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John Romano, M.D.


John Romano (1908-1994) was the first Chairman of the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, serving in that capacity from 1946 until 1971. During the course of a career that spanned nearly six decades, Dr. Romano played an influential role in American psychiatry and in the development of medical and psychiatric education.


John Romano, M.D.John Romano was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 20 November 1908. He was the son of Nicolo Vincenzo Romano (1873-1957), a native of Calabria, and of Frances Louise (Notari) Romano (1886-1957), whose family was of Tuscan origin. For most of his life, Nicolo Romano taught music at the Wisconsin College of Music in Milwaukee. There his son attended public grammar school, Riverside High School, and Marquette University, from which he received his B.S. in 1932. John Romano married Miriam Modesitt (1910-1989) in Milwaukee on 13 May 1933. They had one son, David Gilman Romano (b. 1946). John Romano suffered a stroke and was admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital where he died on 19 June 1994.

Studies and Career

  • 1932-1933 : Student extern in psychiatry in the Milwaukee County Asylum for Mental Diseases.
  • 1933-1934 : Intern in medicine at Milwaukee County Hospital.
  • 1934 : John Romano received his medical degree from Marquette University
  • 1934-1935 : Dr. Romano served as an intern and assistant resident in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine Hospital.
  • 1935-1938 : Commonwealth Fund Fellow in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Assistant Psychiatrist at the Colorado Psychopathic Hospital (Denver).
  • 1938-1939 : Received a Rockefeller Fellowship in Neurology at Boston City Hospital.
  • 1939-1942 : Sigmund Freud Fellow in Psychoanalysis at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, Instructor in Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and Associate in Medicine (Psychiatry/Neurology) at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.
  • 1941 : was chosen to be Professor and Chairman of the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and Director of the Psychiatric Service in the Cincinnati General Hospital.
  • 1942 : Assumed these duties.
  • 1943-1944 : Consultant in Neurology and Psychiatry to the Eighth Service Command of the United States Army.
  • April through July 1945 : Served in Europe as a Special Consultant in Psychiatry to the United States Army.
  • 1946 : Appointed Chairman of the newly established Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. During Dr. Romano's chairmanship Rochester became one of the premier psychiatric departments in the nation, and was regarded as a national model for psychiatric training.
  • 1949 : Supervised the construction of R-Wing, one of the first psychiatric facilities in the nation to be built as an integral part of a university hospital.
  • 1968 : was made Distinguished University Professor of Psychiatry and Chairman, one of only two such appointments among Medical Center faculty.

Professional Activities

Dr. Romano was involved in the work of numerous organizations, committees, journals and foundations.

  • 1946-1949: Served as general vice-chairman of the Advisory Board on Health Services of the American Red Cross.
  • 1946-1949: was a founding member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the United States Public Health Service.
  • 1949-1952: Served on the Training Committee on Psychiatry of the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • 1949-1954: Was member of the Board of Overseers Committee for the Harvard Medical School.
  • 1956-1961: Chaired the Mental Health Fellowship Grant Committee of the NIMH.
  • 1959-1961: Was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the National Science Foundation.
  • 1962: Was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1981-1989: Was a member of the Board of Health for the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine and served on numerous committees and planning groups for the Ford Foundation, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, etc.

Organization of the Collection

The papers of John Romano span the period 1928 to 1994. The collection includes extensive personal correspondence files; chronological files recording a wide variety of activities (e.g., societies, journals, conferences, lectures, etc.); minutes, memoranda & reports of the various university committees on which Dr. Romano served; files from his chairmanship of the Dept. of Psychiatry; clinical rounds; research materials; scrapbooks; and a large collection of personal and historical photographs and prints.

The transfer of materials from Dr. Romano's office was begun in May 1989 and continued through April of the following year. Processing of the collection was completed in April 1990. In 1993 Dr. Romano began to transfer current files from his office to the Miner Library archives. After his death, the remainder of his current files were transferred. This latter group of materials was processed as a separate series, and appended to the collection processed in 1990. Processing of this second series was completed in December 1994. The papers of John Romano are contained in 217 boxes, and occupy one hundred and twenty linear feet.

The Romano Papers are divided into ten distinct series:

Personal (Boxes 1-34)

  • This series combines two former files in Dr. Romano's office: Active Personal and Deceased Personal. It is arranged alphabetically by surname, and includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, obituaries, etc. Most of the individuals represented in the PERSONAL series fall into two categories: American psychiatrists; and University of Rochester faculty and administrators. Dr. Romano's correspondence with many of these same individuals may be included in one or more of the other series as well.

Chronological (Boxes 35-85)

  • This series chronicles Dr. Romano's involvement in various societies, organizations, psychiatric publications, conferences, consultancies, committees, lectureships, etc. from 1928 to 1989. In addition, the series includes materials from Dr. Romano's involvement with the Special Commission of Civilian Psychiatrists during the Second World War; his activities as a Consultant in Psychiatry to the Surgeon-General in Europe (1955); and his 1959- 60 sabbatical year in Europe, the Middle East and the USSR.

