Dr. Robert L. Raleigh, 80, environmental physician

April 08, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Robert L. Raleigh, an environmental health physician who believed the elderly should be allowed to continue to drive provided they did so safely, died of cancer Sunday at his Stevensville home. He was 80.

As the chief of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's Medical Advisory Board and the director of the Office of Driver Safety Research, he conducted a 1998 study that identified and helped elderly drivers who might pose a danger on the highway because of failing physical or mental capabilities.

"Our goal isn't to take their licenses away," Dr. Raleigh told a Sun reporter at the time. "Our goal is to keep them on the road -- but safe."

Born in Brockport, N.Y., he was a radar technician in a Marine unit in the Pacific in World War II and graduated with honors from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, in 1949. He played varsity basketball and football. He earned his medical degree in 1953 from Albany Medical College in New York, and beginning in 1956 worked in environmental medicine at Eastman Kodak.

He served the company in Rochester, N.Y., Tennessee and Texas, and hired doctors, toxicologists, doctors of veterinary medicine, industrial hygienists, chemists, engineers, epidemiologists and regulatory specialists. He was corporate director of Kodak's Health & Environment Laboratories. He also served on a committee that examined the Love Canal contamination site.

Dr. Raleigh also had a 45-year parallel career in treating alcohol and drug abuse. A family biography said he was a friend of Marty Mann, founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, and had been advised by John Norris, an official of the National Alcoholics Anonymous organization.

Beginning in 1960, he began his attempt to have executives, alcoholics and society in general come to grips with the fact that alcoholism was a treatable disease. He taught and lectured throughout the country.

Dr. Raleigh enjoyed sailing and spent summers in Maryland near Annapolis beginning in the 1980s. After his retirement from Kodak, he moved to Maryland in 1989 and was immediately asked to open a chemical dependency office in Crofton. He was later honored with a Crofton Community Award by a local Kiwanis Club and newspaper.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer named him to the Governor's Commission on Alcoholism. And in 1993 he began his work as a Medical Advisory Board physician and was named its chairman in 1997.

"His entire career was focused on the prevention of injury," said Jack Joyce, an attorney and senior research associate at the Motor Vehicle Administration. "He himself was a driven person. He would decide on an objective and then he worked to achieve it."

Dr. Raleigh pursued the issue of mobility for older persons. Colleagues said he succeeded in having driving by the elderly considered as a public health issue, and he marshaled involvement at the federal, state and local level through a group called the Maryland Research Consortium, which he led until his death.

He won numerous awards. He received a Governor's Citation in December 2003; Public Safety Award by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and in March, he received an award from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. April 22 at Mariners' Church, 1592 Whitehall Road, Annapolis.

Survivors include his wife of 23 years, the former Michelle Rhodes; two sons, Reid Raleigh of Odenton and Bradley Rhodes of Gainesville, Fla.; two daughters, Shari Skidmore of Irvine Calif., and DeAnna Eskew of Houston; and three grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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