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Dr. George Ehrlich, 85, Prominent Rheumatologist

March 19, 2014
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Dr. George Ehrlich

Dr. George E. Ehrlich, an internationally accomplished rheumatologist, who also served as an adviser to the World Health Organization, died Feb. 28.

Viennese-born, he arrived in this country with his family after escaping the Anschluss — the annexation of Austria by Germany — in 1938. He died at age 85 and lived at Arden Courts in King of Prussia. 

The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

An authority on rehabilitative management of rheumatic conditions, Ehrlich served as editor or on the editorial boards of several journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Rheumatology

As director of rheumatology and chief of the Arthritis Center at Albert Einstein Medical Center and Moss Rehabilitation Hospital from 1964 to 1980, he pioneered the establishment of one of the first multidisciplinary medical rehabilitation hospitals in the nation, which became an internationally recognized program. 

After retiring from Ciba-Geigy in 1988, where he had been an executive for a number of years, he kept an active schedule as a scientific and medical adviser in many countries across Europe and the developing world, and was decorated and honored by governments and international organizations. 

Ehrlich’s teaching posts included the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Temple University. He served on the Arthritis Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration from 1991 to 1996, the last three years as chairman.

He was active in executive roles with the World Health Organization and the International League of Associations of Rheumatology. 

He won the 2004 Dr. Joseph Lee Hollander Award of the Arthritis Foundation, Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter.

A graduate of Harvard College and the Chicago Medical School, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict, and retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of commander in 1988.

In 1971, Ehrlich was awarded the Philip Hench Award of the Association of Military Surgeons. 

With all his international achievements, there were some longlasting memories that hit closer to home. As one of his surviving sons, Dr. Charles E., recalls: “My father took me on my first trip to Israel when I was 12, and he bought me a traditional Sephardic kipah in Tzfat to wear for my Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Mivkeh Israel in Center City. 

“He maintained a strong cultural identity with the Jewish people and with America, which had welcomed him as a refugee in 1938.”

He is survived by his wife, Gail S. Abrams; a daughter, Rebecca Abrams Sayles; another son, Steven L. Abrams; a brother, Paul; and four grandchildren. 

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 30, at 2 p.m., at Congregation Mikveh Israel in Society Hill.

Staff Writer Michael Elkin contributed to this report.

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