Luther Marcus Talbert, M.D.

Luther Marcus Talbert


Dr. Luther Marcus Talbert died November 17, 2003 at his home in Chapel Hill. Dr. Talbert, 76, had continued in active clinical practice until poor health forced his retirement in early November. Dr. Talbert was born near Abington, Virginia on December 30, 1926. After graduation from high school he enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving from 1944-46. He attended Emory and Henry College in Virginia and completed medical school and residency at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville under Norman Thornton.

He joined the faculty at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill in 1958 and was promoted to full Professor in 1969. During his 34 years at UNC, he was a clinician, researcher and teacher, instructing medical students, residents and fellows in all aspects of obstetrics and gynecology, including reproductive endocrinology. He was Vice Chairman of the Department from 1969–80. He founded the Reproductive Endocrinology Division in 1975, and served as Director of the Division, the Reproductive Endocrinology Fellowship and the In-Vitro Fertilization Program. He had a number of basic and clinical research interests but a primary academic interest was in medical education. He directed the Department's medical student education program for over 15 years and developed numerous testing instruments and self-learning packets for medical education. He served on the National Board of Medical Examiners, Part III Examination Committee.

He was always available to advise and assist residents and practicing gynecologists throughout North Carolina. Most any afternoon you could find him with his feet up on his desk returning calls from former residents, fellows or other clinicians with urgent questions about patient care. He excelled in complex vaginal surgery and was much in demand as a surgeon and as a mentor.

Dr. Talbert was a strong supporter of basic and clinical research, mentoring residents and junior faculty and providing an unending flow of ideas for research projects. He encouraged the inclusion of basic scientists in departmental and divisional faculty. He sought out potential financial donors and convinced several individuals to establish reproductive research endowments within the department including the Nova Carta Fund, a multimillion-dollar real estate based endowment.

Never afraid to introduce controversial patient care technology, he was instrumental in initiating an abortion service as soon as legally possible in North Carolina. He developed an outpatient surgery unit, provided artificial insemination for married and single women and started a donor oocyte program before the procedures had gained wide community support.

Later in his career he developed a consuming interest in assisted reproductive technology. His major goal was to perfect the technology of in-vitro fertilization and he tirelessly pursued improving pregnancy rates and extending services to the widest possible population in the state of North Carolina. He developed one of the first satellite IVF programs, which allowed women to remain near their homes for the early parts of their treatment, coming to the center only for the final steps of treatment. On his retirement from UNC he founded the North Carolina Center for Reproductive Medicine, where he continued to perfect treatment plans and provide outreach services. The center was recently renamed the Talbert Fertility Institute in his honor.

Dr. Talbert served on the Board of Trustees of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Foundation for 7 years and was Vice President in 1981. Dr. Talbert served as a director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was an early leader in the Reproductive Endocrinology Division of the Board and served as its Director. He was active for many years in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology serving as chairman of the Committee on Course Coordination and the Learning Resources Commission. He was President of the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics. He was Commissioner for Accreditation of In-Vitro Fertilization for the Eastern United States for the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. He was a member of many distinguished national organizations including the New York Academy of Sciences, the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, the Society of Sigma Xi, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the South Atlantic Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

He was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, was a Sloan Fellow in Medical Education, received the Monsour Foundation Award for use of media in teaching, the Distinguished Faculty award form the UNC Medical Alumni Association and several resident teaching awards. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Emory and Henry College and received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his commitment to women's health and his service to the state from the Governor of North Carolina.

Dr. Talbert was immensely proud of his family, his wife, Annie B., sons John, a former investment banker, and Luther, a plant geneticist, and daughter Cay Bacon, a businesswoman. He was devoted to his six grandchildren. Dr. Talbert was an accomplished woodworker and enjoyed working with native hardwoods. He built beautiful furniture for his family including cradles for each of his grandchildren. His family, former students and colleagues will miss him and his sage advice.

Submitted by Mary G. Hammond, M.D.

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