Robert C. Cefalo, MD, PhD

Robert Cefalo


Robert C. Cefalo, MD PhD, died on April 22, 2008 from complications related to acute myelogenous leukemia. 

A native of Boston, Dr. Cefalo earned his undergraduate degree at Boston College, his medical degree from Tufts University and his PhD 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 faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1979. From 1979 until his retirement, Dr. Cefalo served the University in many capacities including Director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, interim Chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology on two occasions, and as Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education for 24 years.  Throughout this time he won multiple awards for teaching excellence.  In 2007, he received the Courage to Lead Award from the American Council on Graduate Medical Education.

Dr. Cefalo authored or co-authored 156 publications, 7 books, and 26 book chapters and was first co-editor of the ACOG/American Academy of Pediatrics “Guidelines for Prenatal Care.”  He served on multiple NIH committees and consensus conferences and from 1998 to 2002 was the co-director of the ACOG Women’s Leadership Program in Women’s Health Policy.

In addition to his 25-year membership in AGOS (1983-2008), Dr Cefalo had a long list of leadership accomplishments in academic medicine including Chairman and President of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the subspecialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.  He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists for his many contributions to the specialty. 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.

Dr. Cefalo was the consummate teacher and clinician.  His character was defined by the motto of his many Jesuit teachers, “Be a man for others.”  He befriended and mentored legions of students, residents and fellows always leading by example.  There are countless stories of his exhortations and admonitions:  “You must focus.” – “You must present yourself clearly and ar-ti-cu-late.” – “You must have enthusiasm.” – “Remember, you must find joy in each of your days.”  His residents knew that when on rounds with Dr. Cefalo they would inevitably be asked, “What is likely to kill the patient.”  They knew that he was warning them not to be distracted by trivia.  And patients knew that Dr. Cefalo was always on time, never making them wait.  He had a gift for making each person he encountered feel important.   

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

Submitted by Watson A. Bowes, Jr., MD

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