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Home > Meet PAF > PAF Leaders & Board Members > Dr. Bruce Avery

Robert Bruce Avery, MD

Dr. Robert “Bruce” Avery    (d. May 24, 2016)

Patient Advocate Foundation and National Patient Advocate Foundation mourn the recent passing of one of our founding board members, Dr. Bruce Avery, after a courageous battle with cancer. As one of the first people to join our Boards in 1996, he served in multiple capacities over the years including Board President. He chaired multiple scientific initiatives addressed by our Board of Directors and hosted fundraisers for PAF in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.   

Without his enduring support, particularly in the early stages of the organizations, PAF and NPAF may not be here today. Bruce addressed all issues we faced with a common- sense approach and often led our discussions to perfect solutions for complex issues. PAF’s Co-Founder, Nancy Davenport Ennis, described Bruce as “a man of deep convictions for the rights of patients to access quality health care services in all settings including his dearly beloved rural Tennessee.”  She added that his “moral compass guided many of our decisions of services to provide to patients, laws to be passed to enhance patient access to care and PAF's commitment to see that our nation preserved our oncologists at all levels to assure cancer patients of care in their community.”

Other board members, both past and present, added these words of remembrance:

“His leadership, wisdom, kindness, and generosity leave an incredible legacy for us.”
                                                                                                Deborah Parham Hopson, PhD, RN, FAAN

“It is with great sorrow to learn of the passing of our good friend and a valuable asset to PAF and NPAF for so many years, beginning with its founding in 1996.  I always looked to Bruce, and consulted with him when I served on our boards for the views of the rural medical oncologists and the problems his patients would face by some of the limits CMS and states tried to invoke to keep their costs down at the expense of the local oncologists and the rural patients.  He and his voice – and his colorful attire --  will be sorely missed.”                           
S. Sheldon Weinhaus

“What a shining light he was and what a difference he made in the lives of so many. We are blessed to have him in our lives.  It makes me smile as I remember his humor and especially his flair in dress. Most of all, he gave of himself and for that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know him.”
The Honorable Pat Dougherty and wife Bev

“One of the great fortunes of my life was service with PAF and NPAF, because the room was always filled with inspiring folks like Bruce Avery. When I was growing up, my parents taught me a simple lesson: strive to do good, and you will find yourself in the company of good people….I give special thanks for the life of Dr. Bruce Avery.”
"Woody" Connette, Esquire

The full obituary can be viewed here.

Robert Bruce Avery, MD


Robert Bruce Avery was born in 1938 in Alamo, Tennessee. He married Shirley B. Avery, M.D., and had three children (David, Andrew, Daniel) and nine grandchildren. Bruce passed away in May 2016.

Bruce attended and graduated from the Tennessee Public Schools. Upon completion of his B.S. degree at University Of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1959, he continued on to Graduate/Medical school at U.T. Medical Unit, Memphis, TN. He graduated Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Omega Phi and received his M.D. in March of 1962. During 1963 Dr. Avery completed his internship at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

At the University of Michigan Medical Center Internal Medicine, Dr. Avery performed his residency from 1963 to 1966. For the next two years he completed a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Michigan Medical Center.

From 1968 to 1970, Dr. Avery served in the U.S. Air Force as a Major. At Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, he worked at the Keesler Medical Center in Hematology.

Dr. Avery's board certification consists of American Board of Internal Medicine February 1969; American Board of Medical Oncology, 1972.

Dr. Avery's society memberships include:

  • American College of Physicians 
  • American Society of Hematology 
  • American Medical Association 
  • Tennessee Medical Association 
  • Knoxville Academy of Medicine 
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology 
  • American Society of Internal Medicine 
  • Tennessee Oncology Practice Society


  • Instructor in Medicine, U.T. Memorial Research Center and Hospital, Knoxville, TN 1971-73 
  • Associate Clinical Professor, U.T. Memorial Research Center and Hospital, Knoxville, TN 1973-2002


  • St. Mary's Medical Center Chief of Staff, l991 
  • Ft. Sanders Regional Medical Center Chief of Staff, 1977 
  • East Tennessee Children's Hospital 
  • East Tennessee Baptist Hospital 
  • Ft. Sanders-Park West Medical Center U.T. Memorial Research Center and Hospital


"Folic Acid Metabolism in Well Nourished Pregnant Women",
    Avery B Ledger WJ; American Journal of Obstetrics and
    Gynecology, Vol. 35, No. IV, ppg. 616-24, April 1970.

"Cytotoxicity of Antisera to a Myelogenous Leukemia Cell Line
    with the Philadelphia Chromosome", Journal of The
    National Cancer Institute, Vol. 56, No. 5, May 1976.


  • Medical Advisor, Hospice Program, St. Mary's Medical Center, Knoxville, TN, 1981-90 
  • Member, Board of Directors, Knoxvilie Medic Program, 1980-Present 
  • U.T. Cancer Concepts Symposium, Annual Participation (Program Committee, moderator) 
  • Member, Executive Committee, American Cancer Society, Tennessee Division, Medical Advisor Knox Co. Unit, 1996 
  • Medical Director, American Cancer Society Knox Co. Unit, 1997-2001 
  • Member, Governor's Committee for Tennessee Cancer Reporting, 1986-1990
  • Board Member, Tennessee Oncology Practice Society (TOPS), 1990-1998
    Vice President, Tennessee Oncology Practice Society, 1992-1994 
  • President, Tennessee Oncology Practice Society, 1994-1996
    As President of the Tennessee oncologists, Dr. Avery was involved in numerous legislative hearings as a witness and provides medical research for those hearings.
  • Medical Director, Knoxville Home Therapeutics 1989-1990, 1997-Present 
  • Member, Clinical Practice Committee American Society for Clinical Oncology 1990-1994 
  • Member, Physician Advisory Committee, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, 1990-1995 
  • Member, Ethics Committee, St. Mary's Medical Center, 1994-Present 
  • Member, Cancer Care Committee, St. Mary's Medical Center, 1997-Present 
  • Chairman, Cancer Care Committee, St. Mary's Medical Center, 1998-2002 
  • Executive Board Member, Patient Advocate Foundation, 1996-Present 
  • Vice President, Patient Advocate Foundation, 1998 
  • President, Patient Advocate Foundation, 1999-2000
  • President of Patient Advocate Foundation Executive Board, 1999-2000
  • Medical Director, Response Oncology Stem Cell Transplant Unit, 1990-1994


  • Outstanding Philanthropist Award, 1998


  • Photography & cultivation of wildflowers
  • Cooking
  • Golf
  • Fishing

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