URMC Psychiatrist Honored for Leading the Way

Apr. 23, 2013
Dr. J. Richard Ciccone Helped Develop Modern Forensic Psychiatry

Looking at his office shelves, it’s hard to determine whether J. Richard Ciccone, M.D. is a psychiatrist or an attorney.  Next to hundreds of medical texts, there are stacks of books about the U.S. Supreme Court, judicial rulings, and legal issues.  Director of the Psychiatry and Law Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Dr. Ciccone has long pursued both passions – and he was instrumental in bringing modern forensic psychiatry into the American courtroom.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is recognizing his visionary work by awarding him the 2013 Isaac Ray Award, which honors outstanding contributions to forensic psychiatry and the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence. The APA will present the award to Dr. Ciccone in May.

Forensic psychiatry is the application of psychiatric knowledge to help answer legal questions and deliver justice. Most widely known for its criminal applications, such as the insanity defense and competency to stand trial, forensic psychiatry is also relevant in civil law.  For example, it can be used in determining psychiatric damages resulting from an accident, or settling custody matters.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants, I made a small contribution to the field of forensic psychiatry – namely having it accepted as an academic discipline,” Dr. Ciccone says with humility, letting his record of accomplishments speak for itself.

Dr. Ciccone was president of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL) and, in 1979, was the founding director of AAPL’s forensic psychiatry course that he led for more than decade.  An examiner on the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, he helped write the first board examination in forensic psychiatry, given in 1994.  He worked on developing a forensic psychiatry curriculum and a set of standards for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Under his leadership, URMC was among the first in the nation to offer an accredited fellowship in forensic psychiatry.

Dr. Ciccone has assisted with preparation of amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the American Psychiatric Association, where he chaired the Commission on Judicial Action for seven years.  He has presented his work internationally, and spent time as a visiting professor at the University of Siena in Italy each year from 1994 to 2000.