I've ever met in life with a heart big enough to love the world and the attitude that coincides with it! SMDEP 2010 UNMC Loves you and will miss you dearly! you have impacted our lives beyond belief and we are eternally grateful. May your legacy live on many blessings of peace to your family and loved ones... --R.I.P Dr. Pamies

Jim McClurg, University of Nebraska Board of Regents
March 01, 2011 at 12:40 PM

The passing of Rubens is such a loss—for his family, for everyone at UNMC and those they serve, and all his many friends and associates in many locations. His gentle nature, ready smile, extraordinary talents, and his dignity are so memorable. We are grateful for his life and dearly miss him.

Hayley Faber
March 01, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Dr. Pamies was an incredible role model as a physician, humanitarian, and person. I will always remember the conversation I had with him as a freshman in college, contemplating a career in medicine. Dr. Pamies helped me believe in myself and my dreams as I know he did for so made other SMDEP students. I want his family and friends to know how much I was impacted by this caring man and his tireless efforts to teach about and work to reduce health disparities.

Howard Gendelman
March 01, 2011 at 5:41 AM

A shock, a hurt, and deep introspections of a man who achieved so much for so many in so few years. A void is made in us that will not easily be filled. Let us celebrate a life and journey that inspired so many for so long in few years. Thank you Dr. Pamies for who you were and for your leadership.

Galen M. Anding and Michelle L. Chang, DDS
February 28, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Dr. Pamies was a great example of professional excellence. He always had encouraging words and strived to bring our Health Care community together to achieve a united purpose.

Oluyemisi M. Odugbesan MPA, MD
February 28, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Rubens was indeed a key player on the national and international medical scenes, but what made him truly remarkable was his equal dedication to his local community and his role at the medical center. He worked tirelessly on countless Omaha community initiatives while mentoring a multitude of students, residents, and faculty, such as myself. His professional advice during lunch or an impromptu meeting on the way to round on his patients has forever influenced my career, as he truly embodied the sense that a candle loses nothing of itself in lighting another. But with the recent devastation in Haiti his best work was yet unrealized. Within an hour of the catastrophic quake he had already begun planning the university’s response. And since that day I have personally participated in and witnessed his dedication to rebuilding the nation’s healthcare system. From convening medical schools across the nation to admit displaced Haitian medical students to meeting with the minister of health on key challenges to creating sustainable healthcare initiatives in Haiti, his passion never waned. May the brilliance of his character, the benevolence of his deeds on this earth, and pureness of his devotion to the causes in which he believed be forces that inspire each of us to continue to strive toward excellence in improving the human condition.

100 Black Men of Omaha, Inc.
February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Rubens was as passionate about healthcare disparity as he was about his family, his friends and the community he served. There are numerous students, leaders and organizations that are better today because of his time and support. He served the 100 Black Men of Omaha in many capacities and will be missed always. "Real Man Who Gave Real Time"

Michelle Bandur, KETV (Ch. 7) reporter
February 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

I am sorry to hear about his passing. He was always very nice and such a good guy. Thinking of you and UNMC family

Ed Wimes
February 28, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Dr. Pamies, was truly a unique physician, and a dedicated person, who believed if you provided an individual an opportunity, which he championed everywhere he went, they could be successful. His commitment and passion will be truly missed.

Linda Crump
February 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM

I had the honor to work with Dr. Pamies on the University-wide Diversity Committee for several years. Dr. Pamies was a champion for inclusion and always looked to ways to open up opportunities for those that did not have champions. He will be dearly missed.

Linda Pratt, Executive Vice President and Provost, University of Nebraska
February 28, 2011 at 3:44 PM

I am so sad to hear about Rubens. I worked quite closely with him for nearly five years, and during my heart surgery time he was very kind to me and to Bill. He never failed to ask how I was doing, and I knew I could call on him if I was having a problem. I have lost a friend as well as a good colleague. I just wanted to express my affection and regard for Rubens. I know you must feel deep grief for his lost life, and for his children. If there is anything I can do to facilitate easing this transition in Academic Affairs, I shall do all I can to help.

Liz Albertorio
February 28, 2011 at 3:26 PM

He believed in the potential of us students, and he was driven by it. I cant believe he is gone. From Puerto Rico and also from the SMDEP 2009 class we send comfort to his family. We will keep spreading your message Dr. Pamies. We will miss you, thank you for believing in us. Thank You.

Thomas H. Warren, Sr. - President/CEO, Urban League of NE
February 28, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Our heartfelt sympathy to Dr. Pamies' family and friends. Rubens served on the Board of Directors of the Urban League of NE and was actively involved in our outreach efforts related to reducing health care disparities. His legacy will include providing opportunities for the next generation of minority health care practitioners and his commitment to promoting access to affordable health care to underserved populations. He will be sorely missed.

Deborah Bunting, Heritage Arts Manager, Nebraska Arts Council
February 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM

I am both shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely loss of our friend and colleague. In addition to the impact of his medical contributions, Dr. Pamies was also a valued member of Omaha's arts community. He so generously served on the Board of Directors of Joslyn Art Museum. I will value our conversations...always.

Atiim Jones
February 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM

This is among the worst possible losses for UNMC and the community. Dr. Pamies was a rare breed of Leaders who come along once in many, many years. His absence is a devastating blow to the aspirations of cultural diversity at the University and the divergement of medical resources reaching far beyond Omaha. He will be missed.

