In Memoriam: Trail-Blazing U.Va. Physician Ruth Weeks

February 17, 2012

February 17, 2012 — Dr. Ruth B. Weeks, one of the first women graduates of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and later an associate professor of behavioral medicine and psychiatry at U.Va., died Feb. 14 in Greene County. She was 86.

Weeks became an active physician and community leader, as well as being the first woman to hold several posts, including being elected the first woman president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia in 1983.

Born in Toronto in 1925, she moved to Charlottesville in 1949 with her first husband Kenneth Bley, who taught English at U.Va. For the next several years, Weeks devoted her time to acting and appeared in a number of plays as a member of the Virginia Players.

After Bley died in 1953, Weeks took pre-med classes and attended the U.Va. Medical School. She married Peter V.R. Weeks in December 1959. After graduating in 1960, she interned at the Bronx Hospital in New York City. Weeks then returned to U.Va. and trained in adult and child psychiatry, eventually joining the faculty as an associate professor. She was among the first generation of women faculty in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Weeks served as an associate member of the School of Medicine admissions committee from 1969 to 1975, on the electives committee from 1972 until 1977, and as chair of the Committee for Women from 1975 until 1977. She also served on the Undergraduate Teaching Committee in the psychiatry department from 1974 until 1977.

Weeks took up private practice from 1977 until retiring in 1994. She later volunteered with several causes, and returned to U.Va. on the staff of the Under Fives Study Center as clinical associate professor of psychiatric medicine and instructional faculty until her final retirement in 2000. Weeks was a founding member of the advisory committee and board of Planned Parenthood of Charlottesville.

She also served on the boards of Compassionate Friends, Commonwealth Center for Literacy and Cultural Change and the Charlottesville Free Clinic. She received many honors and awards, including being named one of the 30 most influential people in the community by the Charlottesville Observer in 1982; named Woman of the Year by the Virginia Women's Forum in 1984; recognized by the Psychiatric Society of Virginia in 1990 for her service as chair of the ethics committee from 1982 to 1989; and being awarded the Dorothy Cardwell Knickerbocker Award by Planned Parenthood of Blue Ridge in 1996. In 2000, she received the Women in Medicine Leadership Award for her many contributions to the advancement of women in medicine.

She is survived by a son, a daughter, a stepdaughter, several grandchildren and other members of her extended family. A private memorial will be held.

— By Anne Bromley

Charlottesville Daily Progress obituary