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Betty Scheide earned her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania College.

Betty Scheide earned her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania College.

The HEALERS

A Modern-Day Renaissance Woman with a Healing Touch

Elizabeth Scheide’s impressive resume includes work in psychology, teaching, and dentistry

 

 

Pittsburgh native Elizabeth Scheide, known as Betty to friends and family, entered the exciting and fulfilling world of medicine at her grandfather’s suggestion. A prominent physician in Massachusetts, he encouraged her to attend the Boston School for Dental Nursing in 1940. Shortly after graduating high school, Betty moved to Massachusetts to become a dental assistant and found that healing was her passion. After two years, she moved to Kansas to complete junior college while living with her father.

“At the time, my father was in a position to financially support my college ambitions, but there was a condition. He said he would pay for my college degree if I promised to not get married until after I completed my PhD. I wanted to be independent, so I couldn’t agree to his terms,” she says.

Excited by the possibility of paying her own way with the GI Bill, Betty enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves under the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program during World War II. Although her interests were starting to veer towards psychology, her experience landed her in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps from 1944 to 1946. While practicing dentistry on naval officers and sailors was not as challenging as she had hoped, Betty served her country with an eye on the ultimate prize: a free PhD in psychology.

“When I began to apply to colleges after WAVES, I found that I couldn’t get into any of the schools I was applying to because of the preference for male applicants. But then I found PCW.”

At Pennsylvania College for Women, Betty found a challenging environment with engaging lectures, captivating professors, and a very supportive faculty.

“I loved everything about my experience at PCW. I learned how to learn, study, and write. My time there really set me up for success for my PhD. In fact, many of my professors were astonished at my ability to write such great papers.” Although PCW provided Betty with endless opportunities, it was the personal 1:1 tutorials that were the most useful. “Tutorials were something very new for me, but they were the most helpful in providing me with the confidence I needed.”

Another memory took place off-campus, but had a lasting impact. While on a date, Betty and her partner were held at gunpoint. At first, Betty worried that she was going to miss curfew. Then, she began to worry that she didn’t have enough knowledge to get out of the situation.

“I had only taken a few psychology courses at that point and thought to myself: Oh, I don’t know if I have the skills to handle this. But when my date got the man talking, he asked us about our IQ. At that time, IQ’s were only really discussed in the Navy and it gave me an idea.”

Quick on the draw, Betty reverted back to her role in WAVE and began relating to the assailant. She asked the man about his experience in the service and shared hers, and with that common ground was able to calm the attacker down. In the back seat of her date’s car, the veteran confessed to all his troubles and the reason why he was holding them at gunpoint. Although she was still in the early stages of her psychology studies, this event confirmed for Betty that she was on the right track.

“My date drove the robber home and he gave us a dollar for our trouble! Back then you could get a lot for a dollar. It was a very interesting experience, but I was late for curfew anyway.”

After completing her psychology major in 1948, Betty was accepted into the PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. Shortly after graduating from Pitt, she joined the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center where she worked with notable psychologist Eric Homburger Erikson and famous pediatrician Benjamin McLane Spock—author of the best-selling book Baby and Child Care. “I also had the great honor of working with child psychologist Margaret B. McFarland, who consulted on the Mister Rogers program,” she says.

Now retired since 2007, Betty has also served as Director of Pupil Personnel and of the Employee Assistance Program at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU). She also held the position of Chair of the Continuing Education Program at AIU. Additionally, Betty is a former President of both the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and of the Greater Pittsburgh Psychological Association.

According to Betty, the future of psychology in the healthcare industry will rely heavily on what takes place in the political arena. “As a country, we’ve made many strides in the field as more people become aware of mental issues, but we still need better treatment opportunities and that will come when physicians get politically involved.”