A life in medicine

In Memoriam: William F. Ranieri, DO, leader in osteopathic psychiatry and osteopathic medical education

Dr. Ranieri led the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry for over a decade and was also a past president of the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists.

Our profession lost an American hero, a trail blazer, a visionary and a consummate professional on October 19, 2021 as William F. Ranieri, DO, DFACN, 80, passed away peacefully.

Dr. Ranieri, or Bill as he was  known by his colleagues, had been retired from UMDNJ-SOM (now RowanSOM), where he was founding chair in 1983 of what would become the largest department of psychiatry in the osteopathic medical profession, and later served as associate dean for clinical affairs from 2003 until 2007.

To know Bill was to know his modesty. He always kept his eye on what was important, education, training, patient care and excellence in everything he touched.

Bill was among the first to become a part of the then new phenomenon of board certification in psychiatry. While the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP) has been functioning since 1941, offering board certification exams and certificates of board certification was new.

Bill held the third specialty board certification certificate issued in psychiatry by the AOA’s American Osteopathic Board or Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP). 

Over his remarkable professional career, Dr. Ranieri led the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry for over a decade, including as executive director, and was president of the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists in 1989. He served on NBOME’s Board of Directors for over a decade, including as chair from 2007-2009. 

Bill was integral to NBOME’s tremendous growth and organizational development, both in the U.S. and internationally, during the period from 2002-2011. Bill and his childhood sweetheart, then wife, Roseann were also both instrumental in building the NBOME family culture among the national faculty, the Board of Directors and the staff, hosting executive committee dinners over the years at their homes in Philadelphia and their beloved Ventnor, New Jersey.

One of the original members of the company that became known as “The NBOME Players,” Bill’s participation in NBOME Board skits and other fun are legendary, clearly ascribing to the mantra “laughter is the best medicine.”

NBOME awarded Dr. Ranieri its Meritorious Service Award in 2009. In 2015, Bill was recognized with the UMDNJ-SOM Founder’s Award and in 2018, he was recognized with Rowan University’s Distinguished Service Award. He has also been given numerous other national awards, including an AOA Presidential Citation in 2018.

Bill was born to Bill and Mary Ranieri, both immigrants from Italy, on April 2, 1941 in Philadelphia. He grew up an only child in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He met his future wife, Roseann, in preschool at age 5, their love story is a wonderful romance. After graduating from St. Joseph’s College in 1962, he went to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1966.

As the Vietnam war was at its height and DOs were permitted to enter military service, Bill answered our country’s call for service. From 1967-1968 he served as a Captain and a surgeon with the first battalion of the 22nd Infantry in South Vietnam.

The following year, he was stationed in the psychiatry department at Ireland Hospital at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He returned to a fractured country. He was not permitted to return in his uniform but rather had to change into his civilian clothes due to the charged political climate. His military service was not considered a badge of honor, but it molded his vision and led to him always speaking up for the underserved and unrecognized.

Following his military service, Bill trained at the psychiatric residency program at the then Philadelphia Mental Health Clinic (now Pennsylvania Hospital) in Philadelphia. After completing his training in 1973, he accepted a position with the Community Mental Health Center in Gloucester County. And he started his private practice, moving his young family, including now his three children, to New Jersey.

Dr. Ranieri was an ally before this term was a part of our lexicon. He advocated for those who were marginalized. He embraced those who were ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ and religiously discriminated against.

He encouraged their admission to UMDNJ-SOM, he treated them in his clinical practice, and he hired them, creating one of the most diverse academic departments at the time. He continued to work to improve the lives of those with financial and housing insecurities through his work with community mental health programs in Southern New Jersey.

Bill was the consummate professional. He was an educator, mentor and friend. He impacted thousands of lives nationally. His advocacy and kindness to so many may not be fully appreciated, but represent an incredible legacy.

He was proud of his osteopathic heritage and truly lived each day as what an osteopathic physician should be. His legacy is immense and he left indelible imprints on the organizations he served, including Rowan-SOM, AOBNP, ACONP and NBOME.

Bill’s legacy of osteopathic medical education lives on through his department of psychiatry, which he loved and nurtured like it was his fourth child. His vision of helping others and striving for excellence lives on through his family and all those he considered part of his extended family.

Our profession is forever grateful for this gifted physician who was committed to trail blazing, inclusion, service to his fellow men and women, and never-ending pride in being an osteopathic physician.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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