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John Edward Donley, M.D.

(1870 – 1960)

A lifelong Rhode Island resident, Dr. Donley attended elementary and high school in Providence, R.I., graduating from Classical High School. He then attended Seton Hall College where he graduated in 1897 with an A.B. and continued his graduate work there, attaining his A.M. in 1899. Dr. Donley enrolled in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, completing his program in 1902 and post-doctorate work in psychiatry in 1904. Upon completion of his program, he moved back to Providence, R.I. and began his specialist work as a neuropsychiatrist, with research interests in nervous and mental diseases/disorders.

Dr. Donley was a dedicated practitioner, researcher, and scholar. He is recognized as a pioneer in the field of clinical hypnoidization and hypnosis in the treatment of mental disease/disorders. Additionally, he was a strong advocate for individuals with disabilities. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized him for his “outstanding service to the disabled in Rhode Island.”

Dr. Donley served as President of: the Mills Neurological Society, the Providence Medical Association, the Rhode Island Medical Society; Editor-in-Chief of the Rhode Island Medical Society; Assistant Editor for the Journal of Abnormal Psychology of Boston, and was selected Chapin Orator from Rhode Island. He was also a member of numerous medical societies/associations, including the American Psycho-Pathology Society, the American Medical Association, the Rhode Island Medico-Legal Society, and the Providence Medical Society. In addition, he was a consulting physician at the following hospitals: St. Joseph’s, Butler, Roger Williams, Providence City, Westerly, Woonsocket, Miriam, Rhode Island, and Pawtucket Memorial Hospital.

Dr. John E. Donley Dr. John E. Donley

He was the recipient of Honorary Degrees in Law from Seton Hall University and Providence College for his outstanding work in medicine. He was the keynote speaker at Providence College’s 2nd Commencement. In 1943, Governor J. Howard McGrath appointed him as the first Medical Director of the Curative Centre of Rhode Island. Under the direction of Dr. Donley, the Curative Centre of Rhode Island was recognized as a worldwide model in the treatment and care of injured workers.

In September 1960, at the time of his passing, the Rhode Island Medical Society dedicated an issue of their Journal in honor of Dr. Donley, stating: “Dr. Donley was not only a gentleman and a scholar, but he was also a man who could view his patients with compassion and understanding that not only endeared him to them but greatly enhanced the help which he could give them. The Journal is proud of his career as a neuropsychiatrist, and of his attainments as a student of the classics, and of the honors that have been awarded to him. Although he is no more its leader, the Journal in its work will long feel the influence of his wisdom, his judgment, and his kindly spirit, which will be a lasting impression to those who carry on in the years to come.”

Proudly in 1961, the Curative Centre of Rhode Island was renamed in his honor, as the Dr. John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center.
Dr. Donley left an indelible legacy to the medical field as well as to the treatment of injured workers.


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5/21/19 MDF