After 32 years of service and a successful acquisition by Health First, Space Coast Cancer Center’s Dr. Richard Levine Plans to Retire
Space Coast Cancer Center (SCCC) has been known as a leader of quality care in Brevard County for more than 30 years. Behind the helm of the center, Dr. Richard Levine has expanded services throughout the county, building a reputation for state-of-the-art cancer care that utilizes the most modern and safest technology, following evidence-based national guidelines, and a collaboration with Moffitt Cancer Center.
“My goal in coming to Titusville in 1983 was to establish a practice in a community that needed a medical oncologist and to provide the best care possible,” Dr. Levine said.
Though born in New Jersey, he considers himself a Midwesterner as Dr. Levine lived in Indiana from the time he was 5 years old until he was 25. He describes his parents as smart and goal-oriented — his mother went to Duke University and provided strong family support for him and his three brothers. His father has a PhD in microbiology, taught at Harvard and was a faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine as a professor and assistant dean.
“We were encouraged to be physicians,” Dr. Levine said. “One of my brothers wanted to be an attorney and my mother said that is not a problem; he could go to law school after medical school.”
Dr. Levine remembers deciding to become a doctor in sixth grade and setting on oncology at age 19. Science came easy to him and he was also interested in research, earning a combined degree and achieving a master of science in pharmacology during medical school at Indiana University.
After medical school, he went to the University of Cincinnati for three years of internal medicine residency and on to three years of a medical oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.
While in Bethesda, Maryland he met his wife Lynn and they were married and moved to Florida to start his solo practice in Titusville.
Since high school, Dr. Levine wanted to live in Florida and when he interviewed several places, he liked the people he met in Titusville the most. He decided to start his practice of hematology and medical oncology there, caring for patients with blood disorders and cancer.
“I thought it would be fun to start a practice with a lot of other young physicians who were starting their practice in the 1980s as well,” he said. “My first office was 900 square feet with two exam rooms.”
His practice grew to Wuesthoff Rockledge and then Cape Canaveral Hospital, thanks to the support of surgeons and physicians that referred to him including Drs. Walter Cerrato, Curtis Wherry, Jim Sasser, Yash Sachdev, Fritz Thompson, Ken Korey, Jim Palermo and John Zambos. The practice expanded to Central Brevard, opening up an office in Merritt Island, and he started to bring in partners including Dr. Sol Zimm and Dr. Duff Sprawls.
During the early years of his practice he felt it would be beneficial for the hospital, the medical staff and the community to have a multidisciplinary cancer program. “I received the support of the hospital administration and for 25 years I was the chairman of the cancer committee at Parrish Medical Center and Cape Canaveral Hospital.”
They achieved national accreditation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer for both cancer programs. He also established an affiliation with Moffitt Cancer Center which helped facilitate referrals for second opinions and specialized care for cancer patients in Brevard County.
His own practice continued to grow and he brought in additional physicians who became his partners. “In 2005, I realized that we needed to move to the next level and build cancer centers,” he said. “We opened the Titusville Cancer Center in 2008 and the Viera Cancer Center in 2011.”
They were the first practice in the State of Florida to participate and be certified in the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI), sponsored by a national professional society, The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
“I have been very fortunate to have outstanding staff and excellent physicians to work with at our practice and in the community. Our staff is the best in the world. They are well trained and very caring and concerned for all of our patients and families. Many of our staff have worked here for over 25 years.”
The practice has been called the “United Nations” of medical practices due to the diversity of the physicians there. Dr. Levine and Dr. Zimm are Jewish, other partners are Christian, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim. The staff has ethnic backgrounds of Asian, African-American, Native American, South American, Canadian Caribbean and other descents.
“At our practice we have followed the ‘family rule,” Dr. Levine said. “The concept is that you take care of each patient as if they were a family member, offering them the best service and quality care.”
Space Coast Cancer Center was acquired by Health First in September of 2015 to create the Health First Cancer Institute. “I believe this will become a regional referral cancer program of excellence,” he said. “Brevard County is fortunate to have a strong collaboration between hospital administration and physicians.”
This team offers excellent leadership, working together with the common goal of improving the medical care and health of the community. He is confident that cancer patients in Brevard will receive state-of-the-art medical care.
In his retirement, Dr. Levine plans to be more involved in sports, as both a spectator and participant. He has joined the Brevard Cultural Alliance, Space Coast Runners and hopes his golf game will improve. He will likely travel more and is considering working as a medical oncologist part time because of the enjoyment he gets from taking care of patients.
“Of everything I am most proud of my two sons, Jeffrey and Michael,” he said.
Both were born and went to school in Titusville. Jeffrey is a radiology resident at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans and Michael completed law school and now he is in an MBA program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They are both fine young men with excellent character, self-motivation, have many good friends, and we remain close as a family.”
His wife, Lynn, has always worked in the office with him, first as the receptionist and eventually comptroller for many years.
“I am encouraged by the dedication, skill and knowledge that the next generation of cancer specialists in Brevard County offers,” he said.
“I have had a wonderful career and it has been a privilege for me to be given the opportunity and trust to care for many patients over the past 32 years.”
A NOTE OF THANKS…
“I have been fortunate to have outstanding staff and excellent physicians to work with at our practice and in the community. Our staff is the best in the world. They are well trained and very caring and concerned for all of our patients and their families. Many of our staff have worked here for over 25 years, such as Judy Smith, Mary Beth Rosser, Jennifer Clover, Eva Cummins, Rita Renfroe, Kathleen Cochran and Alice Nielsen. I have had a first rate office manager, Elena Shanteau and executive director, Nancy Payne.”
“Also, I have had superb advisors throughout my career. Harry Jones has been our attorney and Carol Duffey our CPA for almost 30 years. They both retired and now I am fortunate to be working with attorney Claudia Jones of Dean Mead and Terri Burdine, CPA of the McGladrey firm.