Beloved Tampa Bay doctor dies from COVID-19 complications, said he ‘just wanted to get back to his patients’


BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – Stephanie Scolaro says her father was larger than life, a man who never met a stranger – a man who decided at a young age to devote his life to helping others.

That’s the kind of person Dr. Sam Scolaro was.

In fact, when he introduced himself, Stephanie says, “He was just Sam. No doctor this or that. He’d say, ‘Hi, I’m Sam Scolaro.’ He was just Sam.”

At 75-years-old, the longtime Tampa Bay area physician still treated patients every day knowing he was in a high-risk group with his age, but he said he knew his patients were counting on him.

“The man woke up happy. Every day, with a smile on his face,” his daughter explained. “I mean, he was happy all the time.”

Dr. Sam Scolaro and his daughter, Stephanie, on her wedding day

Even amid the pandemic, Dr. Scolaro preferred seeing his patients face to face as he wore head-to-toe personal protective equipment. He appreciated telemedicine but ultimately wanted to be able to look his patients in the eye.

“I want to see their faces,” he told his daughter. “Maybe I would miss something if they were just on the television monitor. If I see them face to face, I will know how to help them, to treat them. I want them to be healthy.”

It was his passion, with a simple goal – to make sure his patients got better, never knowing he would soon be facing similar circumstances after testing positive for COVID-19 in late June, on the very day he and wife celebrated 53 years of marriage.

This larger-than-life beloved physician would spend five weeks hospitalized, fighting for his life.

Stephanie says there were signs of hope along the way where he’d often rally. Then, the complications would come back stronger and even more severe.

“That’s what so scary about this, we don’t fully know what it does to the body. And, if you’re immune-compromised, while you’re trying to get better and fight the virus, there’s other things going on with your body.”

Dr. Scolaro’s eldest daughter, Stephanie, who worked with him side by side in his practice for 30 years, says she feels lost without him. It is, by far, she says the most difficult thing she’s been through, even more so than going through breast cancer.

He was her rock, she says, the entire time, along with her mother and family members.

To lose her hero, Stephanie tells 8 On Your Side, feels like an ache in her heart that will never heal.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be the same,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I feel like a broken compass. I saved all his voicemails. I still have all his voicemails saved.”

Stephanie and her family say they are unable to hold a public memorial since he died from coronavirus complications. Family members say they’ve been inundated with kind words and prayers from countless people who knew Dr. Scolaro.

His patients, family members say, were so important to him.

“He said that when he was 20-years-old, and he finally decided he would be a doctor, he made a promise to God that he would serve his patients until the day he died. And, literally, that’s what he did. He was thinking about all of his patients and trying to get better so he could get back to serving them,” Stephanie told us.

Dr. Scolaro worked right up until the point he tested positive for COVID-19, after battling for more than a month from complications due to COVID-19, doctors wanted to try one final treatment last Thursday and decided to transfer him to another local hospital.

But, it was too late. Stephanie says her family got the call on Friday.

“You could tell it was his time, we knew,” she explained. “He would not want to, if he came out of it, he was in multi-organ failure. He would not have been himself if he came out of it.”

Born and raised in Ybor City, Dr. Scolaro fell in love with Tampa Bay at an early age and never left. He married his sweetheart, had two daughters and watched his grandchildren grow up which brought him endless happiness.

He was a man who dedicated his life’s work to healing, telling his family he hopes the medical community will continue doing during this pandemic and beyond.


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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