Dr. Richard R. Rubin, a Johns Hopkins psychologist who counseled children and adults on how to cope with the emotional effects of diabetes, died of complications from prostate cancer March 25 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Monkton resident was 69.
Born in Lima, Peru, he was the son of Goldie Rubin and Morton Rubin, a scientist who worked in meteorology in South America, Antarctica and South Africa. He lived with his parents in Pretoria, South Africa, and was a 1961 graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.
"My diabetes story began in 1959," Dr. Rubin wrote in a 2008 article in Diabetes Spectrum. "My youngest brother and I lay awake all night ... listening to our parents crying in the living room below because my sister had [just been diagnosed with] diabetes."
He said that his sister was sent to Camp Glyndon in Baltimore County and later became a counselor there. He also said in the article that when his own son was diagnosed with diabetes in 1979, he decided to focus on the condition almost exclusively within his medical field of psychology. He went on to be the 2007 president for health care and education of the American Diabetes Association.
"He made remarkable contributions as an association volunteer and diabetes educator throughout his career," said Larry Hausner, the American Diabetes Association's chief executive officer. "His commitment in the fight to stop diabetes was truly inspirational."
Dr. Rubin earned a bachelor's degree in history from the Johns Hopkins University, where he also earned a doctorate in social psychology. He joined the Hopkins School of Medicine in 1971 in the psychiatry department and was an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at his death.
"When my son first developed diabetes, psychosocial and behavioral research in diabetes was in its infancy," he wrote in 2008. "Today we recognize the critical role emotional and behavioral factors play in diabetes outcomes."
In the essay, he reflected on seeing his sister boil glass syringes and sharpen steel needle points for her injections. "In those days, we didn't have blood glucose monitoring," he said.
Dr. Rubin was a principal investigator and co-investigator in diabetic health studies that focused on psychosocial and lifestyle issues. He worked on the National Institutes of Health's Diabetes Prevention Program and the Look AHEAD trials.
"My father helped people manage the psycho-social challenges of diabetes," said his son, Stefan Rubin of Baltimore. "He traveled the world talking to medical professionals and families about how they could help support diabetes in healthy ways, in ways that were not scary or overwhelming. He often said that while diabetes was a big part of our lives, it was not the biggest."
In 1986, Dr. Rubin was in the first group to take a certified diabetes educator exam. He became chairman of the National Certification Board for Diabetes Education in 1991.
His son said his father sought to reduce the anxiety and emotional burdens of diabetes while dealing with its medical realities.
In 1984, Dr. Rubin started working at Hopkins' Outpatient Diabetes Center and began seeing success in participants' "emotional-well-being, self-care behavior and glycemic control," he wrote in his 2008 autobiographical article.
He also worked as a consultant to firms developing medical technologies.
"Although most of my research is with adults, kids with diabetes remain my passion," he said in the same article.
He said that after studying diabetes for decades, including one study involving 5,000 people with diabetes and another 4,000 health care providers in 13 countries, he found that "very few people with diabetes receive the psychological care they need and deserve."
Dr. Rubin was a co-author of the Johns Hopkins Guide to Diabetes and numerous other books, including an early work, "Your Baby, Your Toddler, and Your Preschooler," published in conjunction with baby care products maker Johnson & Johnson.
Dr. Rubin addressed lay and professional groups around the world. He was the 1997 American Diabetes Association's Outstanding Educator in Diabetes. The association's 2013 Stepping Out Walk in downtown Baltimore has been named in his honor.
His son said his father was a fan of the Orioles, Ravens and Johns Hopkins lacrosse.
"In his hardworking way, he did not think you should sit there and watch a game," his son said. "But that wouldn't stop him from calling me 10 times to get the score."
His wife of nearly 25 years, Karan Cole, a retired Johns Hopkins behavioral scientist, said Dr. Rubin also enjoyed photographing wildlife on his Monkton land.
"He took pleasure creating a beautiful place, clearing the land and making his home beautiful," she said.
Services are private. A tribute will be held at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
In addition to his son and wife, survivors include another son, Tyler Cole-Rubin of Baltimore; two daughters, Kyra Hartnett of Litchfield, Conn., and Kelli Johnston of Uberlingen, Germany; a brother, John Rubin of West Vancouver, British Columbia; a sister, Mary Sue Rubin of Lutherville; and seven grandchildren. A marriage to Kay Halle ended in divorce.Copyright © 2015, CT Now