Remembering: Bruce Buehler, M.D.

September 19, 2018

Image with caption: Bruce Buehler, M.D.

Bruce Buehler, M.D.

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

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."

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.

"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.  He 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.

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

Information on services is pending. An on-campus celebration of Dr. Buehler will be scheduled in the near future. 


What others are saying 
"Bruce was an amazing man. Over the last 30 years, he has been and done so much for me. He was a mentor, a confidante and a counselor. Most of all, he was my friend, and he stayed so until the end. Even after retiring he would call just to check on me and make sure I was doing alright. He was always ready with sage advice on what to do in the tough situations.
"Bruce was first a pediatrician . . . and he always was. Many may not have seen that side, but in the many hours we spent together dreaming and planning, he would always go back to the mantra of 'What's best for the children?'"
-Brad Schaefer, professor of genetics and pediatrics, founding director, Division of Genetics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

"Dr. Buehler was a passionate advocate for children with mental and physical disabilities, and he spent his career working to improve their lives. He was also a strong supporter of the Scottish Rite's mission to help children with speech and language disorders, and as a Scottish Rite Mason, he educated our membership on the mission of MMI and worked to expand our foundation's capacity to serve children through the Munroe-Meyer Institute's RiteCare Clinic."
-Micah Evans, Scottish Rite of Nebraska

"Dr. Bruce Buehler was a visionary for individuals with developmental disabilities. He helped make MMI a place where everyone would be welcomed and treated with dignity and respect. The groundwork that he started is continuing and continues to grow and develop. He will be missed."
-Mary McHale, president, Meyer Foundation for Disabilities 

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