Remembering Dr. Keith Amos

Keith-Amos-HorizontalUNC has lost a dear colleague. Dr. Keith Amos died suddenly in Edinburgh, Scotland, while on a Dr. Claude Organ, Jr., Travel Award from the American College of Surgeons. We all hold in our thoughts his wife, Ahaji, and their three young daughters.

Dr. Amos was a treasured member of the UNC School of Medicine, the Department of Surgery, the Division of Surgical Oncology and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was a caring doctor, avid researcher, engaged collaborator, effective teacher and just a terrific human being. Colleagues, medical students, surgery residents and especially patients, to whom he was so dedicated, will sorely miss him.

Dr. Amos was passionate about visiting communities to talk about cancer, the importance of cancer screening, and cancer disparities. He traveled across North Carolina collaborating with and speaking to numerous groups, who always appreciated and were impressed by his commitment and dedication. He was a true ambassador for the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Amos was recruited to UNC in 2007. He earned his medical degree from Harvard University, and completed surgery residency at Washington University in Saint Louis. His passion for cancer education and care led him to a Surgical Oncology fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

While interviewing for his faculty position, he read the plaque located in the lobby of N.C. Memorial Hospital that states, “Operated for and by the People of North Carolina.” He frequently said, “I think that’s a really powerful statement. One of the things that attracted me here is that UNC is a state institution. We as physicians have an obligation to care for and educate citizens about their health problems.”

Dr. Amos honored that commitment, and during his short career at UNC, focused his significant energy on all aspects of the multidisciplinary UNC Breast Center in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and across the state.

A memorial service for Keith Amos, MD, was held on June 29, 2013. A video of the memorial service is posted here.

Here, we remember his legacy and invite you to do the same.


  1. Sandra Bolduc
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I am in shock! Dr. Amos saved and touch so many lives! After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 I met with a great team of doctors at UNC. He was my surgeon and not only was he a great doctor but one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever known. I am truly grateful I was one of his patients and will miss him so much.

  2. Roscoe Dandy
    Posted July 7, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Dr. Amos saved my wife’s life.
    I will never forget the time he spent with us, engaging us, comforting us, doing the surgery, explaining things and being so human to us.
    For the rest of my days, i will be humbly grateful.
    I simply do not understand God’s Plan to take away such a giving, talented, caring human being.
    God be with his family.
    Love you.
    Dr. Roscoe G. Dandy
    Lesley A. Dandy

  3. Qi Mo
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I was so shocked by the sad news of Dr. Amos’s passing away, and up till today I still cannot help tearing up whenever I think of that. As a two year survivor, Dr. Amos is my surgeon, and one of the amazing medical team members that I was so blessed to have. I was considered “graduated” from his care just months ago. At that time no longer having to see him as often as before seems like a milestone that I was happy to reach, now it just made me bitter thinking that I could never see Dr. Amos again. Dr. Amos answered my late-night emails the night before my bilateral mastectomy within minutes, when I was full of fear and doubts. He called me at 9am in the morning delivering the good news that the biopsy came back all clean. It is little things like these that make battling cancer a little easier for me, as I am sure it is for all his other patients. My deepest condolence to Dr. Amos’s family, I simply cannot imagine what they are going through…

  4. JamieN
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I just heard about Dr. Amos and am so sad. He was a wonderful person, an excellent surgeon and I’m sure he was a great father to his children. He and I always laughed and tried to make light of the cancer I had. He knew just what to say and what to do to calm my fears. I know I will feel lost without him as my doctor, but that is nothing compared to the loss his wife and children are feeling right now. My heart goes out to you. Be proud of all your loved one accomplished in his life. He is leaving quite a legacy behind and has saved the lives of so many others.

  5. Sam G
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know Dr. Amos very well, and he didn’t know me very well either. But that didn’t stop him from giving time from his very busy life to guide and advise me along with many of my classmates. Dr. Amos touched our whole community with his unhesitating generosity with his time and attention, while still enjoying a family life that was the envy of his colleagues. Had he never scrubbed in, picked up a scalpel, or sown a stitch, he would still have been a great man. So I want to thank him and his family, because there is no substitute for an inspiring example of how to be a great man.

