Dr. Ratcliffe receives Norman Boyer Award

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board Chair Kathy Romich presents Dr. Robert Ratcliffe with the 2011 Norman Boyer award for Ratcliffe’s service in mental health. A luncheon was held in Ratcliffe’s honor on Monday, May 23 at the Melrose Inn in Tryon, sponsored by the Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board. (photo by Leah Justice).

The Norman Boyer Award, given annually for work in mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability service, was awarded to Dr. Robert Ratcliffe this year.

Ratcliffe was honored during a luncheon held Monday, May 23 at the Melrose Inn, sponsored by the Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board.

Stephen Cefalu, a clinical social worker who works with Ratcliffe at St. Luke’s Hospital in the geriatric psychiatry unit, introduced Ratcliffe, saying he needs no introduction with all he has accomplished.

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Cefalu said Ratcliffe brought the center for behavioral medicine to St. Luke’s almost 15 years ago and has kept it thriving ever since. According to Cefalu, Ratcliffe has delivered close to half a century of psychiatric care all over North and South Carolina and humbly keeps his accomplishments and autobiography locked away.

Dr. Ratcliffe earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cefalu said. He graduated from medical school at the University of Virginia. He was a professor of English at VMI and served in the military during Korea and Vietnam, among many other accomplishments.

At one point, Dr. Ratcliffe essentially ran the eastern North Carolina mental health division, said Cefalu. While providing services at St. Luke’s, Ratcliffe also provided services at Broughton Hospital, and he was once named the physician of the year in Alamance County.

Cefalu said Ratcliffe conducts himself in an extremely admirable manner, not just in psychiatry but in life. Cefalu said Ratcliffe is a life-long teacher and imparts knowledge to others all the while being humble and unassuming.

Ratcliffe learns the first names of everyone he encounters and uses them, said Cefalu. Ratcliffe is also generous with his time and resources, Cefalu said.

“It doesn’t matter that his IQ is 300 times your own,” Cefalu said, “he is always seeking input from others and works hard to make everyone feel equal.”

Cefalu congratulated Ratcliffe on receiving the honor, saying he will always be remembered as a key figure in mental health services.

“It’s a real honor,” said Dr. Ratcliffe after accepting the award. “It’s a special honor because I knew Dr. Boyer very well.”

Ratcliffe said he accepts the Norman Boyer award on behalf of the St. Luke’s geriatric psychiatry unit because if they did not exist, “I certainly would not be here.”

Ratcliffe was joined at the luncheon by his team and his wife, Judy Ratcliffe, along with many community and professional people of Polk County.

Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board Chair Kathy Romich introduced the program and presented a plaque to Dr. Ratcliffe.

She said the Norman Boyer award originated to honor Polk County residents who promote mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services in the community, just as Dr. Norman Boyer did in the 1970s. That was when Boyer began the first outpatient program in Columbus, which eventually moved to Tryon. Dr. Boyer was a psychiatrist who was employed with Broughton Hospital and was given the task to develop outpatient programs in Polk, Henderson and Rutherford counties, Romich said.

“(Boyer) was instrumental in obtaining the old St. Luke’s Hospital [the Jervey-Palmer building in Tryon] and beginning the Meeting Place Senior Center,” Romich said. “He was on the Rutherford-Polk Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Area Program Board and served for many years on the Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board.”

Previous recipients of the Norman Boyer Award, many of whom attended Monday’s luncheon, include:

• Diane Poague;

• Rob and Leslie Huntley;

• Rob Fuller;

• Cathy Brooks;

• Eloise Thwing;

• Sue Rhodes;

• Pat Dockendorf;

• Stan Bayne;

• Jeff Carter;

• Rachel Ramsey;

• Esther Boblit and

• Dr. Gordon Schneider.