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In memoriam - Doctor John Joseph Gallagher

A founder and pioneer of Modern Clinical Electrophysiology

3 March 1943 - 21 November 2020

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John Gallagher was born in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1974 joined the faculty of Duke University to lead the electrophysiology program. His classic investigations in electrophysiologic evaluation of supraventricular tachycardias imparted global stature to his center. These classic studies now form the basis of the modern classification of preexcitation syndromes that is in vogue today.

In collaboration with surgeon Will Sealy and others, the Duke team under his leadership pioneered the intraoperative mapping of accessory pathways for surgical ablation. Collaboration with biomedical engineers led to the development of epicardial mapping with a “sock based” epicardial array, employed by many leading centers for intraoperative mapping for surgical ablation in the eighties and beyond.

In 1980, Dr. Gallagher was appointed Edward S. Orgain Professor of Medicine and mentored or trained numerous students from all corners of the globe. An early proponent of atrioventricular junction ablation with a catheter technique using direct current shock therapy, his mapping work laid the infrastructure of the field of modern catheter ablation. In 1983, he established the Electrophysiology division of the Carolinas Heart Institute and later he remained active in clinical medicine in North Carolina and missionary work in Nicaragua until his untimely demise.

John was uncompromising in his search for excellence, teaching the highest standards of deductive electrophysiology, and imparted this skill to his trainees. They, in turn, became leaders of superlative programs in their countries and remain another important part of his permanent legacy. In recognition of his many contributions, the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology presented the Distinguished Teacher Award to him in 1999 for outstanding contributions to the field.

John was a lover of the classics, spoke Russian, Italian and other Romantic languages which he often employed in his teaching sessions during electrophysiologic procedures. His collaboration with centers in Europe expanded with his many European trainees and particularly with Dr. Guiseppe Critelli of Italy. (Figure). He maintained a strong association with European electrophysiologists in both research and education.

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John was an avid outdoorsman and an accomplished horseman. He is survived by his wife Jane, and four children. A warm and generous man, whose candor, incisiveness and humor was refreshing, he remained a great friend to many of us. John Gallagher will be remembered as an extraordinary human being, to whom this field owes a great debt of gratitude.

Sanjeev Saksena MD FESC
Professor of Medicine, Rutgers’- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Warren, New Jersey