  6. Sara Reason Norris
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    My family met Dr Amos approximately 4 years ago after my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. No one is prepared for the initial diagnosis, let alone when the initial diagnosis is terminal. Thanks to Dr Amos, my mom is still with us today. He was such an integral part of her care team and treated her and her case as an individual. As everyone has stated, he was so warm, friendly and always smiling. I know everyone felt like this, but he really did make you feel like you were special and you were the only patient/family he was treating. What a gift to be able to share that love and warmth with everyone. We are so lucky we had him! I used to work at UNC and whenever I passed him in the hallway, he always asked about my mom……what an amazing man to remember me when he saw so many faces everyday. My family is devastated by his passing, but know one day we will all see him again to tell him “Thank you for being part of the team that let our mom see her daughters get married and grandchildren born.” We miss you, Dr A.

  7. Nancy P. Cooper
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I was a breast cancer patient of Dr. Keith and I want his family to know how much he we loved and how he changed my life. I had stage 3B breast cancer and it required that I have a bi-lateral mastectomy by Dr. Keith…he knew that I was a golfer and former member of the UNC golf team. I assured me that he would take care of me and on June 2, 2010, he operated and also removed 24 lymph nodes…Three years to the day, on June 2nd, 2013, I won the 1st Flight in the Alamance Co Women’s Golf tournament and that weekend I texted my oncologist, Dr. Anders to tell her to tell Dr. Keith…He took a personal interest in all of his patients and without his reassurance, I would have been terrified of the surgery. Now, I am healthier than ever….who could imagine that he would die before I died and I was the one with cancer and just turned 60 years of age. Thank you Dr. Keith for your kindness and passionate made your patients feel like they were your only patient…I will personally miss your warm smile and feeling that I was a part of your extended family.

    Much love,

  8. Todd BenDor
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    What a loss. Keith and I were some of the last folks on the UNC faculty bus tour back in 2008. I consider myself lucky to have spent a week with him – he was absolutely wonderful. He was such a kind, funny, and good-hearted person. He will be missed!

  9. Melinda Miller
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I too met Dr. Amos about 4 years ago when I was diagnosed with DCIS and was referred to UNC by Dr. HUff in High Point. I did not expect the news of another lumpectomy (my third) and another MRI. However, Dr. Amos had such a wonderful bedside manner. He discussed my fears with me and helped with my children’s fears (they were 13 and 9 at the time) as well. When I had my surgery, he even made my mom (who was down from Michigan) feel welcome and part of the team. Please let his family know that we are praying for them during this difficult time. I am cancer free still at this point, but I feel like I lost a pivotal member of my team! May God bless his wife and children.

  10. Belencia Breaux
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I attended Dr. Amos’ memorial service, held this afternoon at Xavier Univeristy, at the invitation of his sister, LaRhonda Jefferson (my linesister). I did not have the pleasure of knowing Dr. Amos. The stories of heartfelt memories shared by his family and friends truly blessed me. I asked myself the question: ‘How could such a young man do so much and touch countless lives in such few years?” The answer came to me in a whisper: “God sent Dr. Amos as a symbol of his eternal love for us. ” LaRhonda, thanks for the invitation. Mrs. Amos and girls, I believe your angel will always be with you.

  11. jacqueline newsome allen
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I met Dr. Amos April , 2012. I had gone to three drs. for
    a problem i was having. i was recommended by one of his
    nurses who is from my home town.He was so kind, polite
    bedside manners out of this world. When i heard about the passing of Dr. Amos the tears came down my eyes.I couldn’t beleive it . He diagnosis my problem after breast
    surgery (Lumpectomy)God Bless you Mrs. Amos and your
    young ladies, May God grace and mercy be with you all

  12. Cindy
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    i was shocked and saddened during my appointment today at UNC when i learned of Dr. Amos’ passing …. today i received wonderful news reguarding my cancer and he played a very important role in all of it and for that i am truely thankful . he answered all questions for myself and my husband and was very helpful in helping us decide what surgery would be best for my situation yet told us that the final choice had to be one that i could be comfortable with…you could tell he LOVED his job and cared about the patients and their families i am thankful that i was blessed to have had him for my surgeon … UNC has lost a GREAT doctor my prayers and thoughts go out to his wife and daughters may God bless and comfort you as your husband/father did for us in our time of need

