Un qué año increíble! What a year it has been! Dr. Pedro Ruiz, the 133rd President of APA, has led APA with wisdom, vision, and courage. He has had a profoundly positive impact on our organization, on American psychiatry, and on the treatment of persons with mental illness in this country and throughout the world.
Dr. Ruiz’s presidential theme, “Addressing Patient Needs: Access, Parity, and Humane Care,” has been addressed and actualized in a wide spectrum of initiatives utilizing new task forces and invigorating existing structures within our organization. He has revitalized and forged new relationships with advocacy groups and mental health organizations in this country and abroad.
These achievements, remarkable as they have been, have not surprised us, because they are the culmination of years of exemplary leadership within APA and other psychiatric organizations. They have been foreshadowed by a lifetime of achievements and accomplishments in many of the areas that are of central concern to our field.
In addition to leading APA, just since the year 2000 Dr. Ruiz has been President of the American College of Psychiatrists, President of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, President of the American Association of Social Psychiatry, and a member of the Executive Council of the World Psychiatric Association.
Within APA, Pedro has served on more than 40 components, including chairing both the Council on National Affairs and the Council on International Affairs, as well as serving as chair of the Scientific Program Committee of the annual meeting and chair of the Institute on Psychiatric Services. In each of these settings Dr. Ruiz’s vision, inclusiveness, and effectiveness in driving toward solutions has been enormously helpful.
Dr. Ruiz has been a leading academic and administrative psychiatrist for over three decades. He has been a leader at three major institutions, including the past 15 years at the University of Texas at Houston, where he is Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Mental Sciences Institute. Dr. Ruiz’s scholarly work has been prodigious. He has authored over 500 articles, books, chapters, and reviews and has been on the editorial boards of countless journals in many different languages. Pedro is multilingual and his command of languages has been extremely useful. En el “Board of Trustees,” se sabe que cuando Pedro dice “no entiendo,” usualmente quiere decir “lo entiendo bien, es una mala idea, y no va a pasar!”
The second APA President from Latin America (the first being Rodrigo Muñoz), Pedro Ruiz was born in Quemado de Güines, a small rural town in the middle of Cuba. His resilience and courage was forged early with the death of his father when he was 10 years old, and his own serious illness from a ruptured appendix and peritonitis 2 years later. This courage was demonstrated by Pedro’s vigorous participation in the student movement at the University of Havana challenging the Batista dictatorship. Pedro emigrated from Cuba at age 21 and was not able to return until last year. And what a return it was! Pedro’s warmth, vitality, scholarship, and leadership infused the conference and reinforced connections throughout Latin and North America.
At age 21, when Pedro Ruiz emigrated, he did not leave Cuba alone. His beloved Angela, whom he had met at the University of Havana, also immigrated to Paris, where Pedro began medical school and where they married. Angela’s warmth, support, insight, and generosity and their strong mutual devotion have been a great source of strength. Their son, Pedro Pablo, is an attorney and judge and their daughter, Angela Maria, is a pediatric social worker. As many APA members remember, the treasured twin grandsons and granddaughter, recently joined by another grandson, have been involved in Pedro’s campaigns and no doubt are in preparation for the next election—wherever that may be.
After receiving his M.D. in Paris and completing his psychiatric residency at the University of Miami, Pedro began his academic career at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His major positions at Einstein included Director of the Lincoln Hospital Community Mental Health Center, Director of the Bronx Psychiatric Center, and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His colleagues remember his skill and sensitivity in dealing with confrontations at the Lincoln Hospital Community Mental Health Center. Pedro’s attention and involvement in issues concerning minority and underprivileged patients and those who care for them has consistently been a central theme throughout his distinguished career. In Dr. Ruiz’s Presidential year, this has been reflected in the task force he appointed to galvanize efforts to improve access to psychiatric care for all who need it.
Pedro has also shown a special focus and attentiveness towards families and advocates of persons with mental illness. The historic summit he convened with the National Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health America strengthened those alliances. Also throughout his career, as well as being a role model, Pedro has been very attentive to our members who are themselves minorities. His inclusiveness in APA appointments this past year reflects that commitment and has strengthened and enriched our organization.
Throughout his career our President has also focused on areas traditionally neglected by our field. He has been a national and international leader in the area of substance use disorders. The textbook he co-edits, “Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook,” has been through four editions and is one of the most respected textbooks in the field of substance abuse both nationally and internationally. Dr. Ruiz has also been very attentive to ethical issues and issues of integrity. A special process initiated under his leadership ensures that conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts will not undermine the scholarly scientific work begun on the development of DSM-V.
Our President has been keenly aware of our shrinking world and the mutual enrichment achieved when countries work together to address the needs of persons with mental illness. Hence his extensive involvement over many years in the World Psychiatric Association, including his current position as Secretary for Meetings. As APA President, Pedro Ruiz has been an extraordinary ambassador for American psychiatry. In his Presidential year he has lectured on all six major continents, occasionally returning to Houston, Texas.
Indeed, what a year it has been, what a career it has been and continues to be, and what a remarkable person is Pedro Ruiz. It is my distinct privilege and great pleasure to introduce a dear friend, our outstanding and courageous leader, clinician and educator, APA’s 133rd President, Dr. Pedro Ruiz.