Remembering: Bruce Buehler, M.D.

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | September 21, 2018

Image with caption: Bruce Buehler, M.D., at his retirement celeration

Bruce Buehler, M.D., at his retirement celeration

Bruce Buehler, M.D., former director of the Munroe-Meyer Institute and former chair of the UNMC Department of Pediatrics, died Wednesday at age 75.

A message to MMI

When Dr. Mirnics and Wayne Stuberg, Ph.D., asked Dr. Buehler for a message to his MMI family, his response was:

Four things should never be forgotten, and they represent the fabric of who we are:

  • MMI is the best;
  • MMI is launching pad for opportunities;
  • MMI is where dreams are made; and
  • MMI is the beginning of the future for our patients.

Colleagues hailed him as both an inspiring leader and a passionate advocate for children with disabilities, someone who left his mark on MMI and UNMC.

"Amazing leaders like Bruce emerge once in a generation," said Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., director of MMI. "We lost a giant, a visionary, a passionate advocate and an amazing friend. This loss hurts deeply, at a visceral level, yet we also must celebrate his extraordinary life and amazing contributions to our community."

Read the World-Herald's obituary on Dr. Buehler

Dr. Buehler began his career working with individuals with disabilities at the University of Florida. He later spent time in Utah before he left in 1981 to become the director of genetics and, eventually, the Munroe-Meyer Institute at UNMC. He was only the second full-time director at MMI, succeeding Paul Pearson, M.D.


A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Temple Israel at 13111 Sterling Ridge Drive, Omaha. See more information here. An on-campus celebration of Dr. Buehler's life and work will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 1 in the Linder Reading Room of the Sorrell Center on the UNMC Omaha campus.

"The legacy of Bruce Buehler will never be forgotten," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. "It was his leadership that took the Munroe-Meyer Institute to the next level. His mind was incredible -- he was knowledgeable about every facet of medicine, but it was in genetics where he really left his mark. Bruce traveled across the state countless times providing his expertise to children with developmental disabilities and their families. He made a huge difference for these families by bringing the services to them and not making them have to come to Omaha."

In 1994, Dr. Buehler also was appointed chairman of the UNMC Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Buehler stepped down as pediatrics chairman and MMI director in 2007 -- a 24-year term as MMI director and a 16-year tenure as pediatrics chair.

Colleagues say he left his mark in both places.

"This is the house that Bruce has built," Dr. Mirnics said, pointing out that, during his tenure, Dr. Buehler oversaw a remarkable period of growth for MMI -- from 70 employees in 1983 to 250 in 2007, with a budget that went from $3 million in 1983 to $21 million in 2007. "We stand on his shoulders, his grand vision and achievements. We will continue to carry the torch that he has lit, and make him proud."

John Sparks, M.D., who succeeded Dr. Buehler as the chair of pediatrics, called him a giant in the field.

"Bruce was a superb clinician and a master teacher," Dr. Sparks said. "He loved caring for children, particularly those with special needs, and he passed that on through teaching generations of students, residents and fellows. He was beloved by his patients, by their families and physicians across the state."

"He was a visionary in so many ways," said Brad Schaefer, M.D., former associate director of MMI and currently the founding director of the division of genetics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "Integrating medical genetics into the bigger arena of children with special health care needs was decades ahead of everyone else. His abilities to develop a vision and then share it with others was a skill few have. This allowed him to take a fledgling program and develop it into a flagship program that leads the way in genetics and disabilities."

"He was a leader, a visionary and a passionate advocate for children with disabilities," said Steve McWhorter, president of the Hattie B. Munroe Foundation, which supports many initiatives at MMI. "Bruce created many programs that would enhance the quality of life for those children and their families. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for that."

Dr. Buehler earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Florida. He did his pediatric internship at the University of Chicago School of Medicine and his fellowship in pediatrics and genetics at the University of Florida. From 1971 to 1974, he was a senior flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. Prior to coming to UNMC in 1981, he served four years on the faculty of the University of Utah College of Medicine.


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Mark Smith
October 11, 2018 at 4:12 PM

I can't count the number of parents I have met over the years (at MMI and elsewhere) who quite proudly informed me that their child received their diagnosis from Bruce. He clearly made his mark, from administration down to the first meeting between a parent and their doctor. He was always about the child and families and what they needed to get their start on their journey. A singular individual.

Nicole Hackendahl
September 21, 2018 at 3:05 PM

His contagious smile, humor - although questionable at times :), and zest for life will be greatly missed in the halls of MMI.

Lisa Runco
September 21, 2018 at 10:56 AM

Not only was Bruce a man of great vision, he was also a master storyteller.....he will be missed for both. He established his legacy and it will live on forever.

Clarence Ueda
September 21, 2018 at 10:20 AM

Dr. Beuhler was truly a remarkable person, and UNMC faculty member and administrator. He possessed the rare combination of charisma, sense of humor, like-abililty, open-mindedness, willingness to help, people and team-building skills, and 'can-do' attitude, to name a few. Bruce was a remarkable ambassador for UNMC, and leaves behind a tremendous legacy.

Steve Wengel, MD
September 21, 2018 at 9:59 AM

Bruce had a way of connecting with audiences that was second to none. I remember lectures that he gave my medical school class in the early 80's and can still recall his memory hints, his anecdotes, and his jokes. He cared deeply about patients and helped many, many people in his long career. We will all miss him.

Tom O'Connor
September 21, 2018 at 9:41 AM

Nobody at UNMC did more media interviews over the years than Bruce Buehler. He always did a fantastic job of spreading the UNMC message through the media. He was one-of-a-kind! My condolences to his family and friends. We lost a great one.

Sandy Willett
September 21, 2018 at 8:53 AM

Dr. Buehler's wit infused every interaction with children, families, clients, students and colleagues. His knowledge was immense but his compassion even greater. We will miss his laughter, the ever present twinkle in his eye! And, we will miss his wonderful one was a better story teller than Bruce! Thank you Dr. Buehler! Prayers to your family and loved ones.

Katina Winters
September 21, 2018 at 8:06 AM

Bruce was a legend. I always looked forward to his medical updates on our local news station and articles in the newspaper. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.

dan mcquade
September 21, 2018 at 7:15 AM

Bruce, THANK YOU for your friendship. Dan McQuade