Robert Gwyther



Robert E. Gwyther, MD, MBA
Professor of Family Medicine
UNC Department of Family Medicine

Contact information

Office: Department of Family Medicine
CB#7595, UNC
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7595
Phone: 919-966-4611
Fax: 919-966-6125


AB (Chemistry), Adelbert College, Western Reserve University, 1966
MBA (Management), Case Western Reserve University, 1968
MD, Medical College of Ohio, 1975
Residency in Family Practice, Akron City Hospital, 1978
Faculty Development Fellowship in Family Medicine, UNC, 1980
Faculty Development Fellowship in Substance Abuse, UNC 1992

Clinical/Research/Medicine Related Interests

Family Medicine
Addiction Medicine
Medical Student Education

Bob's background in his own words

I started medical school at the age of 28, on the GI bill, married with children ages 1 and 3. Prior to that, I had been a paint chemist, a graduate business student, and a U.S. Coast Guard officer teaching Chemistry at the Coast Guard Academy. My prior “life experience” made medical school challenging, but served to help me understand the perspectives of parents, people in the military, and financially challenged married couples as I learned about medicine.

I joined the Department of Family Medicine at UNC in 1978, immediately following my residency.  I went to work for my former residency director, who was hired as Chair of Family Medicine.  I have been working here since. I have advised medical students since the beginning. I find the relationships I have had with patients, residents and students to be the most meaningful and rewarding aspects of my professional life.

Clinically, I practiced “full spectrum” family medicine, including obstetrics, for thirty years.  I enjoyed seeing patients with undifferentiated complaints, a history of substance abuse, doing office procedures, and clinical problem solving in general.  Like many physicians, I gradually gave up aspects of patient care as I aged – delivering babies as I turned 60, inpatient medicine when I turned 64 and when I was 66, I retired from patient care all together.  I continue to hear from former patients, especially those cared for the longest and those I delivered.  One patient I delivered will graduate from the UNC SOM in 2014 and is planning to go into family medicine.

I have held every faculty position in the Department of Family Medicine, except serving as the chair. This includes associate chair, residency director, inpatient services director, clinic director, and director of our outpatient laboratory. The job I did the longest and enjoyed the most is directing medical student programs for the department. In 1978, I began teaching Introduction to Medicine and physical diagnosis, which were later combined into Medical Practice and the Community (MPAC), then Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM),  and are now CSD and CSI. I directed the Family Medicine Clerkship for 13 years, and started the Advanced Practice Selective in 2009, a fourth year selective in which I continue to teach.  I have also coordinated the school’s substance abuse curriculum since 1994.

My wife, Lisa, is a social worker and works at Duke; she is an expert in Alzheimer’s Disease.  My two children are both grown, married and have children of their own. My daughter Marni is a nurse practitioner who lives in Durham and works for Piedmont Health Services. She and her husband James have two children: Elena, born in 2003 and Aidan, born in 2005. My son Ryan lives in Pelham, MA and works for the Amherst Fire Department as a fire fighter and a paramedic. He and his wife Chelsea have two daughters: Emma, born in 1998 and Avery, born in 2002. In my opinion, grandchildren are the icing on the cake of life. My wife I have been married since 1967 and live on Eastwood Lake in Chapel Hill. We like to play on the lake, especially with our grandchildren. My hobbies include fishing, kayaking and canoeing, reading novels, working out, playing guitar, singing folk music and traveling.

If asked whether I would choose to be a family physician again, my answer would be an unequivocal “yes”. I especially enjoyed:

  • Caring for people of both sexes and all ages
  • Providing prenatal care and delivering babies
  • A variety of patient problems to see and manage
  • Working with my hands, doing procedures, as well as working with my mind
  • Problem solving to find the reasons for patients’ complaints
  • Continuity doctor/patient relationships
  • Understanding people in the context of their families and their communities


I participate in medical politics, as an advocate for physicians and patients. I am a past president of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians and continue to participate in their leadership activities. I am also a member of the North Carolina Society of Addiction Medicine and serve on the Board of the North Carolina Physicians Health Program. I believe that physicians must be active in advocating for our profession, which is under constant scrutiny by the public and constant assault by the government and the insurance industry.
If asked, people who know me well would say that I am honest, forthright, reliable and good at giving useful feedback. Counting medical students and residents, I have had more than 200 advisees during my career at UNC. I have enjoyed helping the faculty to develop our Larry Keith Advisory College system at UNC.