John Ruark, MS, MD, FACP (‘73)
Portola Valley, CA
Profession: Psychiatrist, Thanatologist Medical Educator and Ethicist
Johnston Emphasis: Interpersonal Communication
John easily identifies the skills that he learned at Johnston, and how he has put these skills to use in his career. "The complex activities of intervening, psychotherapy, and teaching in highly stressful medical situations all involve very delicate negotiations that respect the self and others. As a teacher (of medical students for the first 15 years, and of post-doctoral psychiatry residents for the last 15) I must build curricula carefully. Interdisciplinary by nature, my field requires a blend of skillful cognition, emotional attunement to others, and deep self-awareness. Johnston is the first place I learned about both awareness of self and awareness of others in any deep way."
"Psychotherapy requires holding a balance between these two while remaining curious. Johnston was the site of my first encounter with fierce curiosity. Johnston is also where I was first encouraged to think about death. All these influences sent me down my academic pathway toward counseling the dying and grieving, educating doctors on how to deal with end-of-life issues, and directly consulting complex situations surrounding treatment and its withdrawal in life-threatening circumstances."
John compiled a short catalog of the things he values learning most at Johnston: "encouragement toward self-awareness, empathy, compassion, curiosity, intellectual honesty, body awareness, and independence of thought." John hopes for similar rewards for current students, "that they are as enabled to move forward into an exciting and meaningful career and life as I was."