April 11

Craig Pearson
Dec 05, 2013 - 9:50 PM EST
Last Updated: Dec 06, 2013 - 9:45 AM EST

After four decades as a physician Dr. Jim Gall has advised thousands of people on health care — but what he really likes to do is listen.

Gall, who on Wednesday received the Ontario Medical Association’s Glenn Sawyer Service Award for outstanding care, feels his work as a palliative-care doctor hinges on the wonderful tales people tell at the end of their lives.

“I’m there to manages their symptoms — pain, nausea, vomiting — because that’s often the fallout from the disease or the treatment,” Gall said Thursday at the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, where he has worked since 2008. “But the rest is not so much me telling them as me listening to them. So you hear their stories.

“I think that’s what gives any of us meaning, is that another human being hears our story and validates it.”

Gall finds working with the sick and dying enjoyable. He sees the process not so much about the end of their lives but about all of their lives.

“I was made for Hospice and Hospice was made for me,” said the 65-year-old doctor, who was born in Edmonton, raised in Windsor, and who started his career in rural Southwestern Ontario.

“As a general practitioner in small communities I did house calls to the elderly. You always learn so much sitting down and talking with the elderly in their own homes. So it wasn’t a big jump to make house calls to the people who are in the last few months of their lives.”

Even in his off time he thinks of health care. He played bass guitar in a doctor-filled, classic-rock band called the Tragically OHIP, which raised $50,000 Oct. 25 at the Caboto Club for a pair of computerized glasses that help children keep still in MRI machines.

Meanwhile, Gall said receiving a prestigious award for work he loves is simply a bonus.

“I love to come to work in the morning,” said the father of four grown children he shares with his wife Cynthia. “To be given an honour for that is really special.”

Rev. Matthew Durham, the director of community engagement at the Hospice, says Gall oozes compassion.

“Jim Gall never says no,” said Durham, noting that hundreds of letters from patients and families over the years have singled out Gall for thanks. “Often times things might not always fit in a box, the requests we make of him at the Hospice. And yet he always goes above and beyond for our patients and their families.”

Even though the average lifespan of his patients in the community is about three months, while those in the Hospice Village are perhaps three weeks, Gall remains positive.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had because of the process of validation,” he said. “When people feel their story is heard, they feel better regardless of what their disease is.”

Click here to visit the Windsor Star and read the original article

tags: gall, award, medicine, hospice