Dr. Melvin J. Tonkon, 60, a world-renowned cardiologist and lecturer who led groundbreaking research on heart disease and other illnesses, died Aug. 3. He was a resident of Laguna Beach, Calif.
Tonkon's more than 400 research studies led to the development and approval of medications to treat hypertension, coronary disease and heart failure. He also wrote hundreds of articles, abstracts and several books in the field of cardiovascular disease. He spoke on medical topics in China, Australia and Europe.
In 2000, while maintaining a private practice, Tonkon established the Apex Research Institute in Santa Ana, where he supervised studies of many diseases and drugs for pharmaceutical companies.
Most recently, he and his associates completed a study of a new drug, Chantix, a smoking-cessation drug for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.
Tonkon, who quit smoking 26 years ago, kept a blackened jar of the remains of his last pack of cigarettes on a shelf in his office as motivation for himself, as well as his patients. The work he did helped get Chantix approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Tonkon served two decades as a volunteer with the Orange County Chapter of the American Heart Association and two terms as president. He also volunteered for numerous committees with the chapter.
He served on the board of several hospitals and organizations, including the board of trustees at Drexel University College of Medicine, and was a clinical professor in the department of medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tonkon graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1967, and earned his medical degree in 1971 from Hahnemann Medical College. He did his residency at University of California, Irvine, and went on to complete a fellowship in cardiology at the University of California, Davis. He relocated to Anaheim in 1976 and established his medical practice.
He was active in his synagogue, Chabad of Laguna.
Tonkon is survived by his wife of 36 years, Edie Tonkon; his mother, Laura Tonkon; sons Jayson Marc Tonkon and Neil Michael Tonkon; sister Donna Punim; brother Barry Tonkon; a grandson; two nieces and a nephew.
Memorial donations can be made to: the Melvin J. Tonkon Memorial Fund, 130 Spruce St., Suite 30B, Philadelphia, PA 19106.