William W McLendon, MD '56

2013 Distinguished Faculty Award recipient

William Easterling

A founding father and visionary leader of the modern discipline of laboratory medicine, William W. McLendon, M.D., is Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UNC and former Chair of the Department of Hospital Laboratories at UNC Hospitals.  Under his leadership, the hospital laboratories became recognized internationally as models of efficiency, innovation, scientific rigor and service to physicians and patients.

A native of Durham, North Carolina, Dr. McLendon received his undergraduate degree at UNC and, in 1956, was a member of only the third class to graduate from the four-year UNC School of Medicine. Following an internship and residency in pathology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, he returned to UNC, where he served as chief resident in pathology and then an instructor in pathology.

During two years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, he was associate pathologist at the U.S. Army Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

In 1963, Dr. McLendon joined the medical staff of Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, where he became director of laboratories and chief of pathology, as well as director of the UNC-affiliated School of Medical Technology. “Even in this non-academic setting, he became a national leader in the newly emerging application of computers to manage laboratory instrumentation, as well as the use of computers to generate test results and expeditiously make them available to clinicians,” says J. Charles Jennette, M.D., Brinkhous Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Medicine at UNC.

In 1973, UNC  Medical School Dean Christopher C. Fordham III, M.D., possessed what Dr. Jennette describes as “the wisdom to recognize talent…and recruit Bill McLendon to Chapel Hill to become the first director of unified clinical laboratories at N.C. Memorial Hospital, which was suffering from Balkanized, inefficient laboratories run by multiple different departments in the School of Medicine.

“The hospital laboratories, which are now named the William W. McLendon Clinical Laboratories, became a national and international leader in many aspects of laboratory medicine.”  Under Dr. McLendon’s leadership, the hospital laboratories were among the pioneers in the application of cutting-edge DNA research to diagnostic studies.

Stuart Bondurant, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Dean Emeritus of the School of Medicine, says Dr. McLendon provided “national contributions to health care through his leadership in the field of laboratory medicine over the decades when that enterprise grew from a series of independent, often parochial, fiefdoms to a computer-based, highly automated and rigorously validated system for providing timely, critical and reliable clinical data.”

Dr. McLendon was editor of the prestigious Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine for thirteen years and held leadership positions in several scientific and professional organizations. He served as president of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists in 1981-1982 and in 1994 received the academy’s Gerald T. Evans Award for outstanding leadership and service. In 1997, he was named Pathologist of the Year by the College of American Pathologists, and in 1991 he was the recipient of the H. Fleming Fuller Award, which recognizes members of the UNC Hospitals medical staff who demonstrate dedication to the higher standards of patient care, teaching and community.

Since his retirement in 1995, Dr. McLendon has been the School of Medicine’s unofficial historian, researching, writing and giving presentations on the history of medicine and medical education in North Carolina. He co-authored a book, published in 2008, titled Bettering the Health of the People: W. Reece Berryhill, the UNC School of Medicine & the North Carolina Good Health Movement.

Dr. McLendon chaired the planning committee for the centennial of medical education in Chapel Hill in 1979 and co-chaired the committee for the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the opening of North Carolina Memorial Hospital in 2002.

Dr. Bondurant says Dr. McLendon has been essential to the perpetuation of what he calls “the spirit of Carolina medicine.”  “Always sensitive to our responsibility to the people of the state and to our students and the physicians of North Carolina, to our obligation to advance our knowledge and its application, to the value and power of an operating sense of community among us, to the need for us to respect and support our colleagues, he has been a centripetal force, a part of the glue that holds us together.”

In recognition of his pioneering leadership in the field of laboratory medicine, his commitment to excellent patient care and service to clinicians and his love for and service to the School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals, we are proud to present the Distinguished Faculty Award to William W. McLendon, M.D.