Betsy Jo Smith Comstock, MD
Betsy Jo Smith Comstock, MD was born in Okala, Virginia Sept. 7, 1933, to Hugh Beattie Smith and Ethelyn Elam Smith. She passed gently on May 7, 2021, after an 8-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Betsy attended Eastern High School in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating at age 16, and moved to Chambersburg, PA to attend Wilson College where she earned her BA in physics and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. She graduated magna cum laude. Houston soon became her forever home when she was accepted to Baylor University College of Medicine, from which she earned her Doctor of Medicine in May 1958 (a class of 78, only 4 women). Her general medicine internship was with Methodist Hospital, where her five children were later born after meeting and marrying Eric G. Comstock, MD, a Baylor classmate, in 1954. Betsy is survived by her five children, six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren: Kimberly Comstock (daughter, Hannah Karin Comstock); Carolyn Comstock Keelaghan (husband, Desmond Keelaghan, children Paul Joseph Keelaghan, Aubrey Claire Keelaghan, Aidan Patrick Keelaghan, and Bridget Elizabeth Keelaghan); Clarinda Comstock (husband, Ken Kendrick, step-children Nicole Elise Kendrick and Sean Edward Kendrick); Eric Steven Comstock (wife, Jocelyn Wardlow Comstock, son Eric Anthony Comstock); and Charles Kevin Comstock (wife, Catharina Pehrson). She was predeceased by her parents and her beloved sister, Katherine S, Ball.
Betsy did not often talk about her accomplishments, but they were many and she was well-loved by her family and the many patients, colleagues, and staff in the institutions in which she served. Betsy had a private medical practice from 1959 through 1965, then joined the Baylor faculty in 1965 in the Dept. of Medicine. From 1968-1971, she served as resident physician at Ben Taub General Hospital, Veterans Administration Hospital, and the Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences, completing the psychiatric residency program at Baylor. She was on the faculty in that Department from 1971 until she retired in December 1998. She was frequently recognized for excellence as a teacher and role model, and as best Resident Supervisor. Betsy is remembered for not only breaking glass ceilings but extending the ladder for many women who followed her. She was Board Certified in Psychiatry in April 1974, and became full Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in 1985.
During her tenure with Baylor, Betsy served as the Director of the Ben Taub Psychiatry Clinic (1971-1977), Founding Director of Ben Taub Emergency Psychiatry 1 South, a service she originated (1976-1981), Candidate, and later Graduate (1982) of the Houston-Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute, (1977-1981), was Board Certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association (1987), Director of the Day Hospital at the VA Medical Center (1981), and Medical Director, Houston Day Hospital (1986-1988). In 1989, she was appointed to direct the Community and Social Psychiatry Programs for Baylor's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, an appointment that required her resignation from the VA and the Houston Day Hospital appointments.
Betsy took a special interest, and became a recognized expert, in community and emergency psychiatry and suicidology. She served as President of the Houston Psychiatric Society (1979-1980), and The American Association of Suicidology, Secretary/Treasurer of Texas Psychiatric Society (1981-1982) and became a Fellow (1988) and then a Distinguished Life Fellow (2003) of the American Psychiatric Association. She worked on the Mental Health Needs Council, Harris County, and was recognized as President from 1992-1994 and for outstanding contributions as a Representative of the Houston Psychiatric Society in 1994. The Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians presented the Psychiatric Excellence Award to Betsy in recognition of sustained Service in Psychiatry (1992).
Some of Betsy's many awards include a Psychiatric Excellence Award, Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians (1993), the Helen Farabee Community Leadership Award from the Mental Health Association (1991), and honors from The Women's Home (formerly the Women's Christian Home) for her dedicated service to the wellness of women in Houston (1992-1998). She was recognized in 1997 and 1998 by MHMRA-Harris County for invaluable teaching contributions and support of the residency training program.
When Betsy retired in 1998, she moved to Tryon, NC where she had obtained her medical license in 1985 and continued to work in community psychiatry and volunteer with Red Cross emergency services. Betsy returned to Houston in 2010 where she lived the remainder of her days closer to family. A celebration of life will be held June 6, 2021. Email [email protected]
for details. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Wilson College or the Alzheimer's Association
Published by Houston Chronicle on Jun. 3, 2021.