By Gary T. Kubota
A physician who long taught at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine and led a
health insurance firm in Hawaii for more than 15 years has died.
Dr. Max G. Botticelli died early Thursday morning after having sudden chest pains at his condominium on
Punahou Street. He was 80.
His daughter Ann Botticelli said her father seemed fine at a family dinner at a restaurant the night before.
“We are stunned and devastated because his death was unexpected,” she said.
Botticelli was a professor in the medical school’s Department of Medicine from 1986 to 1995, including
three years as chairman.
He became the chief executive officer of the health insurer University Health Alliance in 1996 and led it to
become among the major health insurance plans in the state, with 45,000 members. He retired in May as
CEO and in September as chairman.
“He was the father of the company,” said Dr. George McPheeters, UHA’s chief medical officer.
McPheeters, a former general surgeon, said he was a medical student when he first met Botticelli, then head
of internal medicine at the medical school.
“He was beautifully educated and highly trained,” McPheeters said. “He cared deeply for his patients.”
McPheeters said Botticelli, who was a fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., came from an
atmosphere that carried high expectations and had an abiding view of the medical profession as a calling.
“He wanted to bring that to the area of health insurance,” McPheeters said.
He said part of Botticelli’s philosophy was managed care that was scientifically based on successful results.
Botticelli was also an outspoken advocate of death with dignity, arguing in a 1994 Honolulu Advertiser oped
piece that medical costs would drop dramatically if people would “accept death.”
Botticelli served as an adviser on a number of boards, including as a director at the Kalihi-Palama Health
Center. He was also director of the Queen Emma Clinic from 1986 to 1994.
Botticelli was born in Fenton, Mich., the youngest of five children. He graduated from Fenton High School
in 1949 and attended Michigan State University. He transferred after his junior year to Wayne State
University College of Medicine and earned his M.D. in 1956.
An internship at the Queen’s Medical Center brought him to Honolulu, where he met and later married
Alice Watanabe in 1957.
He served for two years in the Army Medical Corps at Fort Polk, La., then returned to Honolulu in 1963
and spent 22 years in private practice.
Ann Botticelli, Hawaiian Airlines senior vice president for corporate communications and public affairs,
said she will remember her father as a wonderful family man.
“His great gift to us was that nothing was left unsaid,” she said, “because he told us he loved us every time
he saw us. There is no sense of ‘I wish I had said.’ There is only loss — and gratitude that we had him in
Botticelli is survived by wife Alice; sons Marc and Paul; daughters Ann and Lisa; daughters-in-law Nancy
Botticelli and Stephanie Shauf; son-in-law Ray Pohl; sister Virginia McKenney of Holly, Mich.; seven
grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held at the Mid-Pacific Country Club from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday. In lieu of
flowers, donations may be made to the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine.