Almanac Between Issues

July 9, 2007

Obituary: Sylvan H. Eisman, M.D.


Sylvan H. Eisman, M.D., one of the most respected and beloved physician-educators at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, died early June 26, 2007, at the age of 90. A long-time citizen and avid supporter of the University, he was born in Philadelphia on September 30, 1916; earned his undergraduate degree from Penn in 1937; and received his M.D. degree from Penn four years later. Following medical training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and a stint as chief resident under Dr. Francis C. Wood, Dr. Eisman spent the rest of his long career at Penn.

It was a career that was greatly admired by colleagues and patients. In 1983, the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania approved a resolution in Dr. Eisman’s honor and acknowledged the creation of the Sylvan H. Eisman Professorship of Medicine and Dr. Eisman’s appointment as the School of Medicine’s first Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine. The resolution noted that Dr. Eisman was “above all a constant, loyal, and superb physician. For so many, the burden of illness has been lightened by his consummate knowledge, his practical wisdom, his keen judgment, his unfailing concern and good humor. . . . He gives us much to emulate, and legion are those who have tried to make themselves more like him.”

Joining the medical faculty in 1946, Dr. Eisman became a full professor in 1970. A general internist with a specialty in oncology, he helped establish HUP’s chemotherapy unit. Although he retired from private practice in 1989 and earned emeritus status, he continued to maintain an office at the Medical Center. There, he addressed issues in risk management and medical malpractice until retiring in 2003. The Sylvan H. Eisman Professorship, established by grateful patients, alumni, friends, and family, has been held by faculty members who followed his example of compassion and skill. In 1998, Penn’s School of Medicine created a set of clinical “Awards of Excellence,” including the Sylvan Eisman Outstanding Primary-Care Physician Award. Like Dr. Eisman himself, those who received the award each year are noted for their professionalism and humanism. Dr. Eisman, in fact, received the School’s Lifetime Humanism Award in 2002. Among his other honors was the Alumni Service Award, given in appreciation of his “generous, loyal, and energetic commitment” to the School.

It is entirely characteristic of Dr. Eisman that, when he was asked in 1999 to name his “finest hour” at HUP, he replied: “Christmas Day, when I served as Santa Claus and delivered gifts to patients who had to remain in HUP over the Holiday Season.”  For many years, Dr. Eisman went from unit to unit in Santa guise, dispensing good cheer. His influence as a mentor can also be seen readily. Two years ago, when Gary W. Crooks, M.D., became the first Ruth C. and Raymond G. Perelman Professor in Internal Medicine at Penn, he cited Dr. Eisman and Dr. Bill Hanson as his role models and mentors: “I believe the success of my practice is attributable in no small measure to the advice and influence of these two outstanding clinicians.”

Perhaps the most fitting comment on Dr. Eisman was made by Edward Stemmler, M.D., former dean of Penn’s School of Medicine: “The life of a dean would be easy indeed if there could be a faculty of Sylvan Eismans.”

Dr. Eisman leaves behind his beloved wife, Ann (Sis) Eisman, and his three children and their families: Marian and Harvey Forman, Jerry and Kathy Eisman, and Amy Eisman. His four grandchildren and spouses are Laura Forman and Jason Dymbort; Daniel and Lauren Forman; Rachel and Daniel Cukierman; and David Eisman. He also leaves one of his greatest joys, great-granddaughter Leslie Lane Forman, and her new brother, William Logan Forman.

A memorial service in memory of Dr. Eisman will be held on Tuesday, July 10, 2007, at 3 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium with a reception to follow at 4 p.m. in Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Sylvan H. Eisman Professorship.


Posted 7/9/07

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