Dr. William Ruhe (1915-2007), a pioneer medical educator and professional leader, helped design and develop an accreditation system that is still used for the continuing medical education of physicians and PAs today. In 1960, Dr. Ruhe went to work for the American Medical Association (AMA) as Assistant Secretary of the Council on Medical Education. In 1972, he envisioned an all-encompassing accreditation system that took time and effort to put in place. As a result, accreditation organizations were created for residency education (the Liaison Committee for Graduate Medical Education), continuing medical education (the Liaison Committee for Continuing Medical Education), and allied health education (the Committee for Allied Health Education Accreditation). These accrediting bodies were similar to the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, which began accrediting medical schools in 1942. In 1976, Dr. Rhue became the Group Vice President for Medical Education, and subsequently the Senior Vice President for Medical Education and Scientific Affairs for the AMA. He retired in 1982.
Dr. Ruhe was in a pivotal position to support the development of accreditation standards for PA educational programs that were being established throughout the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, the AMA was involved in accrediting allied health education through its Committee on Allied Health Professions and Services. Dr. Ruhe established a committee that included representatives of specialty organizations in internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine, as well as the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAM) to develop a set of guidelines titled, “Essentials for Educational Programs for the Assistant to the Primary Care Physician.” The Essentials were adopted overwhelmingly by the AMA House of Delegates in 1971 which led in turn to the establishment of the Joint Review Committee for Educational Programs for the Assistant to the Primary Care Physician (JRC-PA). Accreditation of PA programs began in 1972. His belief that continuing medical education should be a requirement for recertification, was adopted by family medicine and PAs; two health professionals that he supported and advocated for during their fledgling years.
Dr. Ruhe, a native Pennsylvanian, attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning a BS in 1937 and a MD in 1940. He served his internship at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh from 1940-1941. Upon the completion of the internship, Dr. Ruhe was asked to join the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and remained there until 1960 when he took a position with the AMA. Beginning as an instructor, he progressed to become an Associate Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology and from 1955-1960 served as Assistant and Associate Dean of the Medical School.
Dr. Ruhe was a member and head of the Phi Rho Sigma medical society; being initiated in 1936. In addition to his other duties, he served as president of the Society for Health and Human Values (1976-1977). In his honor, the Arizona Medical Association established in 1998 the C.H. William Ruhe, M.D. Award to recognize meritorious achievement and innovation in continuing medical education in Arizona. Dr. Ruhe lived in Rio Verde, AZ at the time of his death on April 30, 2007 at the age of 91.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Reginald Carter and submitted to the Society in September 2021. Information for this biography was extracted from online biographical information including an obituary that appeared in The Arizona Republic on May 24, 2007 and can be accessed online at C. Ruhe Obituary (2007) – Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Republic (legacy.com). The photograph of Dr. Ruhe is courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System.