Dr. Clifford B. Reifler, M.D., professor emeritus of psychiatry and director emeritus of the University Health Service, died Tuesday, May 12, at Strong Memorial Hospital after a long illness. He was 66.
He was director of the University Health Service from 1970 until his retirement in 1994, and over the years had held faculty appointments in psychiatry, family services, and preventive, family, and rehabilitation medicine. He served as the University's interim vice president for student affairs in 1980-81, and served as medical director of Strong Memorial Hospital and senior associate dean for clinical affairs of the Medical Center from 1983 to 1985.
"He cared deeply about the University community and, especially, our students, and he worked vigorously on their behalf to provide them with the best medical and mental health care," said Paul Burgett, vice president and University dean of students. "The University of Rochester is a better place because Cliff was here. Among his friends and associates, he is greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed."
Burgett said that Reifler attracted top-notch health-care providers who, together with Reifler himself, assumed leading roles in the field of college health and in the American College Health Association (ACHA).
Allan Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry, said that Reifler can be credited with helping to establish today's model for college and university health services—a "public health" model that is concerned with prevention, and enhancing the quality of students' living and working environments, not just with treating illnesses as they arise.
"Cliff had an enormous impact in setting standards for scholarship, clinical practice, and respect for our clients—the students at the nation's colleges and universities," said James P. Mitchell, ACHA president and director of the Student Health Service at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. "He mentored many in the field—physicians, researchers, and college health leaders. He had earned enormous respect, but he never let that go to his head."
Reifler was "among a small group of individuals recognized as leaders in the country in the field of university health care," said Dr. Christopher Hodgman, a colleague in the Department of Psychiatry.
"He was a direct and efficient leader, with a quick but kind wit," Hodgman added. "He was always right on the mark in his judgments about people and situations."
Often described as a "bear of a man," Reifler also happened to like bears, and they became his trademark. An extensive collection of bears—in glass, porcelain, ceramics, and other materials—adorned his office.
Born in Chicago, Reifler earned a B.A. degree from the University of Chicago, a B.S. degree from Northwestern University, an M.D. degree from Yale University, and a master of public health degree from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. He taught at and directed the student mental health service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before joining the University of Rochester.
He was president of the American College Health Association in 1977-78 and had served as senior editor of its official publication, the Journal of American College Health, from 1983 to 1996, becoming executive editor emeritus in 1997. Since 1995, he had been chair of the American College Health Foundation board. In 1988, he received ACHA's Ruth E. Boynton Award in recognition of his service to that organization. Seven years earlier, he had received the association's Edward Hitchcock Award for outstanding contributions to the field of college health.
In 1991, he was inducted as Distinguished Fellow into the American College of Physician Executives.
Reifler, a resident of Brighton, was a member of the Seneca Park Zoo Society's board of trustees, and had served as chair for development, and, most recently, as chair of the personnel committee.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara; three daughters, Margery Kimbrough, Cynthia Reifler, and Angela Jones; a brother, Ronald; and a sister, Audrey Weissman.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Interfaith Chapel, University of Rochester River Campus. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Seneca Park Zoo Society (2222 St. Paul St., Rochester, N.Y. 14621), Clifford B. Reifler Fund of the American College Health Foundation (1621 Chestnut St., Cardiff, Md., 21160), or the Edward G. Miner Library at the University of Rochester (601 Elmwood Ave., Rochester, N.Y. 14642), where his papers are collected.