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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.

In 1979 in Ennis, Engald, Jose Yaryura-Tobias, MD, set up one of the first meetings ever about OCD along with Ciba Geigy Pharmaceutical (Novartis). In this photo, from right: Dr. Yaryura-Tobias seated next to Fugen Neziroglu, Issac Marks.
In 1979 in Ennis, Engald, Jose Yaryura-Tobias, MD, set up one of the first meetings ever about OCD along with Ciba Geigy Pharmaceutical (now Novartis). Pictured here, from right: Dr. Yaryura-Tobias, Dr. Fugen Neziroglu, and Dr. Isaac Marks.

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.

8 Comments

  • Chris Vertullo

    Fugen,

    I am sorry for the loss of Jose, your husband of many years, the love of your life, and a great researcher for the OCD world. May you find peace in your life in his absence although it will be very difficult for you. Blessings, prayers and love, Chris

    Reply
  • Barry Greenblatt

    My deepest condolences to Dr. Neziroglu and everyone at Bio Behavioral. Although I only met Dr. Yaryura-Tobias only once briefly and informally at the airport after one of the anunal conference some years ago, I am greatful to both Fugan and Jose for their work – in their book “Over and Over Again” and in establishing the institute and the monthly support group meetings. Dr. Yaryura-Tobias pioneering work along with the other professionals in OCD treatment are greatly acknowledged. May he Rest In Peace.

    Reply
  • Bob Hudak

    Fugen-
    I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and to your family, and please know that we will be thinking of you.

    Reply
  • Michael S. Grunes

    When I heard the news, all my memories of Anibal flooded me. While at Bio-Behavioral he drew me in like he did everyone, immediately and with love and admiration (like a human black hole – we were all sucked into his gravity well). He was at once the most brilliant man I ever knew, and one who approached life with fascination and joy. I wanted to absorb as much of his insight as I could, but he in turn wanted to know so much from me and would light up when we had a discussion. It is with that joie de vivre that he filled my memories with experiences in those days. Many of you knew him personally, but for those of you that only knew him from his brilliant insight and discoveries I feel it is important to know this about him.

    Some snapshots of my memories-

    I remember his excitement when he offered me his homemade paella for the first time (and my first paella ever), it was delicious!

    I remember the workshops and conferences when his brilliance shone – regardless of what the slide said : )

    I remember a conference where we were showing a video of him speaking… of course his middle finger was moving up and down as it did when he was making an impassioned point (not out of vulgarity, just how he moved). I froze the video image when both middle fingers were in the air. A dumb joke on my part … looking back on it, I cant believe I was that disrespectful. When Anibal saw it – instead of becoming angry (which he probably should have – as this was a representation of his business) he laughed (harder than me) and posed next to the frozen frame.

    I remember fondly when I asked him to be an usher at my wedding. I asked to speak with him privately, and he initially became serious and stern. Perhaps in my nervousness at the time he thought I would be telling him something negative. When I finally asked him it was a face that lit up in happiness like I have never seen. Throughout that process he made me feel like my wedding was his utmost joy. Like when I told him he would have to rent a tux .. he said he had one already… When I anxiously told him that the tuxes had to match, he lit up again and said “Such a Fancy wedding!”.

    This was how it went, and although many years have passed since we spoke his continued impact on my life has been great. Thank you Anibal, and my condolences go out to Fugen, his family, his friends, and his colleagues who knew him.

    Reply
    • Ana Maria Yaryura

      Thank you Michael for sharing these memories and for what you said at his memorial. I was not able to thank you in person. You made me smile.
      All the best,
      Ana

      Reply
  • Robert Ackerman

    Dear Fugen,
    My condolences to you on the loss of Jose.May the support of friends and colleagues give you solace in this extraordinarily difficult time.To share both love and the raison d’ etre of helping people with OCD I am sure was
    particularly powerful through the years that you spent together.
    In sadness for your loss,
    Bob Ackerman

    Reply
  • Lynn

    I thank God for sending me to Dr Y and Fugen without whose help I would not have become a functioning adult. Through ther brilliance and determination they have changed the lives of countless people. They helped pave the way to mental and emotional freedom from an illness that is so difficult to treat. Dr Y’s legacy of helping people is one that has no boundaries for he has helped people throughout the world. Thank you Dr Y….

    Reply
  • Catherine Stalters pennello

    My heart full condolences to Fugen and all of Dr Y’s family. I credit him with helping me develop my clinical skills while inspiring me to live life to the fullest. I fondly remember my internship year at Bio-Behavioral and how much I learned! I still remember his words of wisdom not only about treating patients but about poetry and food and music and even coffee! He will surely be missed but his impact on so many lives will be felt for many years to come
    You are in my thoughts Fugen
    May you find peace
    Cathy Stalters Pennello

    Reply

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