Dr. Luis Bonilla: Remembered as a loving husband and father, dedicated and talented surgeon
To Ana, Philip, and Anthony, Luis Bonilla was known simply as “Daddy”, a loving and caring father who was very involved in their lives despite his busy career and training. To Tracy, he was a devoted husband, father to her children, and a noble, caring man. Colleagues remember him as being a great person, talented surgeon, and dedicated professional. (story continues below video…)
No one would have imagined that this Christmas would be his last. He died in a helicopter crash early Monday morning along with Mayo Clinic surgical technician, David Hines, and pilot E. Hoke Smith. They were flying from St. Augustine, Fla., to Gainesville, Fla., to retrieve a donor heart and transport it to a transplant recipient waiting at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
Dr. Bonilla had prepared for this work for decades and was just starting a new chapter in his career. It all began when he received his medical degree from the Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia and completed his residency in General Surgery at the University of Valle in Cali, Colombia.
After having completed his medical education, a full surgical training program, and working as a surgeon in Colombia for several years, Dr. Bonilla moved to Rochester, Minnesota in 1993 to pursue a career in cardiothoracic surgery at Mayo Clinic. In order to become a board certified surgeon in the United States, he needed to repeat his training in the United States, and began that in 2005. He went on to complete an additional residency in General Surgery along with an additional full clinical Fellowship in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minnesota, and completed that in July 2011. All the while, he worked in various surgical roles.
He transferred from Rochester to Mayo Clinic in Florida in November 2011 to join the Section of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Florida as a Senior Associate Consultant. There he had hoped to expand the surgical program for lung cancer.
He participated in research and a variety of professional presentations, both domestic and abroad. His clinical interests included cardiothoracic transplant and innovations in cardiac bypass surgery.
Dr. Bonilla is described by colleagues as being dedicated, determined, persistent, and the consummate professional who always put the best interests of his patients first. Throughout his career, his passion was making sure that every patient received the best care possible.
He is survived by his wife, Tracy, a former Mayo Clinic cardiac surgery intensive care nurse whom he met while working in Rochester. They have three children: Ana (12), Philip (9), and Anthony (7).
Statement from the Bonilla family:
Mrs. Bonilla and her family request that the media honor the family’s privacy during this time, but issued this statement about her husband:
“Thank you to all who are reaching out to us during this time. Our faith sustains us during this difficult time, along with the love and support of our friends, family, and the community. We are so touched by the many ways people are honoring Luis, his life and career. He was a noble man, wonderful husband, and terrific father. He dedicated his life to his family, faith, and his career, and we knew that everything he did was to care for his family. We will miss him dearly, and will honor his life with many memories and stories of his love for life, his family, and his profession.”
Mayo Clinic Remembers David Hines (posted 12/28/11)
Dr. Rupp’s Message About the Helicopter Crash (posted 12/27/11)
Mayo Clinic Statement Regarding Helicopter Crash (posted 12/26/11)
All “Helicopter Crash” Stories published by Mayo Clinic
Hi-Res photo of Dr. Luis Bonilla: http://db.tt/BEf78aHF (JPG)
Transplant programs at Mayo Clinic: MayoClinic.org/transplant
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