We were deeply saddened to hear of another loss to the OCD and related disorders community this past weekend. Dr. Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias, a long-standing professional member and an inaugural member of the IOCDF Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board (SCB), passed away on March 5, 2016. Dr. Yaryura-Tobias was a pioneer in OCD research and an internationally recognized expert in OCD and related disorders. He, along with his wife, Dr. Fugen Neziroglu (also an inaugural member of the IOCDF SCB), opened one of the first comprehensive treatment facilities in the US for OCD and related disorders, Bio-Behavioral Institute, in 1979! Dr. Jon Hoffman and Dr. Sony Khemlani-Patel, colleagues of Dr. Yaryura-Tobias, wrote the following blog along with his family to acknowledge Dr. Yaryura-Tobias’ decades-long contributions to the OCD and related disorders community. He will be greatly missed.
It is with deepest regret that we must share the sad news that Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias, MD, passed away on March 5, 2016, survived by his loving wife, children, and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues, students, friends from all over the world, as well as the countless patients whose lives were equally touched by his medical skills and great compassion. As everyone who got to really know him could attest, Dr. Yaryura-Tobias was a truly unique and special individual. He wore many hats throughout his long and distinguished career—pioneering psychiatrist, poet, and social activist were just a few. He was also extremely funny and danced a mean tango with his beloved wife and intellectual partner Dr. Fugen Neziroglu given the slightest opportunity. His incredible and varied body of knowledge was clearly evident in his decades of writings, which included literally hundreds of scientific articles. And, for a person born and primarily educated in Argentina, he had the most uncanny arsenal of English words that virtually no one but him had ever heard of before.
Dr. Yaryura-Tobias’s achievements in the field of psychiatry included seminal research in the dopamine theory of schizophrenia and the biological theory of obsessive compulsive and related disorders; pioneering the serotoninergic theory of OCD back in the 1970’s; recognizing the obsessive-compulsive aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome which, along with the book he co-authored in 1983 with Dr. Neziroglu, heralded the notion of the OCD Spectrum; tirelessly working to make needed medications, like Pimozide, available in the US; and conducting the first double blind placebo studies in the world using clomipramine followed by subsequent vigorous advocacy for its approval by the FDA, which finally came through in the 1990s.
His passion for translating research into groundbreaking clinical applications was exemplified by his courage in challenging the then conventional wisdom that OCD was not a common enough disorder to study, let alone require a clinical specialty. This vision came to fruition in 1979 when he co-founded the Bio Behavioral Institute with Dr. Fugen Neziroglu. Together, they dedicated their efforts to establish a facility to conduct research, train professionals, and provide evidence-supported treatment for OCD, including an intensive CBT program at a time when other such programs did not exist. Today, Bio Behavioral continues to support this mission and has trained many practitioners and researchers who continue to make significant contributions to OCD research and treatment.
In addition to his achievements in psychiatry, Dr. Yaryura-Tobias was the author of several books of poetry and prose, in both English and Spanish, including “The Integral Being” and his short story collection, “Dios de Dios de Dios.” His poems were featured in the 1975 anthology New Voices in American Poetry, and in 1984 he received an honorable mention for the Federico Garcia Lorca International Poetry Prize and won the American Psychiatry Association Prize for Poetry in 1990. He also established the Latin American Poetry Group, Circular, and was on the board of the Long Island Poetry Collective for many years.
Dr. Yaryura-Tobias was an accomplished dancer and played witness to the rise of the greats of modern tango, having danced to Astor Piazzola, Aníbal Troilo and others in Buenos Aires during the 1950s.
Finally, Dr. Yaryura-Tobias was a member of numerous national and international societies, including the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation. He was a founding member of the International College of Psychosomatic Medicine, the Argentine Society of Biological Psychiatry, and the World Federation of Biological Psychiatry.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias Research Fund to support research into treatments for OCD here: http://iocdf.org/yaryuratobiasfund.