Dr. Robert C. Cefalo, longtime director of graduate medical education at UNC, dies at 74

April 23, 2008 — Robert C. Cefalo, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine and director of the medical residency and fellowship programs at UNC Hospitals for 25 years, died April 22 at the age of 74.

Dr. Robert C. Cefalo, longtime director of graduate medical education at UNC, dies at 74 click to enlarge Dr. Robert C. Cefalo

“Each of us who has been a part of this great medical school and hospital is indebted to Dr. Robert Cefalo for a quarter century of leadership of graduate medical education,” said Dr. Brian Goldstein, chief of the medical staff at UNC Hospitals. “Bob was a master teacher, a kind mentor to many, and a supportive colleague. He will be missed.”

“Bob Cefalo was part of the fabric of UNC School of Medicine,” said Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “He had a passion for medical student, resident and fellowship training. During his nearly three decades of leadership at UNC, he improved the care of mothers and their infants throughout our region; not only by his compassionate obstetrical care, but by his positive influence on all of us who had the privilege to learn from him.”

During Dr. Cefalo’s tenure as director of graduate medical education, UNC earned national recognition for the development of “best practices” in residency and fellowship programs. Two examples that resulted directly from Dr. Cefalo’s efforts were the formation of the House Staff Council in 1982, and establishment of the House Officer of the Year Awards. Earlier this year, the awards were renamed the Robert C. Cefalo House Officer Awards in his honor. Dr. Cefalo also served as acting chairman of UNC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and as director of the Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine.

A native of Boston, Mass., Dr. Cefalo earned his undergraduate degree at Boston College, his medical degree from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University. In 1956, he entered the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, where he received his advanced medical training and served until he joined the UNC faculty in 1979.

Dr. Cefalo was board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine. He headed UNC’s physician training programs from 1981 to 2006 and served as assistant dean for graduate medical education. He also served as director of maternal fetal-medicine from 1979 to 1997, as interim chair of obstetrics and gynecology in 1981-1983 and 2004-2006 and as interim director of maternal-fetal medicine in 2005-2006. Dr. Cefalo remained an active member of the UNC faculty until his retirement in 2006. In 2007, he received the Courage to Lead Award from the American Council on Graduate Medical Education.

Dr. Cefalo served terms as president and chairman of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and as president of the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. He was also honored by the North Carolina Governor’s Commission on Reduction of Infant Mortality for contributions to the improvement of maternal and infant health.

He is survived by his wife, Mary LaRosa Cefalo, four children and six grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life Mass will be held Friday, April 25, at 4 p.m. at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 2438 South Alston Avenue, in Durham, www.holycrossdurham.org.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be sent to the Cefalo/Bowes Distinguished Professorship Endowed Chair, Medical Foundation of NC, 880 MLK Bvd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514; Holy Cross Catholic Church 2438 S. Alston Avenue, Durham, NC 27713; The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC-Chapel Hill, CB 7295 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7295.