University of Rochester Boards & Committees (Boxes 86-103)

  • Dr. Romano's membership on the Medical Center's Advisory Board and the Executive Hospital Committee are represented in this series of minutes, memoranda and reports spanning the period 1946-1971. The Advisory Board was composed of members of the medical faculty, and acted in a consultive capacity to the Dean of the Medical School. The Executive Hospital Committee was established as a sub-committee of the Advisory Board, was made up of members of the clinical departments, and was chaired by the Director of Strong Memorial Hospital. The files of both committees in the Romano papers are the most extensive collection of these materials outside the Dean's office, and are indispensable to understanding the formulation of policies within the Medical Center over the twenty-five year period of Dr. Romano's membership. Also present in this series are the minutes, reports, etc. of the Committee of Six, established in October 1960 by the Advisory Board to reconsider the entire medical curriculum; the papers of the Curriculum Committee, established in January 1963; and records of the University's Faculty Senate, of which Dr. Romano was a founding member (1963).

Department of Psychiatry (Boxes 104-138)

  • Dr. Romano's files pertaining to his chairmanship of the Department of Psychiatry from 1946 to 1971 include annual reports, minutes of departmental meetings, and the record of a wide variety of other administrative and departmental activity. It also includes files on the conference held to dedicate the newly constructed R-Wing in 1949, and other department-sponsored meetings (such as the Northeastern Professors Conference in 1966, and the Schizophrenia Conferences of 1967 and 1971). In addition, this series includes all applications for assistant residencies in the Dept. of Psychiatry from 1946 through 1971. Because of the sensitive nature of much of the data in this sub- series, the assistant resident applications are closed to researchers until the year 2025.

Rounds (Boxes 139-149)

  • Although there are patient materials in this series dating from Dr. Romano's years at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, most of the records in this series were generated at the University of Rochester and affiliated local hospitals and clinics from 1946 to 1979. It includes Dr. Romano's rounds in the various wards of R- Wing from 1946, his Thursday Rounds (1972-76), and teaching rounds with medical students (1971-79). Because of the sensitive nature of patient records, permission is required in order to gain access to this series.

Research (Boxes 150-161)

  • The materials in this series represent Dr. Romano's research activities from 1936 to 1977. The earlier materials deal primarily with Dr. Romano's involvement with the CMR's Committee on Aviation Research and its studies on decompression sickness (1942), and with his toxicology studies on F-12. The greater part of this series, however, pertains to the Univ. of Rochester Child and Family Study (1969-77), and the work of Dr. Romano and others on schizophrenia and autism.

Bound Reprints, 1936-1985

Unpublished Manuscripts and Lectures (Boxes 162-163)

  • This collection of miscellaneous manuscripts and lectures describes a wide variety of topics. It's arrangement is chronological.

Prints and Photographs (Boxes 164-168)

This collection of illustrations was accumulated by Dr. & Mrs. Romano over the years for the decoration of their home and Dr. Romano's office. Most of the prints and photographs have been removed from their frames, except for those which hang in the Special Collections Reading Room of the History of Medicine Section.

The prints and photographs are arranged in four sub-series:

  • Photographic Portraits: The portraits in this collection are inscribed photographs of Dr. Romano's colleagues. It is perhaps unparalleled as a collection of original photographic portraits of the major figures in American psychiatry from 1935 to 1970.
  • Group Portraits: The earliest photograph in this collection is a group portrait of Dr. Romano's fourth-year medical class at Marquette University (1933), and includes staff photographs taken during Dr. Romano's appointments at Milwaukee, Denver, Boston, Cincinnati and Rochester. Non-institutional group portraits are also included (e.g., committees, conferences, etc.)
  • Historical Prints: An interesting collection of 18th-19th century engravings, lithographs, etc. depicting major figures and institutions in the history of psychiatry.
  • Historical Reproductions: A collection of photographic reproductions of original prints, drawings, etc. illustrating the history of medicine and psychiatry.

Scrapbooks and Miscellanea (Boxes 169-174)

Additional Materials

Twenty one more boxes of papers were added to the collection in December 1994. These are materials that had remained in Dr. Romano's office after the transfer of his non-current papers in 1989. This appended series follows the same arrangement as the materials processed earlier:

Personal (Boxes 175-183)

  • Arranged alphabetically by personal name, these boxes contain correspondence. Included in this PERSONAL series are more British and European psychiatrists than appear in boxes 1-34. It may also be necessary to check both PERSONAL series, as correspondence with individuals such as the Menningers appear in both places.

Chronological (Boxes 184-202

  • This chronological series is not limited to Dr. Romano's activities for the period spanning 1989-1994. It includes files dating as early as 1946 pertaining to activities in which Dr. Romano was involved until his death. This second chronological series includes extensive files on Dr. Romano's involvement in the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (1946-1957); the Stagecoach Club (1952-1986); the Salmon Committee of the New York Academy of Medicine (1970-1993); the Merck Manual (1977-1992), etc.

Rochester Psychiatric Center (Boxes 203-211)

  • This series is closed to researchers until the year 2019. It consists almost entirely of records of patients whom Dr. Romano saw in the RPC's various units from 1971 through 1982.

Rochester Plan (Boxes 212-217)

  • The Rochester Plan is an early admissions program allowing University of Rochester undergraduates to integrate the medical curriculum into their undergraduate studies, and resulting in a medical degree after six years. Dr. Romano was involved in the Rochester Program from its inception in the mid-1970s until his death.