Dr. Betty W. Robinson, psychiatrist

Betty W. Robinson, M.D.
(Baltimore Sun)

Dr. Betty W. Robinson, a psychiatrist who had been director of inpatient services at the Walter P. Carter Center in downtown Baltimore and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, died June 19 of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The longtime Stoneleigh resident was 84.

The daughter of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad office worker and a bookkeeper, Betty Lee Wilmas was born and raised in St. Louis, where she graduated in 1944 from Wills High School.

"After Pearl Harbor, when education was accelerated during World War II, she was admitted to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine as a teenager in a class with a small number of women," said a daughter, Gail F. Robinson of Towson.

Dr. Robinson was among 10 women in the class. It was the last class that contained women for a decade because returning World War II veterans were given priority for admission to the medical college.

"She earned her bachelor's and medical degree in six years, graduating in 1950," her daughter said.

In 1948, she married Dr. Kent E. Robinson, who also graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in psychiatry.

After her graduation, she began a rotating internship at Cincinnati General Hospital and also assisted in the clinic there. She later joined her husband, who was chief of psychiatry at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, S.C.

After her husband was discharged in 1953 from the Navy, the couple came to Baltimore, where he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and began training at the Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute.

He later held the post of chief of psychiatry at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center for 22 years. He died in 1987.

Dr. Robinson took a professional break to raise her four children and worked part-time in general medical clinics until the mid-1960s, when she began a 41/2 -year residency at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.

After completing her residency, she remained at Sheppard Pratt from 1970 to 1980, practicing inpatient and outpatient treatment, with an emphasis on adolescent and young adult mental health, and also supervising residents in psychiatry.

During this period, Dr. Robinson also directed mental health centers at several area colleges, including Goucher College, Towson University and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

From 1980 to 1984, she was director of inpatient services at Walter P. Carter Center, a state psychiatric hospital located on West Fayette Street.

She left the center in 1984 to go into private practice, and for the next 13 years was a guest lecturer and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she also supervised residents.

Dr. Robinson retired in 1997.

Dr. Bruce Hershfield, a Sparks psychiatrist, was a close friend and colleague of nearly 40 years.

"When I came to Sheppard Pratt in 1974, she and her husband were very kind to me. Betty inspired a lot of young psychiatrists because she was a role model of what a psychiatrist should be," said Dr. Hershfield.

"She was empathetic, no-nonsense and devoted to her patients and psychiatry," he said. "She stood up for her patients and demanded that they be treated as people."

Dr. James P. McGee, a psychiatrist who retired as director of law enforcement and forensic services at Sheppard Pratt, recalled how Dr. Robinson and her husband had "adopted him."

"I was an intern there in 1969-1970, and I was barely 30, and they took me under their wing and Kent was later my supervisor," recalled Dr. McGee.

"They were both real pros. Betty was a real sweet person but could be a tough customer and didn't suffer fools gladly," he said. "She was well respected in the mental health community."

Dr. Robinson was a longtime member, former president and later a life fellow of the Maryland Psychiatric Society, which presented her its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Dr. Robinson also served as the first president of the newly formed East Coast chapter of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and served as national chairman of its continuing education program for many years.

Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Robinson began fighting cancer.

"She had her first oral cancer surgery, the first of six, in 1989, and in 2008 survived lung cancer," her daughter said. "She was a feisty fighter, and because of the surgeries, this is why she retired."

Dr. Robinson was an active member of a head and neck surgery support group at GBMC's Milton J. Dance Head and Neck Center.

Dorothy Gold is the senior oncology social worker at the center and coordinator of the support group.

"Betty was a good role model because she had gone through multiple surgeries and maintained a positive attitude and led a normal life," said Ms. Gold. "She always wanted to give encouragement to recent patients."

The Stevenson Lane resident and her husband had been avid music and theater lovers and had been subscribers to the Morris Mechanic and Lyric theaters. She also enjoyed taking her children and grandchildren to Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Kid Concerts and performances of the Left Bank Jazz Society.

In retirement, she volunteered at the Assistance Center of Towson Churches and attended the Renaissance Institute at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

She had been a communicant for 58 years of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.

A memorial presentation will be held 7 p.m. July 11 at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road, in Rodgers Forge.

Also surviving are a son, Kent S. Robinson of Portland, Ore.; two other daughters, Ann R. Nienaber of Cincinnati and Jill R. Robinson of Columbia; and six grandchildren.


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