Dr. Jerome Tobis dies at 96; UCI professor, physician and researcher

Dr. Jerome S. Tobis, a former professor and founding chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UC Irvine whose long career included a number of precedent-setting studies on physical therapy, cardiac rehabilitation and other subjects, has died. He was 96.

Tobis, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July, died Feb. 3 at his home in Corona del Mar, said his daughter, Heather Tobis Booth.

As an emeritus research professor at UCI since 1986, Tobis continued teaching residents and medical students until last summer.

“It’s a rare individual that is able to continue with a career at 96 and over all those years have an absolutely impeccable reputation,” said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the UC Irvine School of Medicine.


As part of his university service to the community, Tobis continued to see patients at Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa once a week until a week before his death. His most recent visits were in a wheelchair.

“Everybody was impressed with his longevity,” said Dr. Ronald B. Miller, a clinical professor of medicine emeritus at UC Irvine, “and he remained mentally astute and alert and competent.”

In 1970, Tobis joined the UCI medical school faculty as a professor and founding chairman of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

He also was the medical school’s founding director of geriatric medicine, a position he held from 1980 to 1986, and chaired the ethics committee at UCI Medical Center from 1986 to 2000.

Tobis was co-author of the 1970 book “Cardiac Rehabilitation,” the first on the subject. He also served as the principal investigator for the first scientific research to show the effectiveness of spinal manipulation in improving lower back pain. The research was published in 1981 in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Tobis also worked on studies of traumatic brain injury and the causes of falls by the elderly, among other topics.

Born July 23, 1915, in Syracuse, N.Y., Tobis earned a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York in 1936 and graduated from Chicago Medical School in 1943. As a captain in the Army during World War II, he served as a stateside doctor.

Tobis was named chairman of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York Medical College in 1948. In 1961, he became chairman of a similar department at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, and in 1963 joined the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.


Hazel, his wife of 64 years, died in 2002. Besides his daughter Heather, Tobis is survived by his partner of seven years, Myra Fono; his sons, David and Jonathan; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.