Dr. Ernest F. Rosato, 75, longtime professor of surgery at HUP

Ernest F. Rosato
Ernest F. Rosato
Posted: January 12, 2012

Ernest F. Rosato, 75, of Ardmore, a professor of surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, died of pancreatic cancer Friday, Jan. 6, at home.

Dr. Rosato spent his career, spanning 50 years, at the hospital. In a tribute, Jeffrey Drebin, chairman of the department of surgery, wrote that Dr. Rosato was recognized as "the premier general surgeon at HUP for decades."

After graduating from Penn's medical school in 1962, Dr. Rosato interned and completed his surgical residency at the hospital. He became professor of surgery in 1974 and was chief of the division of gastrointestinal surgery from 1988 through 2004.

In 2008, Dr. Rosato received the I.S. Ravdin Master Clinician Award, given to a faculty member who is a "skillful, compassionate practitioner." Forty years earlier, in 1968, Dr. Rosato had been the last senior resident of I.S. Ravdin, a renowned Penn surgeon who died in 1972.

A clinical fellow of the American Cancer Society during his residency, Dr. Rosato received the Humanitarian Award from the Friends of the American Cancer Society in 2007 in recognition of the thousands of cancer patients who benefited from his care.

"Dr. Rosato always placed great emphasis on medical education, integrating medical students and house staff seamlessly into the care of his surgical patients," Dr. Drebin wrote in his tribute.

As a teacher, Dr. Rosato received several honors, including the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1977. In 1980, the Penn medical school yearbook, Scope, was dedicated to Dr. Rosato by students who noted that he was "willing to face those difficult patients whose problems require both innovation and persistence of purpose."

Dr. Rosato received the William Inouye Award for Teaching 18 times. It is presented annually by surgical chief residents to a faculty member "whose leadership, caring attitude, and surgical judgment have been an exemplary model to the surgeon in training."

Dr. Rosato published about 200 articles and had been elected to membership in all major surgical societies.

Though diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2010, he continued to practice and was still performing operations three months ago, a son, Ernest Jr., said.

Dr. Rosato grew up in Port Richmond. He graduated from St. Joseph's Preparatory School in 1954 and earned a bachelor's degree from St. Joseph's University in 1958.

He and his wife, Geraldine Sullivan Rosato, met when she was 14 and he was 17. He needed a date for his senior prom and their mothers, who knew each other from St. Joe's Prep Mothers Club, set them up, Ernest Rosato Jr. said.

Dr. Rosato and his wife married in 1960 and raised nine children in Newtown Square. For 15 years, he coached for the Wayne Little League and never missed his children's sporting events, his son said.

In recent years, Dr. Rosato and his wife traveled to New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Washington to attend their grandchildren's athletic and school events.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Rosato is survived by sons William, Rafael, Anthony, Gerard, Philip, and David; a daughter, Catherine Reilly; a sister; and 27 grandchildren. Another daughter, Sarah Marie, died in 2001. A brother, Francis E., who was chair of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, died in 2006.

A funeral will be at noon Saturday, Jan. 14, at Class of '44 Chapel, Episcopal Academy, 1785 Bishop White Dr., Newtown Square. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.

Donations may be made to the Ernest F. Rosato Professorship of Surgery, Penn Medicine Development, 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia 19104.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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