Born in New York City, Rita Frances Girolamo, M.D. ’51, served as professor of radiology and vice chair of the Department of Radiology, director of nuclear medicine and associate dean for student affairs at New York Medical College (NYMC) and chief of radiology services at Metropolitan Hospital Center.
After graduating cum laude in 1947 with a B.A. from Barnard College, Dr. Girolamo enrolled at New York Medical College Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals in New York City, and graduated with an M.D. degree in 1951—one of only sixteen women in the Class. Dr. Girolamo’s postgraduate training included an internship at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York from 1951-52, followed by a three-year residency at Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals. She was awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancer fellowship for 1954-55, and pursued additional nuclear medicine training at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
In 1956, Dr. Girolamo was appointed to the NYMC faculty and earned the rank of full professor in 1966. In 1967, when the affiliation contract between the College and Metropolitan Hospital Center was signed, formalizing the century-long association of the two institutions, she was named chief of radiology services at Metropolitan and became the first woman president of the Medical Board at Metropolitan. A board-certified radiologist, Dr. Girolamo’s was awarded one of eight national teaching grants to train radiologists and technologists in mammography and thermography. Under her direction, the College was one of the first two centers in the U.S. to use diaphanography (transillumination), a technique for diagnosis of breast disease.
In 1981, Dr. Girolamo became the associate dean for student affairs at NYMC. Her students and residents affectionately called her “Dr. G.” Dr. Girolamo’s involvement with student affairs began during her medical school years when, as a fourth-year student, she helped to organize the Women's Medical Fraternity, of which she was president. She was also elected to the Cantin Society, the student honor organization.
From 1985-1987, Dr. Girolamo served as president of the New York Medical College School of Medicine Alumni Association during the College’s 125th anniversary. At the conclusion of her term, she received the Alumni Association Medal of Honor. That same year, Dr. Girolamo was honored at the 128th Commencement with the College’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, for her untiring commitment to the education of future generations of physicians.
After 40 years, she retired from the faculty in 1996, and was named professor emeritus of radiology.
Dr. Girolamo passed away on September 8, 2007, at the age of 80. Dr. Girolamo and her husband, Armand F. Leone, M.D., '47, who was also a radiologist, lived in Franklin Lakes, N.J., for 45 years. They had three sons, radiologist Armand F. Leone Jr., M.D. ’82, Peter Leone and Mark Leone. Her legacy will long be remembered through the Rita F. Girolamo, M.D. ’51, Award, given annually to a graduating medical student who has shown the most proficiency in the specialty of radiology.