Ralph M. Schrager, 58, of Elkins Park, a specialist in the care of fragile and seriously ill newborns, died Friday, May 13, of complications from acute leukemia at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

A beloved and influential physician, Dr. Schrager joined the Abington Memorial Hospital staff in 2006 as an attending neonatologist. In a career lasting three decades, he saved the lives of thousands of babies, many of them born prematurely.

"He was excellent in both his practical and diagnostic skills, as well as his empathy and compassionate care of families," said his wife, Debbie. "He was loved and respected and admired by his coworkers."

Dr. Schrager was born in Newark, N.J., and graduated from Westfield (N.J.) High School.

He received his bachelor's degree in 1979 and his medical degree in 1983, both from the University of Pennsylvania. He served a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in neonatology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

In 1988, Dr. Schrager founded the intensive-care nursery at Frankford Torresdale Hospital and remained there as chief of neonatology until the maternity unit was closed in 2006.

He enjoyed fishing and golfing, and playing on the softball team at his synagogue, Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park. He was involved in various aspects of Jewish community life and made "the best matzo ball soup around," his wife said.

He was an avid Philadelphia sports fan.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his mother, Gloria O.; sons Joshua and Benjamin; and a brother.

Services were Sunday, May 15.

Contributions may be made to the Ralph M. Schrager Memorial Fund, c/o David Schiller, 530 Swede St., Norristown, Pa. 19401. The fund benefits the special-care nursery at Abington Memorial Hospital.

bcook@phillynews.com

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