Friday, April 16th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Three generations of respected Chesapeake family dedicate their lives to healthcare

by Candance Moore

The Buckley family. Seated, from left: Dr. Don Buckley, Lisa Buckley Lewis and Alvene Buckley.  Standing, from left: Keith Buckley and Lori Buckley McCaffrey.

The Buckley family. Seated, from left: Dr. Don Buckley, Lisa Buckley Lewis and Alvene Buckley. Standing, from left: Keith Buckley and Lori Buckley McCaffrey.

When Dr. Don Buckley met his future wife, Alvene, at UNC Chapel Hill, neither imagined it was the start of a family that would serve in healthcare for three generations. An organizational thinker at heart, Don had chosen a career to help improve healthcare for the general population. While pursuing an undergraduate degree, he fell in love with Alvene, who was in nursing school at the time. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Over forty years later, Dr. Buckley is President Emeritus of Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, which he helped launch. Alvene is a retired nurse who remains active in community leadership. All three of their children presently have careers in wellness and healthcare. Their granddaughter Colleen- who has served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Airforce- was inspired to become a nurse. Beyond the bond of family, hundreds of doctors, nurses and other practitioners across Hampton Roads have been touched by the Buckley family's legacy

"We didn't plan for our family to turn out this way," Dr. Buckley reflects. "We didn't push our children toward healthcare careers. Everything just worked out like this on its own, and we're thankful."

"We didn't push our children
 toward healthcare careers.
Everything just worked out
like this on its own,
and we're thankful."

 - Dr. Don Buckley

In 1971, after serving in executive positions in several hospitals and on the faculty of the UNC School of Medicine, Dr. Buckley was recruited to develop and plan the building of Chesapeake General Hospital. City of Chesapeake officials envisioned a hospital on the main strip of North Battlefield Boulevard. The original plan was much smaller than what Chesapeake Regional Medical Center eventually came to be. At the time, only a handful of doctors were seeing patients locally. Dr. Buckley certainly had a task on his hands.

"At first, I assisted them as a consultant," he recalls. "Then they hired me full-time, so we moved to Chesapeake. We've been here ever since."

Meanwhile, Alvene earned a Masters in Health Education. She eventually landed at Norfolk's DePaul Hospital, where she moved into clinical health education in obstetrics. By that time the couple had two daughters, Lisa and Lori, and a son, Keith. They became involved in philanthropy, community events, church attendance, and fostering growth in Chesapeake's medical system.

The children initially showed interest in other career paths. Lori was a dancer who opened a studio. Lisa, a theatre enthusiast, pursued the performing arts. For parents whose working hours kept them focused on the challenges of medicine, evenings at a play or ballet recital brought refreshment.

Keith didn't inherit an artistic flair, but he did enjoy helping athletes and performers keep their bodies toned. He became a personal trainer at Greenbrier Country Club. Lori went to Texas to begin her own life with her new family, and Lisa relocated to Durham. No one thought they would all have fundamental career changes.

"Healthcare was evolving rapidly, and Dad was concerned about impulsive career moves," Keith remembers. "He urged us to think before we acted. For him, seeing us succeed was more important than asking us to continue any tradition."

After teaching ballet in Dallas, Lori grew concerned about physical fitness in children. She now teaches physical education to children in grades K through five, before they encounter the rigors of football and ballet. After suffering a heart attack 26 years ago, daughter Lisa became involved in Pilates and fitness, later becoming a certified trainer. She is now a personal trainer for the Jewish Community Center in Durham, helping adults stay well and fit.

While fitness was the solution for Lori and Lisa, it didn't captivate Keith. With a chuckle, he remembers the day he told his parents he wanted a new career. He didn't know exactly what but knew it was something in the healthcare field where he could make a difference for those who were sick or in pain. Dr. Buckley was cautiously supportive.

He was off to VCU for a Masters in Health Administration. The more he learned about what his father did for a living, the more he enjoyed it. He worked as an administrator for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, then for a regional hospital in High Point, and then for Sentara. He drew closer to his parents as they shared insights drawn from their careers. Anthem Blue Cross recruited Keith.

These days, Keith leverages his skills as a business change manager, assisting oncologists working on complex and challenging cases. Although he's not on the front lines of patient care, he plays a role in empowering providers, making him one of healthcare's less visible heroes.

For a time, Keith also taught at EPCI University, educating future practitioners on what it takes to succeed.

"When I asked my students why they wanted to work in medicine, they gave vague answers at first," Keith recalls with a smile. "Some wanted the money and praise; others wanted to be helpful. That isn't enough to carry one through the challenges. When my students finished my class, they didn't just know their "why'- they knew the why behind the why. That knowledge is much more likely to lead them to success."

Dr. Buckley, looking back on nearly 50 years in healthcare, echoes this advice: "Young people need to think it through. They need to know what they want out of life, and then they should find a career to support that. Ask lots of questions. Shadow adults who are working in a potential field. Find out what it's really like, and make sure it aligns with deeply-held values."

The Buckleys certainly know what it takes to flourish in healthcare. Under the leadership of Dr. Buckley and other talented leaders, a small vision for a general hospital blossomed into a large regional medical center. Buckley has also served as Chairman of Physicians for Peace Board of Directors. While he's no longer actively involved in the hospital, he presently serves as an Assistant Professor in Public Health on at EVMS. He also serves on the Graduate Education Advancement Board at his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Dr. Buckley says he's hopeful for the future of healthcare, and he's excited about helping young students discover their best career path. Will some of those students soon be his great-grandchildren? He says he's not pushing for it, but he wouldn't mind if it happened.

Buckley Family