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Logo of canjgastroThe Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology HomepageSubscription PageSubmissions Pagewww.pulsus.comThe Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Can J Gastroenterol. 2009 June; 23(6): 404.
PMCID: PMC2721804

A tribute to Grant Gall

It is with much sadness that I write that Grant Gall died suddenly while on holiday with his wife Laurie. He might want it noted that it was with his ‘older’ wife Laurie because he loved to tease her over the two or three days difference in their birthdays. The two were inseparable over their 49 years of married life, and it is difficult to think of Grant without thinking of Laurie. He loved her tremendously as he did his children and grandchildren.

Grant had a great sense of humour and loved to laugh. Once in a while, he would gasp for a halt in the storytelling because he was laughing so hard that his not insubstantial girth was in pain. That is how I will remember him. He was a man with a passion for life. If you have only seen him in a shirt and tie at meetings, stop and imagine Grant in short pants, a T-shirt, walking shoes and a Tilly sun hat, bristling for the adventure at hand. He loved to fish the Bow river, hunt prairie chickens, walk across countries (particularly Scotland), search for antique cars, listen to the blues and drink expensive scotch.

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Grant Gall

Grant graduated from the ACME High School, of which he was very proud, then the University of Alberta Medical School, Edmonton, Alberta. It can come out now that he loved the Oilers, a residual from his university days. He interned and completed residencies in Vancouver, Toronto and Boston (USA). He also held appointments as an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard University and Boston University. After spending several years at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, he joined the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, where he held many positions, notably, heading the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, holding the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Research, Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics, medical leader of the Child Health Program and Head of the Regional Department of Pediatrics.

During his 30 years at the Univesity of Calgary, Grant was the Dean of the Medical School for two terms. He was a tireless worker and was instrumental in convincing the Alberta government of the need for a new children’s hospital. He loved to tell of the influence of children in the planning that led to such novel changes as low windows, bright colours and a special entrance for the ‘chemo kids’. As Dean, and perhaps as a one-time farm boy, he recognized the need for veterinarians and advocated for the creation of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, which opened this past September.

Throughout his career, Grant was active with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, serving on various committees including chairing the Experimental Medicine Grant Review Committee. He supervised a successfully funded laboratory for more than 20 years and was recognized as a leader in intestinal adaptation and diar-rheal diseases. He also spent time mentoring trainees from around the world. Grant was a true clinical scientist, able to lead scientific discussions with PhDs and grass roots clinical discussions with clinical colleagues.

Not only was he an exceptional physician, Grant was also a leader. When he had an idea, he gave it his all and you could not help but be pulled along in the vortex. He had more than a few good ideas for the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG). Grant changed the CAG by giving Canada’s gastroenterology community its first international exposure. As President-elect, he organized the first Canadian Digestive Diseases Week (CDDW). It was a major change from the traditional Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada meeting to the current CDDW format continued to today, emphasizing clinical medicine and alternating sites from west to east. On reflection, it involved quite a risk and caused considerable internal anxiety. A few weeks before the meeting there were 26 registrants and 400 reserved hotel rooms. We all know of the happy ending, but few know that throughout the course of that first-ever CDDW, Grant called 7:00 am and 10:30 pm meetings to start and review the day, respectively, to ensure that each day ran more smoothly. It was an exhausting, exciting time.

As CAG President, Grant attended the 1996 Pan American meeting in Brazil, the first time the CAG had such visibility. With his reputation, enthusiasm and ability to be seen as a positive force, Grant won the day and the bid for Canada to host ‘Gastro 99’. This meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, was the most successful Pan American meeting to date. Gastro 99 led to the World Congress in Montreal, Quebec, in 2005. Grant was a member of the Steering Committee and Chair of the International Relations Committee. Gastroenterologists from 106 countries attended.

Grant was rarely talked into anything that Laurie did not agree to. However, he was convinced to buy a buffalo coat, a replica of the winter coats worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 100 (or so) years ago. Imagine Grant standing outside the Banff Springs Hotel, at −40 °C, waiting for two tardy friends to appear in their buffalo coats, only to be the sole centre of excitement for a busload of Japanese tourists. It brings a smile. I will miss him.

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