The road to success for Dr. Greene and the medical college close to his heart

Roger Greene, MD '87, second from left, with (from left) Valerie Riddle, MD '89, associate director for alumni engagement; Dr. Charles Lockwood, executive vice president of USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine; and 2023 Morsani College of Medicine Alumin Award winners, Daniel Van Durme, '84, MD '86 (accepted posthumously by his wife) and Mitchel Hoffman, MD '81.

May 8, 2024

By Dave Scheiber

In many respects, Dr. Roger Greene’s life can be defined by the long stretch of endless asphalt running east and west in north Florida. 

Interstate 10 was the connecting thread of his world. He was born in a Jacksonville hospital; raised 70 miles down the highway in tiny White Springs, where he’d jump the fence as a child to attend the legendary music festival in the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center; and hired as an anesthesiologist in a career that not only unfolded back in Jacksonville but in the very same hospital in which he was born.

Yet the roadway that forever altered his journey is the one running north-south through the state, I-75, ultimately leading him in 1983 to the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, where he enrolled in the still-young medical college. USF would make a profound difference in his occupational path, propelling him into a field he hadn’t been considering, giving him the foundation for lasting success in his chosen profession, and remaining close to his heart as a steadfast supporter of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

With the college celebrating the 50th year of its first graduating class, Dr. Greene, now  retired, is marking his own milestone — stepping down as chair of the Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Society Board with his two-year term completed. 

But that doesn’t mean his involvement with the college is decreasing. To the contrary, he’s continuing his philanthropic support, highlighted by his recent “50 for 50” gift in support of the golden anniversary fundraising initiative for the medical school — a $50,000 donation in honor of the 50th year.

“USF and the Morsani College of Medicine have been a huge part of my life,” he says. “It’s funny when I look back to when I visited Tampa in 1983, it was one of the larger cities I’d ever been to, coming from such a rural environment. It was quite an experience for me. And getting accepted to USF was really a ticket to a new life.”

It was certainly a far cry from White Springs, population 800 at the time, and a placid country town along the fabled Suwanee River due south of the Georgia state line. His father was the first college-educated person on either side of his family and became vocational educational director for the public school system, while his mother worked for the state of Florida at the Stephen Foster center. 

As a child and teen, he was immersed in sports and hanging with pals more than academics, but that all changed when he was accepted into his “hometown” school in nearby Gainesville, the University of Florida, where he focused on his studies and graduated with a chemistry degree. He applied to UF’s medical school and was waitlisted, but also took a chance on USF, having heard great things about the fledgling College of Medicine. When USF accepted him, he decided not to wait for Florida.

“I’m so glad I made that decision,” Dr. Greene says. “The University of Florida was more established and respected back then, but that didn’t matter. It just seemed like the time was right to move and try something new.” 

He did not have a firmly established course, gravitating to head and neck anatomy studies, with a thought of pursuing work as an ear, nose and throat doctor. During his years at USF, one of his best friends was a classmate named Bill Carter, who would go on to become Dr. Bill Carter, a longtime Tampa radiologist still practicing today. Dr. Carter also chaired the college’s Alumni Society Board and it is he who suggested Dr. Greene become involved with the board.

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Greene welcomes attendees to the 2023 Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Awards.

Dr. Carter has many fond memories of their days together in the medical school’s Class of 1987 and the close bond that exists between them to this day.

“Roger and I met in 1983, and we quickly became part of a circle of friends in a relatively small class,” he recalls. “Besides our studies, we did a lot of activities together — whitewater rafting in North Carolina, going to Clearwater Beach when we could find a little break here and there, and having pasta parties at my apartment. We had five classmates of Italian heritage and we deferred to them for making the sauce, which they called gravy. We all had study groups together, too. It was a very close-knit class but then we went our own separate ways.”

Dr. Greene’s hope was to land an ENT residency but that didn’t materialize. Instead, he did a year of general surgery at USF’s medical college and that is when he developed an interest in anesthesiology. That led to a residency in the field at Baylor University in Houston and he never looked back. “The beauty of anesthesiology is it allows you to take care of all ages, from neonates to the elderly,” he says.

But Dr. Greene always wanted to return to his native Florida to be near his family. A year before he finished his residency, he began looking for locations. He visited an Orlando hospital but was turned off by the heavy tourist traffic, and opportunities for anesthesiologists in Tampa were not plentiful at that time. So, in 1990, Dr. Greene cold-called the hospital where he came into the world, St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville. 

“I thought, ‘I’ll just call and see if they can connect me to somebody who’s an anesthesiologist,’” he says. “They gave me the operating room and the person who picked up just happened be the one who ended up hiring me. I was thrilled to join them, and we formed a new group of seven solo physicians. I wound up working 31 years at St. Vincent’s. And that group of seven grew over the years into a group of 36 anesthesiologists.”

All the while, he stayed involved in the Morsani College of Medicine through class reunions. When his former roommate and best man at his wedding, Dr. Joseph Covello, died in 2010, Dr. Greene helped create a memorial scholarship fund for the Class of 1987, knowing what a difference scholarships had made when he was a student. “That was the beginning of my philanthropy at USF, contributing to that class scholarship,” he explains.

His involvement significantly increased thanks to his old friend, Dr. Carter, who is also a 50-for-50 donor. “As we were building our board, I was trying to find people who could serve and bring things to the table — and Roger came to mind,” he says. “I knew he lived a little far away in Jacksonville, but that he was very interested.”

Dr. Carter eventually talked to his dear friend about becoming chair of the board, succeeding Dr. Jane Messina. The timing was just right. Dr. Greene was retiring and had a daughter pursuing her master’s degree in speech language pathology at USF. He was delighted to accept the position and do his best to further the society’s mission: to facilitate a perpetual connection between alumni and the Morsani College of Medicine.

“One of Roger’s strengths is interacting with people in a way that really fosters genuine friendship through networking — and rekindling friendships,” Dr. Carter says.

It has been quite a ride for the man from the land of Mr. Foster himself. He never would have imagined that the young medical school that accepted him 41 years ago would “one day be in a high rise in downtown Tampa.” Nor would he have dreamed of the amazing personal ride that all began on Interstate 10.

157,355,063

FY 2022-23 Total Commitment

637,872,759

Endowment Assets Through FY23

37,500

Total Donors in FY23