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Colleagues Remember Physician’s Life, Urge Others To Seek Help For Mental Health

RIVERTON, Utah – Health care workers and friends gathered at Riverton Hospital Friday to remember Dr. Cesar Briganti, who they say died by suicide after a yearslong struggle with depression that was magnified during the pandemic.

Briganti’s smile greeted countless patients over the years, and it continues to bring a smile to the faces of friends and colleagues even after his death.

“That was Cesar. He was a light,” said Heidi Vawdry, who worked with Briganti for seven years and now works as a nurse practitioner.

“He was the smartest guy in the room, but he’d never tell you that,” Vawdrey said.

On Friday night she joined family, friends and coworkers for a candlelight vigil at the hospital where he started his career and dedicated years of his life to caring for others.

Speaking of those who worked with him, Vawdrey said, “Every single one of them spoke volumes of how he was a mentor. How he was a hero. How they never felt more listened to or heard or more valued as a person.”

“I would describe Cesar as a gentle giant,” said Dr. Adam Balls, a longtime friend and colleague. “His ability to take care of patients and complex patients was probably the best I’ve ever seen from colleagues in medicine.”

Cesar was originally from Spain. He studied at BYU, went out of state for medical school and then returned to do his residency at the University of Utah. He then helped open Riverton Hospital as its first hospitalist.

“Caring deeply about what you do and taking care of COVID patients as Cesar did and having that kind of beat you up is part of the challenge we’ve dealt with in the pandemic,” Balls said. “That really took its toll on Cesar. He devoted his whole soul and all of his energy to taking care of those patients. He stepped in when other physicians weren’t available. He filled extra shifts.”

As loved ones gathered to remember his impressive life and the care he selflessly gave to others, Briganti’s ex-wife and close friends also acknowledged his death and that he took his own life.

“One of the things she spoke about very strongly in the funeral was her great desire for us to protect each other, to lift each other up and to prevent this from happening again. And the way to do that is to talk about that,” Vawdry said. “He was a lighthouse to many and it’s just crushing for all of us that he couldn’t see his way through this storm.”

Vawdrey has dedicated much of her professional life to encouraging health care workers and her patients to seek the mental health care they need. Balls has also been an advocate for helping his colleagues get the help they need.

“I believe we’re beginning to peel back the layers to recognize that health care workers do suffer. They do have repetitive trauma,” he said. “We do need to seek mental health counseling and professional counseling.”

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online Resources

In An Emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room
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