Ralph T. Behling, M.D. '43 and B.S. '40, of San Mateo, Calif., The Dr. Philip B. Wels Award

By Barbara A. Byers

Release Date: March 3, 2009

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Ralph Behling

A retired dermatologist whose medical career spanned 40 years, Ralph Behling earned his bachelor's degree from UB in pharmacy, completed medical school in three years and spent his residency at E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, where he treated patients in the facility's varicose vein, syphilis and outpatient dermatology clinics and taught dermatology to UB seniors.

It was at Meyer Memorial, now the Erie County Medical Center, where he met his first wife, Rita. M. Clancy '40, who was the head nurse on the hospital's psychiatric ward.

The first physician in the Buffalo area to use injected penicillin to fight infection, Behling worked for the U.S. Public Health Service after his residency and was awarded a $1 million grant to help standardize cancer treatment nationwide.

Upon relocating to California, in 1950 Behling began a private practice. He also taught at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and ran the San Mateo County venereal disease clinic. In addition, Behling created tumor clinics in major hospitals, and is responsible for introducing the Pap smear to doctors west of the Mississippi, allowing for improved detection and early diagnosis of cervical and uterine cancers.

A generous benefactor of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Nursing, Behling also chaired the 2003 medical school reunion. He recently committed $3 million for the creation of a human simulation center, a necessary tool in educating the next generation of physicians and health science professionals, which will be used in all five of UB's health science schools.

He endowed the $1.5 million Rita M. and Ralph T. Behling, M.D., Chair in Dermatology at the medical school in memory of his wife, who died in 1998, which provides for research to benefit dermatology patients.

After retiring from medicine in 1984, Behling became involved in the real estate business. His civic activities include the Kiwanis Club, the Masons and Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his various affiliations with numerous medical professional associations, he is on the board of directors of the local Salvation Army, sings in a barbershop quartet and is a tenor in his church choir.