Posted on: November 17, 2020
Paul Benjamin Underwood, Jr., MD, of Johns Island, SC, passed away peacefully on November 4, 2020. Paul was born at home in the Jordan community near Greer, South Carolina on August 8, 1934 to Paul Benjamin Underwood and Gladys Guest Underwood. He attended local schools in the Jordan and Lenoah area, where his father served as a principal, before moving to Greenville in the 7th grade. He graduated from Greenville High School and attended Furman University. At Furman he was a member of the Pershing Rifles and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After graduating from Furman he was accepted into the medical school at the Medical College of South Carolina (now MUSC). He graduated from medical school in 1959, where he was a member of the medical honor society Alpha Omega Alpha.
Paul completed an internship and then his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at MUSC, and he held a year-long position as a teaching fellow before leaving to serve in the U.S. Navy. Paul served in the Navy for two years at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, advancing to the rank of lieutenant commander. After he was honorably discharged from the Navy, Paul completed a fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, and then returned to MUSC as one of the first certified oncologists in the State of South Carolina. In 1979 he left Charleston to become the chair of the OB/GYN Department at the University of Virginia, a position he held for 20 years until returning to Charleston. After a very brief retirement, he was convinced to rejoin the faculty at MUSC, and he served as a professor, as the associate dean of admissions and as the chair of the MUSC Admissions Committee for almost 20 years. He officially retired in 2019 as one of the oldest practicing physicians at MUSC.
Paul enjoyed his work as a physician, but his greatest love was his family. He and his wife, Peggy, were married for over 60 years until her passing in 2018. Peggy and Paul were inseparable, and he always credited her as the reason for his long career in medicine. Paul also loved dearly his daughter, Mary, and his son, Ben. Some of his fondest memories were from time spent on family trips out West, or offshore fishing on the family’s boat. When he and Peggy returned to Charleston they built a house with Mary and her husband, Doug, where they lived happily together for over 20 years. Paul was excited that Ben and his wife, Kimberly, will be returning to South Carolina from New Mexico. He was blessed to have spent time with his wonderful grandchildren, and to have two great-grandchildren born in 2019, just after his retirement from MUSC. He was very proud that his grandson, Ben Muller, joined the OB/GYN Department at MUSC as a maternal-fetal medicine fellow this year.
Paul was devoted to his colleagues at MUSC, who are too numerous to name, and he very much appreciated their friendship and support. He was an active mentor to countless medical students and physicians throughout his life. He especially enjoyed teaching medical students and residents how to properly diagnose patients and how to perform surgery.
Paul was actively involved in numerous medical groups. He was the president of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society and the American Gynecological Club, and he chaired the Gynecologic Oncology Subcommittee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Paul was a member of the South Atlantic Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and he received that group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For over 20 years he was an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in both the OB/GYN specialty and the Gynecologic Oncology sub-specialty. He was a founding member of THEGOS, an OB/GYN residents society at MUSC and he was a founding member and the President of a similar group, the Felix Rutledge Society, at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
For his service as a physician, Paul received a variety of awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from MUSC and the Order of the Palmetto from the State of South Carolina. He was honored to have the Humanism Society at MUSC’s medical school named in his honor, as well as a fully-endowed faculty chair in his name in the OB/GYN Department at MUSC.
Paul is survived by his children: Paul Benjamin Underwood, III (Kimberly) of Aiken, SC and Mary Underwood Muller (Doug) of Johns Island, SC; his grandchildren: Benjamin Muller (Morgan) of Johns Island, SC; Jacquilyn Underwood Mata (Kale) of Phoenix, AZ, and Olivia and Henry Vicena of Cincinnati, OH; and by his great grandchildren: Margaret Frances Muller and Hardin Benjamin Mata.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a Humanism in Medicine support fund at the Medical University of South Carolina for a newly established scholarship named in his honor. Checks should be made payable to “MUSC Foundation,” 18 Bee Street, MSC 450, Charleston, SC 29425 with a notation that the donation is designated for the Paul B. Underwood, M.D. Humanism Scholarship. The scholarship is intended to benefit medical students who demonstrate Paul’s traits of humanism and compassion, and it will provide a lasting legacy to future generations of physicians.
Due to COVID-19 a private service will be attended by immediate family only and a memorial service will be held at MUSC at a later date when social distancing restrictions are lifted.