'Family doctor' who served as football team physician dies at 80

BY THOMAS CHAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 3, 2008

A memorial for Robert Anderson, the longtime University Health Service director and Athletic Department physician, was held yesterday at First Congregational Church, near Central Campus. Anderson was 80.

Often called “Doc A," Anderson died Thursday after battling pulmonary fibrosis since for more than two years.

Anderson became a team physician for the Michigan football team in 1966, and was the director of UHS from 1968 until 1980, when he opened a private practice.

He retired in 1998 from the University and in 2000 from his private practice. He retired “reluctantly, because of his own health issues,” his nephew, Michael Anderson, said. Even after his retirement, Anderson was still giving medical consultations and writing prescriptions at his home until at least 2004, his nephew said.

Friends and family said Anderson was a generous, dedicated and passionate doctor who was a great friend to everyone he treated.

“He was kind of a throwback to the old family doctor,” said Terry Smith, a retired minister from First Congregational Church. “You could just go in and talk to him, and there wasn’t any hustle to get you out.”

Many members of First Congregational Church and the community where he lived on South Seventh Street said he was happy to provide his medical expertise to anyone who came to his door.

“He’s one of a dying breed — the last kind of 'your home physician;' a doctor that would, in this day and age, would still go to your house,” said Michael. “You could stop by his house. His door was always open, never said, no to anybody.”

Numerous people at the service said Anderson often provided his medical services at no charge when patients visited his home.

Darcy Crain, an associate minister at First Congregational, said Anderson established a program to provide free free physical examinations to high school students while he was a resident at Hurley Medical Center in Flint.

“He was not mechanical. He was a caring kind of doctor,” Smith said.

UHS Director Robert Winfield said Anderson was also working part-time at the University Hospital’s faculty practice site in eastern Ann Arbor.

Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, who once worked with Anderson, said people used to joke that Anderson was the poorest doctor in Ann Arbor because he worked for the Athletic Department at a lower pay rate than what the average doctor would make.

“If any of us didn’t feel well or had the flu or our kids were sick, we had the comfort of knowing that he was going to drop what he was doing,” Carr said. “He was a tremendous asset in this community.”