Richard L.Brown, Ph.D;FACHE
February 28, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Dr. Pamies' departure from this world is a great loss to all humanity. I got to know him very well as a friend and colleage as we served together as co-chairs of the African American Empowerment Network Health Committee, and as a member of the 100 Black Men of Omaha, and as Chairman of the Quality Assurance Committee at Charles Drew Community Health Center. Those of us who knew him must keep his legacy alive for he was truly a unique man who actually made a difference in the lives of many people. I will cherish his autographed book given to me "Help and Hope for Haiti, forever.

Anika Trahan, Managing Editor-MCQ2, National Board of Medical Examiners
February 28, 2011 at 1:19 PM

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Pamies just a couple of months ago and looked forward to learning more from and about him. I was heartbroken by the news of his passing as are many of my colleagues. Dr. Pamies was a prayer answered for our people for 'nanpwen maladi ki pa gen remed.'

Iqbal Ahmad
February 28, 2011 at 12:43 PM

I got the sad news from my daughter as I had just entered my room in a hotel in India. My heart sank in disbelief and sadness. Rubens was supposed to be with us on the trip for signing MOUs with Indian institutes. He was eagerly looking forward to the trip but cancelled because of other important engagements. He was a true humanitarian, deeply involved in making us all aware of the health disparity in our society and solving it. Over the past few years I had come to know him closely as a friend. He will be missed very much.

Senator Brenda J. Council
February 28, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I did not post a comment upon first hearing of Dr. Pamies' passing in hopes that there was some error in the information I received. All I did was delay the devastating impact of the loss of such a remarkable human being. He devoted his professional and personal time to eliminating health disparities, improving access to health care and increasing the representation of minorities in health care. His accomplishments in those areas are his legacy. He was loved and respected, and he will be greatly missed!

Harvey Perlman, UNL chancellor
February 28, 2011 at 12:01 PM

It was very sad to hear of Rubens' death. He made so many contributions to UNMC as well as the University at large. We will all miss him and those of us at UNL share your sense of loss.

Louis Sullivan, M.D., Sullivan Alliance chairman
February 28, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Rubens had a very strong commitment to addressing the health needs of the poor regardless of their race or ethnicity. He worked tirelessly to accomplish that goal. He was a very strong person with a big heart full of compassion for others. He also was a compassionate leader of the Virginia-Nebraska Alliance and an integral member of the Sullivan Alliance.

Terone Green, Virginia-Nebraska Alliance executive director
February 28, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Dr. Pamies, regardless of all his duties and responsibilities, always placed the needs and the interests of his students first and foremost.

Charlie Brogan, KFOR radio, Lincoln
February 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM

This is quite a shock since I just interviewed him a couple weeks ago and am still reading his book. UNMC has lost a good one.

Cherie Lytle, Children's Hospital & Medical Center
February 28, 2011 at 9:41 AM

The loss of Dr. Pamies will be felt throughout the medical community now and into the future. He was a talented professional who led by example. He also shared tremendous opportunities that allowed many individuals to come together and make a difference. My thoughts are with all of you at UNMC, as well as with Dr. Pamies’ family. He will be greatly missed.

Nancy Woelfl
February 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM

As a physician and educator, Dr. Rubens Pamies touched hundreds of lives, including my own. He worked tirelessly to advance equity in healthcare and a workforce that reflects our diverse society. But I will always remember the man behind the accomplishments - a caring and generous man with a big heart. I'm really going to miss him.

Sheila Wrobel
February 28, 2011 at 8:29 AM

Dr. Pamies was committed to expanding educational opportunities in health care to students from many backgrounds. He was a strong advocate for the importance of creating a more diverse health care profession to reduce disparities. Dr. Pamies individually met with each UNMC Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) student taking a personal interest in their goals. We will miss him in the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs office.

Vito Caragiulo
February 28, 2011 at 8:17 AM

Nothing was too trivial to Dr. Pamies. When you talked to him about an issue, he listened and participated as if what you had to say counted. Even with his schedule, he took the time to respond to your E-mails personally. He was one of those individuals that brought people together. I am the better to have known him.

Irving H. Zucker, Ph.D.
February 28, 2011 at 8:09 AM

The tragic news of the sudden passing of Dr. Pamies struck a close personal note. In addition to all the outstanding contributions Rubens has made to UNMC, the Omaha community and the nation, he and I became friends and comrades, so to speak, after discovering our common love for NY baseball. We travelled to Spring Training together in 2007 and I got to know this caring and devoted human being. He will be truly missed.

Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General
February 28, 2011 at 8:07 AM

This is difficult. I still haven't come to grips that Rubens is dead. He was a great friend and colleague with the utmost integrity and incredible energy. I had tremendous admiration for him. He had a devotion for reducing disparities of health and ultimately eliminating them.

Jialin C. Zheng
February 28, 2011 at 4:18 AM

His loyal to his friends/colleagues, his passion for addressing health disparities, his commitment for prompting diversity in the community set a model for many of us, his spirit will be continued and passed on.. I will miss him dearly as a friend... Jialin C. Zheng

John Cavanaugh
February 27, 2011 at 3:48 PM

It was Dr. Pamies' vision and leadership that resulted in the opening of the first School Based Health Centers in six school buildings in August of 2010. These School Based Health Centers have transformed the opportunities for access to quality care for 35,000 area students and will make a major contribution to their future academic and economic success. Dr. Pamies has left this community with a lasting living legacy. We have all lost a great friend and great man.

Richard Holland
February 27, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Dr. Pamies was a passionate, articulate and effective advocate for expanding access to quality health care for those most in need in our community. He was a true champion for the disadvantaged and I am greatly saddened by his death.