In Memoriam: Robert J. Joynt, MD, PhD, FAAN

April 16, 2012


Robert J. Joynt, MD, PhD, FAAN, president of the AAN from 1977 to 1979, and founder of the neurology department at the University of Rochester, passed away on his way to neurology grand rounds at the University of Rochester Medical Center on April 13. He was 86.

Joynt, a member of the AAN since 1954, was the first recipient of the Academy's A.B. Baker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990, honoring his accomplishments as an educator in neurology. He served on the Board of Directors and numerous committees. Most recently, Joynt had a regular column in Neurology®, "Changes, People, Comments," where he updated readers on news in the neurology community and his own wry observations about whatever topic took his fancy, from disdain for holiday parties to the frenetic pacing of recent motion pictures. In his April 3, 2012, column, he noted "I am not a big moviegoer but my wife loves them. So I am a big moviegoer."

In a statement released by the Medical Center, CEO Bradford Berk, MD, PhD, said, "Bob was a true renaissance man, with more knowledge on more topics than most people can imagine. Bob taught me neurology when I was a medical student, and part of the reason he was such an extraordinary teacher is because he knew how to make you laugh. Later I had the opportunity to interact with him in a discussion group called the pundit club. He was the master of American history and shared with us his insights into our presidents and politicians with his usual humor and whimsy."

Joynt grew up in LeMars, IA, and served in World War II as a radio operator in India. Upon returning home, Joynt attended Westmar College, received his bachelor's degree magna cum laude, and his medical degree from the University of Iowa. After a Fulbright scholarship to Cambridge University from 1953 to 1954, he returned to the University of Iowa to do his residency as a pupil of Adolph L. Sahs, one of the "Four Horsemen" who helped found the AAN. He was appointed to the faculty of the University of Iowa School of Medicine, and while there he earned his master's degree and PhD.

Joynt left Iowa in 1966 to become professor and founding chair of the neurology department at the University of Rochester. He also served as acting dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and then vice-provost for Health Affairs in 1985. He was president of Health Affairs from 1989 to 1994, when he returned to the department of neurology.

In 1989, the university's Medical Alumni Association presented Joynt with the Gold Medal Award for his "integrity, inspiring teaching and devotion to medical students." He was again honored that year when he was elected to the Institute of Medicine. In 1997, he was bestowed with the title of Distinguished University Professor, which is given to a professor who not only excels in his or her own field but has served the entire university. In 2011, a chair was endowed in his name, and he was present at the installation of Karl Kieburtz, MD, MPH, last December.

As well as serving as the AAN's president, he also led the American Neurological Association and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Joynt was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine. He also was active in his community, serving on the boards of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the United Way of Rochester, the Eastman Dental Center, Ithaca College, and the Genesee Valley Trust Company.

Along with his legendary academic career, Joynt was a noted writer and editor, served on numerous editorial boards beginning with Medical Digest in 1964. He was associate editor and later chief editor of the Archives of Neurology, and co-editor of the four-volume reference set Clinical Neurology, originally edited by A.B. Baker. In 2001, Joynt co-edited Presidential Disability, a book exploring the ramifications of the 25th Amendment, which addresses presidential succession should he or she be incapacitated.

Joynt is survived by his wife, Margaret, their six children, and nine grandchildren.