Calling on Courageous Leadership Like Pedro Ruiz, MD


Courageous leadership is relevant for any stage of an organization or individual patient encountering crisis and the choice of multiple options of how to proceed.


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Another prediction that I made a year ago, barring any personal disaster, was bound to come true. The column on March 30, 2023, said it all: “There Will Be More Psychiatrist Eulogies Like This One on Pedro Ruiz, MD: Social Psychiatric Prediction #7.” No surprise that there have been more eulogies that I have done this past year. But the corollary was inevitable, too. There could never be another on a psychiatrist like Pedro.

Dr Ruiz seemed to break the bank on psychiatrist leadership. First, he was a courageous champion for minority issues as these were just being addressed more adequately. Certainly, he helped pave the way for the upcoming CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association being a Black woman. Secondly, with his political acumen, he became president of most all major psychiatrist organizations, including following me as President of the American Association for Social Psychiatry at the turn of the new millennium when the organization was in danger of folding. It survived and now has a crucial role with all the social psychiatric challenges of our time which I have tried to cover, and which Vincenzo Di Nicola, MPhil, MD, PhD, FCAHS, is also beginning to do so in his new weekly column, “Second Thoughts.” One could conclude that Psychiatric Times is now the epicenter of the social psychiatric universe.

In this time of world conflict and change, effective political leadership is also crucial for safety, security, mental health, and self-actualization. It is not at all clear to me that we have such leadership now.

Perhaps courage in leadership is especially needed now in order to make difficult changes. As a book on the making of courageous leaders concluded, part of the necessary process included psychologically working on themselves.1 They intentionally chose to make something better of who they were, even in the midst of crisis, and never lost sight of the larger dynamic stress stage on which they found themselves. As a current example, we are watching that happen from the political leadership of Maryland after the bridge collapse disaster. Disaster psychiatry is also bound to play a role.

Courageous leadership is relevant for any stage of an organization or individual patient encountering crisis and the choice of multiple options of how to proceed.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Koehn N. Forged in Crisis. Scribner; 2018.

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