Pedro Ruiz, MD, a man who rose from humble beginnings in rural Cuba to become a significant contributor to the field of Psychiatry, passed away on March 14 in League City, Texas at the age of 86. “Pillo” as he was affectionately dubbed for his sharp mind by those closest to him, was born on his maternal grandparent’s farm, “El Manacal”, in Quemado de Guines in the province of Las Villas, Cuba, to Pedro Ruiz Fonseca and Rosa Maria Quintero Hortas. At a young age, together with his sister Rosita “Tata”, his family moved to the neighboring town of Santo Domingo where he lived adjacent to the Singer Sewing Machine store where his father and then later his mother worked. After the sudden death of his father at the age of 10, Pedro was embraced by a large extended family network of aunts and uncles, and in particular, a beloved aunt Evira Costales “Tita” and neighbor Sarquis Gomez who became a second mother and father to him during his formative years. Pedro went on to obtain his “Bachillerato” in accounting at the Instituto de Seguna Ensenañza de Santa Clara before moving forward with his desire to study medicine. Upon passing his medical school entrance exam, he initiated his studies at the University of Havana School of Medicine in 1954. However, his pursuit of a medical degree was interrupted when the Batista Dictatorship closed the university in 1956, leading to a two-year period of exile in Spain. After his return to Cuba, Pedro met his future wife, Angela Danta, in 1960 and courted her for a year while they were both studying at the University of Havana. Yet, events related to the Cuban revolution forced him to abruptly leave Cuba once more in January 1961 where he returned to Spain, and then later to France to continue his medical studies at the University of Paris. During this time, Pedro continued his courtship with Angela through weekly letters until she was able to join him in Paris where they were married. Pedro and Angela’s first home together was his small room in the Casa de Cuba dormitory where he lived in close community with a tight-knit group of life-long friends, many who were also Cuban exiles. During this time, Pedro and Angela welcomed their son, Pedro Pablo. With steely determination, ten years after first starting his medical studies, Pedro finally achieved his medical degree at the University of Paris in 1964, and upon graduation, ventured back across the Atlantic Ocean to begin his residency in general psychiatry at the University of Miami. As a young psychiatrist, Pedro began his academic career in 1968 at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he became the Director of the Lincoln Hospital Community Mental Health Center in South Bronx, New York. It was during this time that Pedro and Angela welcomed their daughter, Angela Maria. Pedro’s passionate work with minority and underprivileged patients in the South Bronx was well noted, leading to additional positions as Director of the Bronx State Psychiatric Center, tenured Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vice Chair of the Albert Einstein Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. In 1981, Pedro relocated his family from New York to Houston after accepting a position as tenured professor for Baylor College of Medicine and Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His life’s mission to address disparities in access to mental health care for underserved communities continued through his concurrent appointment as the Chief of Psychiatry at Ben Taub General Hospital. Pedro would later transition to the UT Houston McGovern Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences also as a Tenured Professor of Psychiatry. It was during his tenure at UT that he achieved his greatest professional recognitions, having been elected as President of the American College of Psychiatrists (2000-2001), the American Association of Social Psychiatry (2000-2002), the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (2002-2003), the American Psychiatric Association (2006-2007), the World Psychiatric Association (2008-2011) and the World Association on Dual Disorders (2015-2018, 2018-2021). Pedro was also a world-renowned speaker, travelling throughout many countries to speak on a wide breadth of topics within psychiatry, particularly on the themes of dual disorders, crosscultural psychiatry, and mental health parity. However, his likely most personally significant speaking engagement was his triumphant return to Cuba almost 50 years later as one of the key presenters at the 2009 World Psychiatric Association conference in Havana. In 2011, Pedro Ruiz moved to Miami where he would serve in his final professional position as Professor of Psychiatry and Executive Vice-Chairman and Director of Clinical Programs at the University of Miami School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, thus completing an illustrious career at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he had begun his practice of psychiatry 50 years earlier. Over the span of his career, Pedro served on more than 40 editorial boards, sat on countless National and International Committees and authored more than 1000 publications, most notably “Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook” and the Ninth and Tenth editions of “Kaplan & Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry”. His accomplishments, awards and recognition are too many to list. In an excerpt from the journal, “The Psychiatrist”, first published in 2011, Pedro shared his reflections on his reasons for entering medicine, “I decided to become a physician at age 10 when my father died from an unknown cause. I almost died at age 12 from peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix, which kept me in bed for about 6 months. A few years later, when I was about 15 years old, I read some of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Stekel’s writings. I decided to become a psychiatrist at this time.” Pedro also shared how he would like to be remembered, “As a physician/psychiatrist who cared not only for those with illnesses, including mental illness, but also cared for the most disadvantaged and poorest individuals across the world.” In his lifetime, Pedro embraced the importance of hard work and education, a value he instilled in his children and grandchildren. Pedro Ruiz is predeceased by his father Pedro Ruiz Fonseca, his mother Rosa Maria Quintero Hortas, his father-in-law Pablo Danta Cabrera, his mother-in-law Cardidad Cardenas Torres and his granddaughter Cecilia Therese Ruiz. He is survived by his beloved wife Angela Ruiz Danta, his son Pedro Pablo Ruiz (Julie Santos Ruiz ) of Galveston, Texas, his daughter Angela Maria Ruiz-Holguin (Omar Holguin Jr) of Houston, Texas, his grandchildren Francisco Ruiz, Pedro Ruiz Jr, Omar Holguin III, and Pablo Holguin, and a sister Rosa Maria Ruiz Quintero (Adrian Perez Franco) of Madrid, Spain.
A celebration of Pedro’s life will be held at Crowder funeral Home, 1645 East Main Street in League City, Texas on Saturday, March 18 with visitation at 1 pm, followed by a service at 2 pm. A second celebration will be held in Miami on Saturday March 25 with burial following at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Doral, Florida. In lieu of flowers, donations in Pedro Ruiz’s name may be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Alzheimer’s Association.
Services in Miami will be held on March 25, 2023, at Memorial Plan Westchester funeral home located at 9800 SW 24th St., Miami, Fl 33165. Visitation will take place at 11am followed by a service at 12:00pm, burial will follow at Our lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Doral, Fl