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Pioneer of Long-Term Care, Beloved Educator Dies at 63

April 29, 2013

Rocco M. Vivenzio, M.D., C.M.D.
Rocco M. Vivenzio, M.D., C.M.D.

Rocco M. Vivenzio, M.D., C.M.D., a pioneer and leader in advancing long-term and geriatric care in the region, died Friday morning at home surrounded by his family following a short illness. Dr. Vivenzio, an associate professor of Geriatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was 63.

“Rocco was an inspiration to us all and the gold standard of a competent and caring physician, leader and educator,” said Robert M. McCann, M.D., Highland Hospital Chief of Medicine. “He has mentored many of our community physicians and leaders, and his legacy will be lasting.”

In recognition of his vast contributions, Dr. Vivenzio received the 2013 Medical Director of the Year Award from the American Medical Directors Association in March.

Dr. Vivenzio standardized and improved care for thousands of older patients in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. He was one of the first nursing home medical directors in the Northeast. In 1995, he organized the Unity Geriatrics Association, a network of providers who managed care in local nursing homes. In 1999, he brought this network to the University of Rochester Medical Center and created the Strong Health Geriatrics Group.

As medical director of the Strong Health Geriatrics Group from 1999 to 2011, Dr. Vivenzio expanded the network from seven nursing homes to 13 nursing homes and 21 assisted-living facilities. He was instrumental in implementing innovative quality, safety and communication protocols. In addition, he served as medical director of several nursing homes and recruited other medical directors, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide care around the clock in the Strong Health Geriatrics Group’s facilities.

Throughout his tenure as medical director and a URMC faculty member, Dr. Vivenzio influenced countless medical professionals and students. He mentored numerous doctors who have gone on to complete geriatric fellowships and become Certified Medical Directors.

“Dr. Vivenzio is the reason why I entered the field of geriatric medicine and became a medical director,” said Daniel A. Mendelson, M.S., M.D., F.A.C.P., A.G.S.F., C.M.D., associate professor of Geriatrics at URMC and medical director of the Highlands at Brighton and Monroe Community Hospital. “He was a tireless and enthusiastic leader and mentor. He improved long-term care with an incredible amount of grace, dignity and humility. He never set out to change the world but did; his only goal was to do good, and he did.”

Dr. Vivenzio set an example in generosity through his community involvement. He was a member or medical advisor of nearly 30 boards and committees throughout his career. As a member of the Lifespan Board of Directors for 18 years, Dr. Vivenzio helped ensure robust senior services were widely available.

“Dr. Vivenzio dedicated his time and talents to increase the skill level of the staff and help us serve older adults in a person-centered way,” said Ann Marie Cook, Lifespan President and Chief Executive Officer. “He was not a once-a-month Board member; he rolled up his sleeves and worked with us. I can speak for the entire Lifespan family by saying that we are all truly saddened by his loss.”

At the end of 2011, Dr. Vivenzio retired as medical director of the Strong Health Geriatrics Group but remained medical director of Crest Manor Living and Rehabilitation Center; Aaron Manor Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Center; and Fairport Baptist Homes.

Dr. Vivenzio earned his medical degree from the University of DiBologna in Bologna, Italy in 1977. He completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester in 1981.

According to loved ones, Dr. Vivenzio was an “incredibly good friend” who loved spending time with family and friends, whether they were golfing, traveling or enjoying a good meal.

“He was one of the kindest, most compassionate and honest human beings I have ever known,” said William J. Hall, M.D., Director of the Center for Healthy Aging based at Highland. “We were blessed to share space on this earth with him, and if we can emulate even a small portion of his highest qualities, we will be all the better for it.”

A longtime Penfield resident, Dr. Vivenzio is survived by his wife of nearly 34 years, Madaline; three daughters, Laura, Maria and Kathryn; and numerous other family members and friends.

Calling hours are scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, May 3 at Jennings, Nulton & Mattle Funeral Home in Penfield. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4, at St. Joseph Church, 43 Gebhardt Road in Penfield. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Lifespan in Dr. Vivenzio’s memory.

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