Air of generosity
Physician, pilot, and alum Bob Munson (MD '85) and wife Pam are supporting the next generation of students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine
By Alexandra Jonker
A rainy and cold Chicago drive to Maywood in a “crummy rental car” after a long flight from Germany was the prelude for Bob Munson (MD '85) to his interviews as a prospective medical student at Loyola. That dreary day was to be contrasted with the personal attention and kindness of Loyola staff, a first impression he clearly remembers to this day.
“I wasn’t a great candidate, on paper anyway,” he says. “My GPA at the Air Force Academy was 3.09. I hadn’t taken any classes in eight years, but Loyola granted me an interview, and everybody I encountered wanted to be helpful to me.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1973, Bob and wife Pam wed later that year and he became a pilot. After flying tours in Southeast Asia, Colorado, and Europe, he applied to many medical schools, but in the end Loyola proved the best fit. When the Stritch School of Medicine accepted his application, the government awarded him the Health Professions Scholarship to assist with tuition. Pam also began working at Stritch as a medical technologist to make ends meet.
“Though a non-Catholic, I appreciated the Jesuit leaders-in-service theme that went along with our education,” says Bob. “I always felt that the staff and the educators at Stritch sought to instill in us a common sense of our responsibility to help others. It fit well with the Air Force core values of ‘integrity first, service before self, excellence in all that we do.’”
Bob carried with him the ethic of service during his 30-year career as a physician and pilot with the U.S. Air Force, primarily in research and development but also in combat aeromedical evacuation during the Gulf War and on exchange to the Royal Air Force’s Institute of Aviation Medicine in the United Kingdom. For his work developing improved concepts in medical evacuation, he was named the Air Force Physician of the Year in 1998.
Bob and Pam now devote much of their time volunteering to support a wide variety of nonprofits in their community and elsewhere in their home state of Colorado. For example, on many Mondays Pam can be found working at their community’s food bank while Bob provides care in the Air Force Academy’s Internal Medicine clinic, pro bono, as a Red Cross volunteer.
“Since I don’t have to meet output metrics, they give me one-hour appointment slots, and I handle their most time-consuming patients,” he says. “The patients and staff appreciate it.”
The responsibility to give back still drives the Munsons’ life choices. Bob and Pam support the Teresa Wronski Medical Student Scholarship Fund at Stritch. They both also decided to include a significant gift to Loyola in their estate plans to support additional student scholarships, with special consideration to be given for applicants with some military background or affiliation.
“Loyola helped us get to where we are today,” says Pam. “It had a very positive effect on our family, and when we came back for the class reunion last September, we were impressed by the students we met and how the school has grown. We know that by giving this gift, we can help others even beyond our lifetimes.”
“Whether we realize it or not, we all succeed on the shoulders of others who have supported us in the past,” says Bob, “and that should provide us all with a sense of responsibility to those that follow us.”