Bayfront honors Dr. Paul McRae

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg honored the late Dr. Paul McRae Thursday, Dec. 17. Pictured here are Donna and Leah McRae. Photos courtesy of Dr. Frederic Guerrier.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — “I really appreciate the fact the community respected him so much,” said Donna McRae about her husband Dr. Paul McRae at the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to him in the hall of the endoscopy unit at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

Since Dr. McRae’s death on Sept. 13, 2019, Bayfront had been planning to honor him, but then COVID struck.

“We meant to do this many months ago, but because of COVID, we had to delay it,” explained Dr. Marc Reiskind, former chief of medical staff at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. “He served this hospital with all of his heart and all of his intellect.”

Dr. McRae gave his time, talent and treasures to Bayfront hospital for 39 years, becoming its first African-American chief of staff, a title he held for six years.

Born in 1945 in New York City, he moved to St. Petersburg with his family as a toddler. Dr. McRae is one of the many success stories that came out of the Jordan Park public housing.

He graduated from Gibbs High School at the age of 16, where he was active in the band as a first-chair saxophonist. He went to earn a bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University and continued to Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, where he received his medical degree.

While at Michigan State, he met his future wife, and their union lasted 51 years, producing three successful children.

“He was my father, my protector, my advice giver, but seeing how the community revered him just really means a lot to me,” said the couple’s oldest daughter Leah McRae, who is the director of education for the City of St. Petersburg.

Both mom and daughter said they’ve learned so much more about Dr. McRae after his passing – his selflessness and dedication to the community.

“He did a lot of things that people told me about. He wasn’t a person who would brag; he just enjoyed doing what he did,” said Donna McRae. “I miss him terribly.”

Dr. Trina Espinola, former chief of medical staff at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, became the top doc after Dr. McRae. She said he was an incredible mentor who was also “humble,” “kind” and “very loving.”

“He had wisdom that is beyond no other, and [had] an incredible amount of patience.”

Dr. Reiskind spoke of Dr. McRae’s dedication to the community and how he orchestrated health fairs to increase awareness and “community health for some of our less fortunate and under-treated community members.”

Dr. McRae was dedicated to the residence programs, encouraging young doctors to participate in health fairs and become a part of the community they served, said Dr. Reiskind.

Family Medicine Specialist Dr. Frederic Guerrier helped facilitate the dedication to a man he called “the physician’s physician.”

“Dr. McRae was my mentor, my professor, my colleague. He was one of the smartest men ever,” said Dr. Guerrier. “It’s very important to me that a place where he practiced for so long in a place he so loved, he will be remembered on a daily basis.”

Dr. Guerrier explained that at the end of every year, physicians must take continuing medical education (CME) wrap up courses before they can be licensed to practice the following year. These courses range from HIV education to substance abuse to human trafficking.

Not only did Dr. McRae receive a plaque for his years of tireless dedication to the hospital, one of the CME courses will be dedicated in his name: The Dr. Paul McRae Ce-Wrap up Dinner Lecture on Opioid & Prescribing Controlled Substances, along with a room in his honor.

Each year, physicians will have to attend CME training named after Dr. McRae; he will continue to educate doctors for years to come.

“There’s no way we’ll forget him,” exclaimed Dr. Guerrier. “There’s no way a child of the city will be forgotten by the best hospital in the city.”

Unable to attend the dedication was his son Paul McRae, Jr., daughter Deana McRae – both in the medical field – and daughter Pam Roberts, from a previous relationship.

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