Dr. Robert B. Atwell passed away peacefully on March 19, 2023, at the age of 95.
He was born in Sewickley, PA to Dr. & Mrs. Loyal Porter Atwell on July 27, 1927. After graduating from Culver Military Academy ’45, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific as a Gunner’s Mate aboard the USSLSM339 through the end of World War II.
Following his discharge from the Navy, he enrolled in Cornell University ’50. While in college, he was a member of Chi Phi and Kappa Beta Phi fraternities. Upon graduation from Cornell, he was accepted and enrolled in The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine ’54. Upon graduation from medical school, he began a six-year residency in General Surgery. During his sixth year, he was the University Chief Surgical Resident. Following his residency, he began a long and illustrative career in surgery culminating in his appointment as Clinical Professor of Surgery. During these years, he was very active in medical politics, serving as Medical Staff President of the Presbyterian University Hospital and St. Francis General Hospital. He served several terms on Allegheny County Medical Society’s Board of Directors, his accomplishments were acknowledged by presenting him with an award for “Excellence in the Art, Practice, and Teaching of Medicine”.
Dr. Atwell was elected President of the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine and the prestigious Pittsburgh Surgical Society. During his decades of surgical practice, he was often described by colleagues as a “surgeon’s surgeon – a true warrior”. He was a member of both the American Board of Surgery and the American Society of Oncologic Surgeons. Additionally, he was elected to the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons. Following retirement from active practice, at the request of the University of Pittsburgh, he accepted a position with the PA VA as Chief of General Surgery and Surgical Residency Coordinator. During this period, his skills were once again acknowledged with an award for “Excellence in Teaching of Surgical Skills and Techniques”. Following his second retirement, he and his wife, Eleanor, spent winters at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, FL. Though “retired” he continued to contribute his vast medical experience while serving on the Board of the Indian River Medical Center. Dr. Atwell was an enthusiastic golfer, bridge player, quail hunter, and fly-fisherman; avocations that took him and Eleanor across the globe. He also had a lifelong love of Dixieland jazz. Dr. Atwell was a member of the aforementioned John’s Island Club, the University Club, the Duquesne Club, the Fox Chapel Golf Club, and the Rolling Rock Club.
Dr. Atwell is survived by his beloved wife and life partner of 71 years, Eleanor, his children, Bob and Amy, his four grandchildren Christopher, Christy, Jason, and Hillery, and five great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to: The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Suite 401, Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace St. Pittsburgh, PA 15216 or the Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, 384 Fox Chapel Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15238. Arrangements by John A. Freyvogel Sons, Inc. (freyvogelfuneralhome.com)
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