Milestones 2017 Honoree Dr. Stephen L. Ruedrich – Research & Medicine

Dr. Stephen L. Ruedrich, Milestones 2017 honoree of the Research & Medicine Award, was profoundly impacted by his first encounter with patients with autism and intellectual disabilities. Inspired by the courage of the individuals he met, Ruedrich decided to dedicate his career to making life better for persons with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders.

More than 40 years after that first experience, Dr. Ruedrich, who serves as the L. Douglas Lenkoski Professor of Psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, continues to positively impact the region by helping to demystify the process of seeking and receiving psychiatric care for patients and families.

In addition to his role at Case, Dr. Ruedrich serves as Vice-Chair, Chief of the Division of Adult Psychiatry and Chief Quality Officer in the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland. At University Hospitals, he has continued and expanded a focused clinical practice serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with co-morbid psychiatric or behavioral disorders.

How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

I hope that our work has made it easier for persons in Northeast Ohio with autism and special needs, who also have psychiatric or behavioral disorders, to seek and receive psychiatric care, and for their families to participate in their assessment and treatment. Our goal has been to normalize and demystify this process for patients and families, so that their level of comfort and confidence in seeking psychiatric care makes our office visit just one more pleasant community outing.

How has helping others shaped your life?

My first opportunity to work with persons with autism and intellectual disabilities was in 1978, at a State of Ohio Developmental Center. From the first day, I was inspired by the courage of the individuals I met, and the grace and dedication of the families and staff caring for them. It was an easy decision to want to become a part of this universe. I have been blessed since by every encounter with patients and families in the special needs community, and have tried to learn from each experience. I hope I am still learning, because they are still teaching.

What is your message to inspire others to serve the autism and special needs community?

My favorite bumper sticker offers this simple wisdom: “The soul of our nation is tied to how well we treat our most vulnerable members.” Together, we have much work to do.


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