  13. KJ Parrish
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    From the first, when the diagnosis was made, it was Dr. Amos who personally called me one Thursday evening a year ago January, just two days after the biopsy. His voice was strong yet gentle, his words were clear; even over the phone, this was a doctor who communicated care, knowledge and skill. In further evaluations, the surgery, and follow-up appointments, Dr. Amos always conveyed understanding of his patient, both at the medical level and the personal. Whenever I was at the cancer care center and was asked who my doctor was, I always heard words of praise for him, both by medical professionals and by other patients. Distinct memories of Dr. Amos come from the day of my surgery. I was an early AM patient, prepared for the procedure yet having to wait in the family waiting room before going into pre-op. And who was it who came into the waiting room, looking for me, then personally wheeling me to the next area? My own doctor! My thought then was,”Here is a man who is humble, kind, caring — and efficient!” Later as I was being taken into the OR, a nurse quietly talked with me, saying “Dr. Amos is very careful; he personally makes sure everything is being done the exact right way.” Those kind words gave me a surge of assurance just moments before the surgery. I appreciated every communication with Dr. Amos because he spoke factually, helpfully, kindly, all at the same time. I value his giftedness in relating to his patients and doing all within his power to help us experience and enjoy good health. From the beginning I thanked God for him, and I prayed for him in his life’s work. Now I join others in praising the Lord for his life, his love for his wife and family, his caring heart and healing hands. Such a fine man, such an extraordinary legacy. May his loved ones be blessed in return for all the ways Dr. Amos blessed us.

  14. K.Watson
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Amos was a kind, caring and honest man. He performed my gallbladder surgery even though he was in the Oncology department. After a long day of surgery he took the time to come by and check on me. Something I’ve always deeply appreciated. He was a great doctor! My mother and I were sadden by the news of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I hope you can find some sort of comfort in reading these experiences with him.

  15. patricia wiley
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    When I was first diagnosed in 2010 with bilateral breast cancer I met Dr. Amos. He was a very kind, patient, loving man who not only loved what he did he cared for his patients as well. He would be telling me what the next procedure would be and I would be looking at him like he was crazy cause I didn’t understand a word he was saying so I would say could you repeat that in English please and he would just smile. We had one thing in common and that was we both loved them Dallas Cowboys. My husband and I are truly saddened. When my husband first met him he asked was he related to those who makes Amos cookies and he just laughed. We will keep you and your daughters in our prayer.

  16. Posted September 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I met Dr. Amos on July 9, 2008 on “breast day” at UNC. It was one of the longest days of my life as I went through the process of meeting all of the doctors who would take care of me. I was so lucky to get Dr Amos as my surgical oncologist! Throughout my visits with other doctors he would show up sporadically to check on me. Little did he know that he would check on me for the next 5 years. My first day at UNC ended at 7:00 and he even walked us through a back door to the parking lot. Surgery would be in 2 weeks. I had stage 2B lobular cancer in the left breast and in situ lobular in the right breast. Dr. Amos did the bilateral mastectomy on July 22, not only did he take care of me but my entire family. He treated me as if I were his only patient and he had all day to console and explain things to me. Never in my life have I had a physician who took time to get to know everything about me, connect with me on Facebook, check on me via FB at 11 pm, give me his cell #, call me on his way home from the hospital at 9 pm and call me on my 50th birthday! Dr. Amos was one of a kind and unfortunately I don’t believe there is a replacement for him. He saw me for 2 years and always said, “I’m still in the car with you but am going to pass you to a new driver now”. I had some unusual circumstances and always ended up back in his office. After 4 years of a recurring seroma/hematoma in the reconstructed breast, Dr. Amos, Dr. Lee and Dr. Kizer finally operated and fixed it forever! Dr. Amos released me the 2nd time on June 11, 2013. We have a great visit. He told me all about the anniversary trip that Ahaji had taken him on and his upcoming month in Scotland. He always gleamed and his eyes lit up like Dallas Cowboy Stars when he talked about Ahaji and his girls. He was so excited about their trip to Scotland. I thanked him for continuing to take such good care of me and gave him a big hug. I had no idea it would be the last hug.

