Dr. Maurice Rouhlac '83

October 20, 2022

He was a star on the basketball court for JU. Now he's one of the top vascular surgeons in the country, helping change lives one patient at a time.

Dr. Maurice Roulhac '83 has always been competitive. As the second youngest of six kids growing up in Jacksonville, he was always vying for everyone’s attention.

“I wanted to be the best at everything… I kind of craved attention,” he recalled, adding with a chuckle: “Anything I could do, I would do. I would study the encyclopedia, and go talk to my mom and dad about it.”

That craving for attention and competitive nature eventually developed into a focused determination and a rare work ethic that would drive him to excel through every phase of life. Two of his older brothers played football, so he decided to try basketball. He worked hard and became one of the top athletes in the country. As a student at Bishop Kenny High School in the late 70s, he was recruited by elite schools.

“I had offers to go to Columbia and Dartmouth,” Dr. Roulhac recalled. While many high schoolers dream of attending an Ivy League school, Dr. Roulhac had a different dream. As a boy, he would listen to the radio broadcasts of JU basketball games, when Artis Gilmore, Chip Dublin, and Rex Morgan would deliver spectacular victories on the hardwood and lead their team all the way to the NCAA tournament final. So when Jacksonville University offered him a scholarship, his path became clear.

“It was a dream come true,” Dr. Roulhac said. “I was elated.”

As point guard for the Dolphins, he was thrilling to watch on the court. Agile and light with quick hands and blade-like precision, Roulhac ranks ninth on JU’s all-time steals list with 115. With 1,005 points in his career, Roulhac is 31st on the school’s all-time scoring list. He helped the team advance to the NIT in 1980 and was named Sun Belt Conference “Freshman of the Year” that same year. He received CoSIDA Academic All-American honors in 1983 and he led the team in free throw percentage all four seasons. In 2010, Dr. Roulhac was inducted into the JU Hall of Fame alongside his childhood heroes.

Despite the praise and attention for his athletic abilities, however, Roulhac knew from the beginning that he wanted to be a physician. During his first year at JU, he was mentored by an alum who was a doctor, and he decided to jump on the pre-med track, majoring in biology. It was hard work, but he was up to the challenge.

“Before practice, I studied. After practice, I studied. On road trips, I would study on the plane or on the bus, and even after the games,” he said.

After graduating in 1983, he attended medical school at the University of South Florida, where he enrolled in a program for aspiring surgeons. There he discovered that the same precision that made him a star on the basketball court would eventually set him apart as one of the top surgeons in the country.

“I felt like surgery was the path for me, and it was easy for me. I was gifted in hand-eye coordination and I applied that to surgery and it just worked out tremendously,” Dr. Roulhac said. “Sometimes you're just gifted with things; God gives us these gifts and these talents. And if you can find that gift and apply it to whatever thing you do, it doesn’t become a job. It’s just something that’s a part of your life.”

After a general surgery residency training in Jacksonville, Dr. Roulhac received a call “out of the blue” from Dr. Jerry Youkey, who, at the time, served as director of a new peripheral vascular fellowship program at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. Dr. Youkey offered him a position in the program, and he became its very first fellow.

Looking back, Dr. Roulhac credits “the favor of God” for guiding his path to a career that would perfectly align with his extraordinary skills and passions. And he credits Jacksonville University for offering him an undergraduate education that was “second to none.”

“I felt that I was given all the tools, all the support, all the information [at JU],” he said. “I didn’t have to go to an Ivy League school…I was well-equipped when I left.”dr. rouhlac in surgery


Though vascular surgery is a distinct specialty within medicine, Dr. Roulhac treats a wide variety of conditions and medical emergencies. Gunshot wounds, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, renal failure, blocked arteries, aortic aneurysms — no two days are alike. He fights to save patients’ lives and limbs every day.

“The things I love to see the most is patients who come in with dead feet, or gangrenous changes, and they are…in severe, incapacitating pain. And then to be able to use what I know… and apply it to help them out. And then to see them come back with relief of the pain and a functional limb that’s been salvaged. That is rewarding,” he said.

While the good days carry a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose, there are difficult days, too.

“I had this one guy who got shot and said ‘Doc, please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die,” Dr. Roulhac said. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to save the young man, and he had to deliver the news to the family gathered in the waiting room. "That was tough. And it reminds me you’ve got to continue to do your best and improve as much as you can.”


After nearly 30 years serving southeastern North Carolina at his vascular practice in Fayetteville, Dr. Roulhac and wife Gina decided it was time for a change of pace. Now in his 60s, he began exploring a career move that would allow him to slow down. But once again, his path continues its ascent. In 2022, he moved to Denver, CO, to work for United Vein and Vascular Centers, where he treated a stunning 400 patient cases in his first four months there. Soon, he will become surgical director for a brand new vascular center the company is constructing in downtown Denver.

Unlike earlier in his career, Dr. Roulhac rarely performs open surgery these days thanks to technological advances. Today, most of the surgical procedures Dr. Roulhac performs are endovascular, or, inside the arteries and veins. It’s less invasive, involving small incisions, tiny tubes and catheters. Recovery takes weeks, not months.

Dr. Roulhac said technology will continue to transform the field. Advanced imaging, 3D mapping and fiber optic devices deliver remarkable precision and visibility and are virtually eliminating highly invasive surgical methods. Human-operated robotics — commonplace in the operating room today — are giving way to artificial-intelligencecontrolled robotics.

“It is amazing how the field of medicine is adapting,” Dr. Roulhac said. “Some neurosurgeons can do surgery with lasers that allow them to operate without affecting other parts of the brain.”

This means surgeons must adapt, too. Dr. Roulhac’s advice to the next generation: take as many technology-related courses as you can.

“I think it’s going to be to the point where they can do most, if not all procedures with minimally invasive techniques, applying the technology that’s available such as artificial intelligence,” Dr. Roulhac said. “We’re going to be able to do things we never thought of doing in the past.”

While it doesn’t hurt to take a few tech courses, core skills like communication, critical thinking, and empathy remain critical in the field of medicine. Since 2015, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) now includes questions in the areas of sociology and psychology, which means “you have to be well-rounded,” Dr. Roulhac says.

And that’s advice he shares with his daughter, Courtney, who is enrolled in her first year of medical school at USF, following her father’s blazing trail into the stratosphere.


Laura Phelps


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