Dr. Maria de M. Ruehsen, a retired Baltimore gynecological endocrinologist who worked at Johns Hopkins Health System's Homewood Hospital Center-South, died Nov. 2 at Maine General Medical Center in Augusta of bronchiectasis, a condition that damages the airways.
Dr. Ruehsen, who was 82, had been visiting her son when she fell ill.
"Dr. Ruehsen — Marita as I called her — was an outstanding medical student and later a physician. We both went to the USA as residents and we lived in the same place, Baltimore," said Dr. Marcio V. Pinheiro, who was a medical school classmate in Brazil.
The daughter of Dr. Alfredo Peixoto de Moraes, a dentist and a poet, and Jandyra Sousa de Moraes, an educator, Maria das Dores Sousa de Moraes was born and raised in Mariana, Brazil.
"In Brazil, the education system is different. You go right to the college and go straight through," said her daughter, Dr. Moyara "Mo" Ruehsen of Monterey, Calif. "She earned her medical degree in 1957 from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
"Her first love was research and teaching, but to become a medical school professor, she also needed to earn a doctorate," her daughter said.
Grants from the Fulbright Commission and the American Association of University Women allowed Dr. Ruehsen to come to Baltimore in 1961 to study gynecological endocrinology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital under Dr. Georgeanna Seeger Jones, who was one of the pioneers of in vitro fertilization.
In Dr. Ruehsen's dissertation, she documented the physiology of premature ovarian failure and named it "Savage Syndrome" after her first patient, a Ms. Savage, her daughter said.
Under the name of deMoraes-Ruehsen, she wrote several other papers related to this subject.
"But her original work, published in Fertility and Sterility in 1967, continues to be cited by researchers," said her daughter.
Another article she co-authored with Dr. Jones, "Induction of Ovulation with Human Gonadotropins and with Clomiphene," was awarded the Rubin Award for the best paper of the year in Fertility and Sterility.
Dr. Ruehsen was also a lifelong advocate of reproductive choice, giving public lectures on birth control as early as the 1960s.
During her fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she had to do rounds in the emergency room in the days before Roe v. Wade, regularly attending to women dying of infections or hemorrhaging from illegal back alley abortions, and delivering babies from girls as young as 11, her daughter said.
"She worked at Johns Hopkins in the GYN department, and after that she became a pathologist," said Dr. Pinheiro, a psychiatrist who returned to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 2001.
"As a physician she was very competent, objective and a big help to many Brazilians in moments of health crises. She went out of her way to find the proper care for Brazilians who would look for her in the USA," he said. "That included me and my close family. We all trusted her a lot. And she was always willing to help with her kind, objective and competent words in moments of crises."
After she completed a second residency in 1971 in anatomic pathology, Dr. Ruehsen headed the cytopathology laboratory at Wyman Park Hospital. In 1988, she became chief of anatomic pathology at the Homewood Hospital Center-South, which was operated by the Johns Hopkins Health System.
At the time of her retirement in 1999, the hospital had been purchased from Hopkins by Mariner Health Systems.
"I would go every week to the public health hospital [Wyman Park] where she worked and reviewed cases that they had difficulty with," said Dr. Jonathan I. Epstein, an expert in urological pathology, who is also a professor of pathology, urology and oncology and an attending pathologist at Hopkins Hospital.
"I can only say she was a very dedicated pathologist who tried to do the very best for her patients. Maria was an extremely kind and generous individual who also supported my prostate cancer research at Hopkins," said Dr. Epstein. "Despite many serious illnesses, she was always optimistic and never complained."
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