Barbara M. Arons, M.D.
Feb. 15, 1922 - August 23, 2012
Dr. Barbara Arons, 90, retired Director of Acute Psychiatric Services at Valley Medical Center from 1970 to 1989, died on August 23. She was a legendary figure in the care of the severely mentally ill in Santa Clara County. In addition to her duties as Director of Acute Psychiatric Services, she acted as the psychiatric physician to the Main Jail in San Jose, as well as directing a large psychiatric skilled nursing facility in the same area.
Dr. Arons made additional innovative contributions by establishing a Neuro-Behavioral Unit at Valley Medical Center in 1978 which combined the disciplines of neurology and psychiatry. She was partially responsible for the discovery of a "designer" narcotic drug that could closely mimic Parkinsonism. Two Nova television programs were devoted to reporting on this unique occurrence of drug-induced Parkinsonism and its value in advancing our basic understanding of this crippling disease.
In 1989, on the occasion of her retirement as Director of Acute Psychiatric Services for Santa Clara County, she received the extraordinary honor of having a new inpatient psychiatric facility named in her honor on the campus of Valley Medical Center (the Barbara Arons Pavilion). Dr. Arons is the only Santa Clara County resident to have a building named in recognition for her valued service while still living.
Dr. Arons attended UCLA as an undergraduate and completed her medical training at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. She was one of only four women admitted to her medical school class in 1956. This was followed by an internship at Los Angeles County Hospital. She was an internal medicine physician for several years at the now closed Agnews State Hospital starting in 1959. Dr. Arons received her psychiatric training in the Department of Psychiatry at the Stanford School of Medicine and served in a teaching capacity in that same department.
Dr. Arons died on August 23, 2012 at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Arons had been admitted to the Stanford Hospital for the surgical repair of a fractured hip resulting from a fall on August 16th.
Dr. Arons is survived by six children, five grand children, three great grand children and her husband, Dr. Walter Arons, a retired endocrinologist. Her children are Sandra Benbrook Rieder residing in Cathlamet, Washington, Charles Benbrook residing in Troy, Oregon, Jeffrey Arons from Portola Valley, California, Laurie Arons residing in Sausalito, California, Beth Arons of Palo Alto, California, and Richard Arons residing in Snoqualmie, Washington.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dr. Arons' name to the Peninsula Open Space Trust or KQED.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Sept. 23, 2012