Robert S. Rigolosi, MD
March 28, 2020
It is with profound sadness to share the passing of Dr. Robert S. Rigolosi, age 84, on March 28, 2020. He is survived by his loving family: his wife, Elaine La Monica Rigolosi; his four children and their spouses, Robert (Robin), Rebecca, Luke (Nichole), and Laura (Diego); and nine grandchildren, Gabriel and Lucas, Damon and Rocco, Greyson and Vince, and Javier, Anna, and Julia, respectively.
The life of the family of Robert S. Rigolosi, M.D. epitomizes the American Dream. His parents emigrated to the United States from a little mountain village in Sicily as children, they married and settled in Garfield, New Jersey where they raised seven children. All of their children graduated from the Garfield school system and went on to higher education. Two of their four sons, Robert and Ronald, became medical doctors; one son, the late Charles, became an engineer; another son, the late Vincent, became an attorney; and their three daughters, Rose, Rita, and the late Marie, became educators.
Most people knew Bob Rigolosi as a physician, "a Kidney doctor." Bob's patients knew him as an advocate, a healer, and a guardian. To his colleagues, he was an innovator who brought dialysis to Northern Bergen County and developed criteria for setting up dialysis units and home dialysis training programs in New Jersey. Nephrologists around the world have read his papers on the pathology of kidney disease and the development of hemodialysis. His neighbors knew him as a loyal parishioner who has been a steady presence at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey, for more than 22 years. To his family, he was a devoted husband, brother, father, and grandfather.
Then there are the things many people did not know about Bob, the fifth of seven children, such as the fact that he was the third Rigolosi brother to box his way to a full athletic scholarship from Syracuse University, before going on to hold the title of "Golden Gloves—Adirondack AAU Boxing Champ" for two years. He reached the Olympic Boxing Finals in 1956 and subsequently declined a place in the Melbourne, Australia Olympics as a Welterweight alternate because it would have meant leaving his last semester of pre-medical education. People were also surprised to learn that when he entered medical school in Rome, he could not speak Italian; his eventual fluency earned him the role of interpreter for, ironically, the 1960 US Olympic boxing team where he chaperoned the young Cassius Clay (a/k/a Mohammed Ali) during the Rome Olympic games. While in Rome, he also was selected to be in over 10 Italian movie films.
Following medical school, Bob returned to Bergen County for an internship at Hackensack Hospital, followed by a residency at the Bronx VA Hospital, and then a Fellowship at Georgetown University.
In a feature article that appeared in The Record in July 2012, reporter Mira Wassef wrote, "Dr. Bob Rigolosi has been a fighter for his whole life." That fighting spirit made the difference in Bob's medical career when, in 1968, moved by the lack of options and dismal prognosis for people with kidney failure, he agreed to join the late Sister Patricia Lynch at Holy Name Hospital in bringing her vision of creating a renal dialysis unit to fruition. At a time when there were only two dialysis units in New Jersey, they conceived a facility that would become a national model for hospital-based dialysis centers. Bob raised funds, set up the unit, developed and directed the program, and recruited the staff, including his mentor at the Bronx Veteran's Center who made rounds at Holy Name Medical Center for 10 years, the late Dr. Jack Cimino. The Holy Name Renal Care Center eventually expanded to become one of the largest hospital-based community dialysis centers in the country. Renal Medicine Associates, a nephrology group that Bob founded and developed, grew to having five partners. Bob continued as Medical Director of the hemodialysis unit for over 50 years, prior to his retirement in 2019. On July 27, 2017, the unit was renamed The Robert S. Rigolosi, MD Dialysis Center, honoring Bob as one of the pioneers of kidney treatment during the 1960s.
Bob was a member of the Renal Dialysis Licensure Committee of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and served as a nephrology consultant to Bergen Regional Medical Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, and Valley Hospital. Widely published, he was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Renal & Urology News. Bob held office in numerous professional societies, and served as Chairman of the Medical Society of New Jersey Delegation to the American Medical Association. He was Past President of The Medical Society of New Jersey, where he also served as a member of the Board of Trustees. Also, he was Past President of the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey, the Trans-Atlantic Renal Council, the Bergen County Medical Society, and the Holy Name Medical Center's Medical Staff.
Bob's reputation of preeminence as a physician in the field of nephrology is recognized on both local and national levels. He has been a Castle Connolly Top Doctor in the New York Metro Area for 16 years, and was recognized by Best Doctors in America, Inside Jersey Top Docs and America's Top Physicians. His clinical acumen has been acknowledged with the Legends in Medicine Award for Lifetime Achievement in Nephrology from the Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, and the National Medical Award from the National Kidney Foundation. For promoting positive interfaith relations, he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1992, he received the George Arents Pioneer Medal from Syracuse University, which is the highest award given to an alumnus by Syracuse. Bob was also a Letterman of Distinction at Syracuse University. Bob was the recipient of the Spirit of Healing Award from Holy Name Medical Center in 2013 at the Annual Founder's Ball in which Bob was the honoree.
To everyone whose lives Dr. Bob Rigolosi touched, on whatever road traveled—as a husband, father, brother, sister, uncle, patient, colleague, and friend—he will be immensely missed.
View obituary »