b.1 January 1915 d.21 September 2009
AO MB BS Sydney (1940) MRACP (1944) MRCP (1952) FRACP (1957) FRCP (1972) FACC (1974)
George Vincent Hall, prominent cardiologist for over 40 years, died on 21 September 2009. His life was one of outstanding service to his country, to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, to the medical profession, and to the community. His polite and self-effacing manner belied a brilliant mind, an energy that appeared limitless, and a sense of duty and dedication to his patients and the profession that was boundless.
George Hall was born in Sydney on 20 November 1915. He was educated by the Jesuits at St Aloysius College and graduated from Sydney University in 1940. He commenced his distinguished career at St Vincent’s Hospital as a fourth year student in 1937.
In 1940 George Hall, partly due to the wartime depletion of medical staff but also by reason of the early promise he displayed, was appointed a senior resident soon after graduation. The same year, he married Shirley Goldstein, a nurse, whom he first met in the Casualty Department.
Between 1941 and 1945, he rendered outstanding wartime service in New Guinea and Borneo, at times under harrowing and difficult conditions. He left for New Guinea on New Year's Eve 1942, where he saw service with the 2/5 AGH and 2/9 AGH at the foot of the Kokoda Trail and later Bootless Bay.
After 13 months in New Guinea, his commanding officer, Colonel (later Professor) Lorimer Dods, recognised that George Hall was a young doctor of exceptional promise. He magnanimously suggested that he take leave of absence and return to Sydney to sit for his MRACP. Sir Lorimer, no doubt, also took into account that there was then a critical shortage of physicians in the military service. He accordingly returned to Sydney, obtaining his membership as a physician with distinction, and was given the rank of Major. He was soon after sent to Borneo, where his wartime contribution continued for a considerable time, attending in difficult circumstances to the wounded and those weakened by disease.
Following the war, he spent 12 months in general practice at Randwick before commencing the path that was to take him to the top of his profession. After initially assisting Dr Joseph Coen, a consultant physician who was interested in cardiology, he was appointed in 1946 as relieving assistant physician at St Vincent’s Hospital, and in 1947 as honorary assistant physician. Although he had by then established a rapidly growing consultant practice in Macquarie Street, he decided to leave Sydney and travel to London. This he did in December 1951 and, in 1952, he obtained his MRCP.
The upward trajectory of his career was enhanced by his work in London. There he became a disciple of the famous cardiologist, Dr Paul Wood.
It was in London that George Hall displayed his initiative and capacity for innovation in the treatment of cardiac disease by ordering the first pressure recording equipment for use in the cardiac catheter laboratory.
On his return from London, George Hall was responsible, with the late Harry Windsor (who many years later undertook the first heart transplant operation in Australia), Tony Seldon and John Hickie, for the establishment in 1953 of the Cardiovascular Unit at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. That initiative was to prove itself to be a major contributor to the reputation the hospital has since gained for excellence in the treatment of heart disease. For many years he held the positions of honorary senior physician at St Vincent’s Hospital and senior physician at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and Lewisham Hospital.
His ability to manage his patients to the highest standards at all three institutions was legendary. In subsequent years, George Hall’s practice grew to become one of the busiest consultant practices in Australia.
In addition to his clinical commitments, George Hall dedicated himself to teaching and examining a generation of medical practitioners. He was lecturer in clinical medicine from 1947 to 1968 and lecturer in therapeutics from 1963 to 1968 for the University of Sydney. He taught undergraduate students at both the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. A student wrote ‘Twas Dr Hall who led us into the frighteningly complicated world of therapeutics and then via a series of compact and thorough lectures put order and knowledge into our inefficient and unsystematic concept of actually making people better’.
His late Friday evening postgraduate sessions, known as ‘Hall’s Hearts’, attracted students from all over Sydney. His skill as a teacher was recognised in 1976, when he represented the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as a teacher and examiner in Singapore.
He was a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney (1963-1968), Dean of the Clinical School, St Vincent’s (1964-1966) and a member of the Council of the University of New South Wales (1969-1977). He served on the Board of Censors of the RACP (1972-1976) and on its Council (1973-1974). He was Chairman of the College Therapeutics Advisory Committee (1974-1980) and Chairman of the NSW State Committee (1968-1970). He was elected a Fellow of the RACP in 1957, a Fellow of the London College in 1972 and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology in 1974. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 1970 and an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contributions to medicine and the community in 1990. He was elected to life membership of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand in 1989. He was also a member and Deputy Chairman of the Board of St Vincent’s Hospital for many years.
George was a quiet man with a subtle sense of humour and was a great raconteur. He was a perfect gentleman. Despite his busy consulting practice and service on numerous committees, he maintained a longstanding interest in the ‘sport of kings’ and cared for many of its colourful identities.
Notwithstanding his ever growing clinical practice, by some means he also managed time to immerse himself in primary research of cardiac disease and to contribute to the medical literature on the results. In the early 1950s many patients, as a result of rheumatic fever, suffered stenosis of the heart valves. George Hall referred to Harry Windsor the first patient on whom Harry performed a mitral valvotomy, and in 1959 they published a review of 100 patients following surgery.
In 1960 Hall and Hickie studied a group of patients with cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) and heart failure. These studies allowed the clinician to establish the cause and progression of heart muscle disease and, in due course, led on to the heart transplant program in 1968 and 1984.
George Hall is survived by his second wife, Ellen, his children, Anne, Peter, David, Jeremy and Anthony, and his 10 grandchildren. He had a long and fruitful life. It was a life that was always driven by a powerful sense of duty and a passionate dedication to his profession and to his patients. He was a great physician in the classical tradition. He was in every sense a truly outstanding Australian.
[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]
(Volume XII, page web)
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