    Not only did Dr. Amos remove the cancer from my body but he encouraged me to get back to the way life was before cancer. He said, “next time I see you, you better be on the tennis court again”. His words got me on the tennis court. My trek with cancer led me to spearhead a local cancer non-profit group. Dr. Amos spoke to a group of doctors at Nash Health Care in Rocky Mount this past spring. Prior to the event, he came to our house to meet some friends and told them about himself and why he was a surgical oncologist, his bus tour of NC, Lineberger, health legislation and more. He made new friends and they all soaked up his compassion for his profession and his patients…quickly understanding my love and admiration for Dr. Amos!

    We were all so fortunate to have him in our lives. He truly was a person that I will strive to be more like in the rest of my years. He was so giving of his talents, time and his heart to everyone. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and his girls. It has taken me months to be able to write on the memorial site so my prayer is that with each passing day God will continue to support Ahaji, the girls, their family and all of Dr. Amos’ co-workers. I am so thankful to have been his patient and friend!
    much love to all,
    cammy hodges

  17. Lisa Carey
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I have conversations with our shared patients every week about how much they felt cared for by Keith, not just operated on. So many of the posts are about Keith as an exceptional person and as an exceptional doctor. All true, and indescribably sad. What many may not realize is that he was also a key part of the research that is going on every day at Carolina, which is how we will learn to take even better care of our patients tomorrow than we do today. Early this year, I had the honor of writing a letter about Keith for the promotions committee, and have included it below.

    “As the Medical Director of the UNC Breast Center, I have found Keith to be universally responsive, thoughtful, and calm even in the most chaotic circumstances. He has taken over leadership of the multidisciplinary conference, and keeps that running smoothly. When in clinic, he is always available for a curbside or to see a patient with an unexpected surgical problem. Even more telling, he is always available to help obtain research tissue samples, and even worked to get an ultrasound machine in the clinic to facilitate research biopsies for others’ research.

    Let me expand on that last point to say clearly that Dr. Amos is one of the most collaborative clinicians I have ever met. He is continually and without fail supportive of the research mission of UNC Lineberger and UNC Cancer Care. He is the chief clinical collaborator for the Normal Breast Study, a high profile examination of tumor microenvironmental subtypes and influence on tumor behavior, led by an epidemiologist, Melissa Troester. While the science is Dr. Troester’s, the Normal Breast Study would not exist were it not for Dr. Amos creating the surgical infrastructure for routine acquisition of tissue adjacent to the tumor during mastectomies, and normal breast tissue during benign breast procedures. He has provided hundreds of these samples over the past couple of years; these tissues will be a gift to the study of microenvironment long into the future. I am the principal investigator of two high-profile UNC-led window trials examining the application of kinome profiling, a technique developed by Gary Johnson, the Chair of Pharmacology, to human breast cancers from women treated with a brief exposure to kinase inhibitors. These trials are dependent upon women agreeing to take these drugs for a few days before surgery and to research biopsies before and a sample of their tumor acquired during surgery. Keith is not only co-PI of the studies, but he helped develop patient educational materials and has enrolled virtually all of the participants. The first trial was initiated in March 2012 and will be completed by March, 2013. We expect to present the data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meetings in 2013. From the scientific end, these trials involve Dr. Johnson, Chuck Perou, who performs intrinsic subtyping by gene expression array on the tumors, and me as the medical oncologist developing the drug regimens of clinical interest, but they would not have happened without Dr. Amos, who is the linchpin to identifying the patients, enrolling them, and performing the procedures in a way that has allowed high quality fresh tissue for whole kinome analysis.

    Translational science is not possible without clinicians like Keith who help identify the clinical questions, create the infrastructure for collaborative work between scientists and clinicians, and do the work of tissue and data collection and analysis. He is the ultimate supporter of the multidisciplinary model, which usually refers to collaborative structures among different clinical disciplines, but in this case means collaborative models between MDs and PhDs. I cannot be more supportive of this promotion.”

  18. Lisa Charles
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I was at medical school with Keith and am devastated to hear about his death. Keith was an amazing person. Keith I knew you would do something spectacular with your career. I just wish I could have congratulated you in person on your achievements.

  19. Gloria Thornton
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    The world has lost a wonderful, kind human being. I am sad for his family and for all the people that will never receive the gift of knowing him.

    He was the surgeon for my father-in-law whom we ultimately lost to Melanoma. But when all was said and done I found myself sitting down and writing a letter of sincere gratitude to Dr. Amos for all that he had done for us. This man TRULY cared about his patients and their families. This is a great loss to so many.

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