Celebrating the life of Pedro Ruiz, MD…
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
Whether any of my previous social psychiatric predictions come to pass in any way is uncertain and even unlikely. But today’s is a certainty. We will continue to lose psychiatrists, including those who have specialized in the social aspects of psychiatry and, in my perspective, the social starts with relationships.
Pedro Ruiz (1936-2023) died recently. It was his collegial relationships, including with me, that set him apart as a social psychiatrist.
After he died, other social psychiatrists sing his praises, including:
“. . . the avuncular Cuban Don of progressive psychiatry!”
“. . . he was the quintessential social psychiatrist for all time, both in advocacy and in practice.”
“He was so kind and helpful . . .”
Suggestions for memorial awards also came in, still to be decided.
Although it is easy to collect information on the career of Pedro Ruiz, I had the extra advantage of working fairly closely with him in the 1980s at Baylor College of Medicine. Maybe that was meant to be in some way because we were both inspired by reading Freud in our teenage years.
At Baylor, he became chief of our public psychiatric hospital, while I was medical director of the largest community mental health center. This arrangement had its benefits and limitations. If continuity of care was important, having 2 public systems under different contractual relationships was a limitation. I could not follow my clinic’s patients in the hospital if I wanted to. But our common home base of Baylor and identification as social psychiatrists provided good communication and understanding.
That relationship proved dividends when we became presidents of the American Association for Social Psychiatry (AASP) around the new millennium. Mine was 1998-2000, as I was drafted to save the organization as its members were dwindling. Pedro then took over, and with his extensive collegial contacts, the AASP got on more solid footing, which continues to this day.
The AASP Presidency was only one of many for Pedro in the USA and globally. I ended up calling him “President Pedro,” a reflection of his being such a savvy political psychiatrist.
Our time together in Houston also illustrated what a family man he was. He was the husband of the beloved Angela. When we coedited a book together, for his chapter on psychiatric diagnosis, his son, Pedro P. Ruiz, a premed student at the time, was his coauthor.1 Moreover, like much in his purview, this book had prophetic aspects. Written for nursing and other allied professionals over 3 decades ago, it predicted how widespread nurses, especially nurse practitioners and peer specialists, were to come in community and general psychiatry.
As the popular song goes, “there will never be another you,” Pedro. In turn, that should remind us, that in the future, we should do what we can to honor those who have done so much for psychiatry in any way before the pass away.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.
1. Moffic HS, Ruiz P, Adams G, eds. Mental Health Care For Allied Health and Nursing Professionals. Warren H. Green, Inc; 1989.