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The UNC School of Medicine community and all who knew and appreciated Dr. Jim Bryan are welcome to attend a virtual memorial service in his honor January 23.

Dr. Jim Bryan, a beloved UNC School of Medicine professor, physician, mentor, and friend, passed away last Friday and will be remembered and honored during a memorial service set for January 23 at 11 am. See below for further details.

During his 50-year career as a physician and leader at the UNC School of Medicine, Dr. Bryan taught and inspired thousands of medical students and physician residents. Renowned for his personal style and passionate commitment as a patient advocate, he showed day in and day out what patient-centered care could be through his careful attention to his own patients, their lives, and their concerns, often making phone calls and writing letters on behalf of his patients and making house calls to the very end of his career.

“I feel so fortunate to have had Jim in my life,” said Dr. Paul Chelminski, a former student and colleague of Dr. Bryan’s at the UNC School of Medicine. “I have been thinking about how Jim’s influence on me and others was not simply formative; it was defining in many ways. His goodness and example of how to care for others live on even more powerfully in their memory. His good habits, enthusiasm, virtue, decency and joy, all have been passed on to so many others.  This is why people like Jim Bryan never die in our hearts and why so many tributes to him have poured in from across the country.”

Born to Presbyterian missionaries, Bryan spent the first nine years of his life in Japan. His family returned to the United States shortly before World War II began, settling in Alabama. He studied at Davidson College as an undergraduate before attending the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

After receiving his MD, Dr. Bryan joined United States Communicable Disease Center – the organization that would later become the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention – as the last head of their polio surveillance unit. In that role, he travelled the country, administering vaccines and gathering data on what was, at the time, a serious public health concern.

After working briefly at Emory University in the early 1960s, Dr. Bryan joined the faculty at the UNC School of Medicine in 1964. A research fellow and instructor in his early years at the school, he was responsible for running the student clinics and working in the hematology ward.

Before long, Dr. Bryan’s focus shifted to general internal medicine, a specialty that allowed him to care for patients throughout their lives and that permitted him to instruct generations of young doctors in his particular style of holistic, patient-centered care.

In 1967, he served as one of the founding advisers of the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), a student-run free clinic that provides access to care to low-income populations in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. SHAC is the oldest student-run clinic in the nation and has served as a model for countless other programs of its kind.

Dr. Bryan was influential in bringing hospice care to North Carolina, as part of a small group of advocates who helped establish a model for palliative care here. Within a few years, hospice care was available at locations throughout the state.

For 18 years, Dr. Bryan taught the Introduction to Medicine for first-year medical students. The Professor Award, voted on by fourth-year students and award to the faculty member the students believe has contributed most to their medical education, was presented to Bryan several times. After he was presented with his eighth Professor Award in 1994 Bryan let the students know he would no longer accept the teaching award.

In 1999, the Whitehead Society established the James A. Bryan Award, which is given to residents who demonstrate excellence in ambulatory general medicine and who best embody the qualities of positivity, altruism, exuberance, and a life-long commitment to learning and self-improvement.

Bryan retired in 2014 but remained an active member of the community, volunteering with the Samaritan Health Center in Durham, the Chapel Hill homeless shelter, the First Presbyterian Church of Chapel Hill and UNC Hospice.

On the occasion of his retirement, he requested that friends and family donate money in support of an inpatient hospice facility in Chatham County, NC. Bryan’s request helped raise more than $80,000 for the facility. The SECU Jim and Betsy Bryan Hospice Home of UNC Health Care, named after Dr. Bryan and his wife, is the culmination a decades long advocacy of hospice care and is just one tangible example of the enormous impact Dr. Bryan has had on patient care and the people of North Carolina.

The Dr. Jim Bryan Memorial will be held via Zoom on January 23, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. To Join the Zoom Meeting, go to this web address. Meeting ID: 844 8642 7894 | Passcode: 159691.

Read this tribute to Dr. Jim Bryan, published on the UNC School of Medicine website upon his retirement in 2014.