Author Tags: Biography, Jewish, Medicine, Physician Author
Doctor, social activist and feminist Ruth Simkin first revealed her personal challenges in a memoir that recounted her successful struggle to overcome misunderstood epilepsy, The Jagged Years of Ruthie J (Ekstasis Editions, 2010).
This has now been followed by What Makes You Happy: Memories and Fiction (Ekstasis $25.95), a diverse collection of stories—some fictionalized—with poignant and humorous accounts of her work as a physician.
What Makes You Happy ranges from the big subjects—God, death and cruelty—to miniscule but formative experiences, such as remembering her backyard conversations with animals as a child. And then there was the time when Simkin was chastised by a religious Jew who passed by the yard and objected to five-year-old Ruth whistling on the Sabbath.
Cumulatively it’s a deeply humanist affirmation of life from a Jewish-raised doctor, born in Winnipeg, who became a specialist in palliative care.
In the early 1990s, Simkin moved to Salt Spring Island where she became a farmer of “yuppie veggies” for almost ten years before returning to medicine as the first fellow to study palliative care at the UBC Faculty of Medicine.
After her three-year fellowship she became certified by the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, becoming a specialist in pain and symptom management of dying people. For five years, she worked at the Victoria Hospice during which time she left Salt Spring Island and moved to Victoria.
Ruth Simkin’s first book, Like an Orange on a Seder Plate (Self-published, 1999), has been described as a feminist Passover Haggadah. Having lived and studied in Canada, the U.S., Israel, China, England and Russia, Simkin has also published many medical articles on women’s health.
In recent years, Simkin was active with a pet therapy program (PATS) and she served on the board of directors of the cultural group Out of the Box Productions for four years. She was active in volunteer work for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, became a taiko drummer, and was involved in theatrical productions at the Vancouver Island Jewish Community Congregation Emanu-El.
Ruth Simkin received a copy of her new book while she herself is currently in palliative care. 978-1-77171-127-2
Like an Orange on a Seder Plate: Our Lesbian Haggadah (R. Simkin 1999) 0968477909
The Jagged Years of Ruthie J (Ekstasis Editions 2010) 9781897430545 $24.95
What Makes You Happy (Ekstasis 2015) $25.95
from The author
FROM THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE
Born in Winnipeg on March 18, 1944, Ruth is the eldest of four siblings. Winnipeg was home while she attended Perez School for Jewish Education, then public Junior High and High School, and the University of Manitoba.
Ruth then went to live in Washington, DC for five years, where she studied at Trinity College, receiving a degree in Physics and Chemistry. While at Trinity College, she did research for the National Institutes of Health in cancer chemotherapy. She also discovered a constant in Physical Chemistry and was presented with the Hillebrand Junior Award from the Chemical Society of Washington.
After graduation, Ruth travelled around the world for one year, mostly backpacking and having wonderful adventures.
Canada called and Ruth moved to Calgary, in order to attend the new medical school. Ruth graduated from the first class of the University of Calgary Medical School in 1973 and completed a residency in Family Medicine, immediately opening a practice in Calgary while working as a professor and preceptor at the medical school as well. She was the first person from the new medical school to open up a medical practice, which was very successful for many years.
Part of her residency found Ruth working in Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel, where she studied for four months, in the 1970's.
In 1982, she took a World Health Organization approved acupuncture course at the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, living and working in Shanghai, China, and subsequently became the first family physician to be approved by the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to incorporate acupuncture into her medical practice.
The late 80's found Ruth working as staff doctor at Alexandria Community Health Centre in Calgary, where she spent five years building up community medicine in the area. An interest in PMS took her to London, England to study with Dr. Katerina Dalton, the physician who coined the name and first brought PMS to the public's attention. Upon her return, she opened one of the first PMS clinics in Canada, certainly the first in Western Canada.
Ruth loves to be in the forefront of new enterprises, and in the late 1980’s, opened up Western Canada’s first hologram gallery, Holomagic. There, she exhibited both art holography and sold many types of popular holograms and holographic jewellery and novelties.
While in Calgary, she was very active in her community, being involved in Alberta Theatre Projects and the building of the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts, and starting the first lesbian and gay political action group, CLAGPAG. She produced many concerts there over the years, especially for the lesbian/feminist population. She left Calgary with several honours, specifically a Woman of the Year Award, and a Speak Sebastian Award of Distinction.
In the early 1990's Ruth moved to Salt Spring Island where she became a farmer of yuppie veggies for almost ten years. She then returned to medicine, becoming the first fellow to study palliative care at The University of British Columbia Medical School. She did a fellowship for almost three years, and subsequently became board certified by the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, becoming a specialist in pain and symptom management of dying people. For five years, she worked at the Victoria Hospice during which time she left Salt Spring Island and moved to Victoria.
Over the years, she has written countless medical papers and contributed to textbooks, as well as being involved in many mixed media presentations. Besides her medical writings, she has written short stories, travel tales, and many other articles on a variety of topics, and very much enjoys having her work published.
Ruth loves to travel and has done so extensively. In 2005, she took three months to travel around the world. She was joined by her sister Judi for much of that time, increasing the laugh and enjoyment factor exponentially. She particularly enjoyed how Judi ordered bacon and eggs on a train in the Ukraine where no one spoke a word of English. Judi was most successful in her endeavour and the sisters enjoyed a wonderful breakfast. Judi, who has always excelled at everything she does, now runs a company, Senior Move Specialists, which assists seniors with all aspects of organizing, downsizing and relocating.
Ruth particularly loves China and Russia. In January 2007, she returned to Russia to study the language, attending classes in both Moscow and St. Petersburg for several months. She especially loves to learn new languages.
Illness forced an early retirement from the Hospice. Ruth, however, is far from idle. She and her animal companion, Reenie, participate in pet therapy with PATS. She is involved in volunteer activities in her community; she was on the Board of Directors of Out of the Box Production Company for four years and for the past few years, she has been involved in volunteer work with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, specifically with Project Connect. In 2008, she once more donned the cap of producer and a very successful concert took place: A Soiree: Friends Performing for Friends. During that concert, she also performed an original piece, "Flying to the Music" which she had written specifically for the evening. As well, she produced the Vancouver Island Jewish Community Directory for Congregation Emanu-El for many years. Her favourite activities are writing, making movies, studying just about anything, and playing with her beloved dog, Reenie.
In addition to all of this, Ruth also loves “making movies”.
She also loves music, particularly drumming and has recently started taking taiko lessons with Uminari Taiko. In December 2009, she participated in her debut taiko performance at the end of her beginner’s class.
The Jagged Years of Ruthie J. (Ekstasis $24.95)
Doctor, social activist and feminist Ruth Simkin reveals her challenging journey as a pioneering physician in The Jagged Years of Ruthie J. (Ekstasis $24.95). Simkin is a former Salt Spring islander who became a palliative care specialist late in life, working for five years at Victoria Hospice. She also produced the Vancouver Island Jewish Community Directory for Congregation Emanu-El for many years and supports the Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.