Remembering Paul Bunce

Dr. Bunce was a founding clinical faculty member of the UNC School of Medicine and established the division of urology. He passed away on March 18 at the age of 100.

Remembering Paul Bunce click to enlarge Paul L. Bunce, MD

Paul L. Bunce, MD, one of the founding clinical faculty members of the UNC School of Medicine, died in his sleep at his Chapel Hill home on March 18, 2017.  He was 100 years old. He was predeceased by his wife of 65 years, Anne G. Bunce. He is survived by his brother, William E. (Nancy) Bunce; his daughter, Leslie A. Bunce, MD; his son, Gregory P. (Julie) Bunce; six grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. 

Dr. Bunce was born in Fargo, ND in 1916, the eldest son of Harriet and Paul F. Bunce.  He grew up first in Fargo and later in Omaha. He graduated from Omaha Central High School in 1932, Oberlin College with Honors in 1938, and University of Chicago School of Medicine in 1942. 

After a year of surgical internship at the University of Chicago, he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as Captain, serving 39 months at medical units in Texas and the Hawaiian Islands during World War II, and attaining the rank of Major upon discharge in 1946.

Following the war he continued medical research and teaching in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and did his urological residency, including a chief residency, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Upon completion of his surgical training, he joined the Hopkins faculty.

In 1952 he was recruited to become the sixth faculty member of the department of surgery and to establish the division of urology at the newly expanded four-year UNC School of Medicine, which coincided with the opening of North Carolina Memorial Hospital. 

Dr. Bunce served for 18 years as the first urology division chief and for another 11 years afterward as a professor at the school. During these 29 years on the School of Medicine faculty,  he trained multiple generations of medical students and resident urologists. Many of his students went on to become leaders at academic medical centers throughout the country and many more stayed in the state to practice after completing their training.

During his time at UNC he regularly consulted at the Veterans Administration hospital in Fayetteville and at the clinic in Danville, VA. He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and member of the American Medical Association, American Urological Association, North Carolina Medical Society, and Durham/Orange County Medical Society. He was a chapter author for three editions of the leading textbook on urologic surgery.

He spent his last 35 years in active retirement in Chapel Hill:  landscaping with his wife, Anne, who was a natural gardener, star-gazing using his own hand-built telescopes, designing and building both model and full-length boats for use on Jordan Lake, and enjoying his grandchildren in his later years.  He was a lifelong photographer, birder, weekly letter-writer, and a natural musician who played by ear on the organ or piano from his teens into his nineties. Paul was an avid private pilot, obtaining his instruments license, taking aerial photographs all over town and on occasion flying cross-country. He never knew an idle day.

He will be remembered for his inquisitive mind, keen intellect, broad-based knowledge, easy collegiality, and as a caring physician. A grateful patient once wrote of Dr. Bunce, “Master Surgeon, blessed with wisdom and a friendly nature, he relieved me of worn out accessories.” He lived his last years with inspiring grace, humor, courage, and a revelation of deep caring and love for his wife, children and grandchildren.

Donations in his name may be made to UNC Hospice. A memorial service in his honor will be held at the Carolina Meadows Auditorium  on Saturday, April 8, at 3 p.m., with a reception to follow.

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