A Tribute to Dr. Walter E. Bundy Jr., A Beloved Mentor & Friend

***This article was written in 1998 following the establishment of a Community Professorship at VCU/MCV named in Dr. Bundy’s honor.***

“Walter Bundy was the Dr. Welby of Richmond pediatrics,” says Dr. William L. Curry, now the “dean” of six physician partners who make up Pediatric Associates of Richmond since Dr. Bundy’s retirement in 1990. Curry joined Dr. Bundy’s practice in 1969.

Dr. Bundy touched thousands of lives during the 45 years he cared for children and taught medical students and pediatric residents at MCV. “His mannerisms were contagious,” Curry recalls. “All MCV medical students dating back to 1945 will remember Dr. Bundy’s lectures when they rotated through pediatrics during their junior-senior year.” Pediatric housestaff were often invited to join Dr. Bundy and his family on weekends at the river, a pastime that he enjoys even more now that he’s retired.

His down-home turn of a phrase, easy-going manner, and sense of humor won the hears of doctors and patients alike. Indeed, Curry’s children and those of another partner, Dr. James M. Wells Jr., were Dr. Bundy’s patients before they joined his practice. At a recent dinner given in Dr. Bundy’s honor, colleagues counted 67 former students who had entrusted the care of their children to him. “Everybody like to go to Dr. Bundy’s lectures and hear what he had to say about the mamas and the baby care,” says Curry.

“His reassuring nature and common sense approach will be remembered by every anxious mother whose child was treated by Dr. Bundy,” Curry says. “After examining a child and finding that the problem was not serious, he’d put his arm around the mother’s shoulder and say, ‘Mama, he’ll live to be a hundred.’ “

“His reassuring nature and common sense approach will be remembered by every anxious mother whose child was treated by Dr. Bundy.”

Dr. William L. Curry

Dr. Curry recalls another mother, whos children are now grown, who called the office in a panic when her toddler ate a dog biscuit. “Dr. Bundy said, “Now Mama, I don’t think one dog biscuit will hurt him, but if he barks, you call me.’ “

“Walter epitomizes the ‘good teacher’ and always stressed good communication with everyone,” says Dr. Wells, who joined Bundy and Curry in 1972. “One of the greatest things he taught all of us was, as he would say, ‘Be nice to your patients. Be a human being and a friend to them,’ ” Wells says. “He epitomizes the golden era of what a doctor should be.”

All six doctors at Pediatric Associates of Richmond are either MCV alumni or housestaff. Along with Curry and Wells, Dr. John Andrako is an MCV medical school alumnus who joined in 1978. Drs. Rhoda Mahoney, Mark Shreve, and Warren Snead were MCV pediatric housestaff and joined the practice in 1986, 1987, and 1991, respectively. “Walter was always very loyal to MCV and instilled loyalty in us,” Wells says. “Through Walter’s guidance, Pediatric Associates has continued to have close ties with the Medical College with all of us precepting medical students, primarily, and interns and residents as well.”

Says Dr. Wells, “We were all excited when we learned about the Community Professorship being named for Walter. Along with our own personal gifts, we wanted to give a significant gift from the practice to honor Walter as its founder. We had an asset of the corporation we could give, a paid-up “key man” insurance policy, dating back to earlier times when the availability of physicians wasn’t as great as it is today.” Like their counterparts in the corporate world, it was not unusual for “key man” insurance policies to be taken out on each physician with the corporation named as a beneficiary.

“We’d encourage other MCV medical school alumni and housestaff who may have similar insurance policies on retired partners in their practices to look back and see if there are things that can be given to the MCV Foundation,” says Wells.

Dr. Curry agrees. “And we need to carry on the spirit Dr. Bundy started here in Richmond,” he says, citing another reason for their support of the Bundy Professorship in Community Pediatrics. Both Curry and Wells are concerned with medical care trends that may tend toward the more impersonal, and caution new pediatricians against getting caught up in the bottom-line approach to patient care. Curry says, “Walter’s bottom line was the care of the patient and how it reflected on the family. We should never forget that concept of medicine.” Curry lists three “Bundy qualities that need to be preserved: 1. Always take time to listen and advise. 2. Always take a comforting and caring tone. 3. Always do what is best for the patient.”