George Vincent Hall AO 1915 - 2009
George Hall was one of Australia's foremost cardiologists for more than 40 years. His polite and self-effacing manner belied a brilliant mind, limitless energy and a boundless sense of duty and dedication to his patients.
His services were sought by governments, universities, hospitals, community leaders and ordinary people. He spent many years treating disadvantaged patients, who received from him the same high level of care and attention as the powerful and famous - but not the accounts.
George Vincent Hall was born in Sydney on November 20, 1915 and went to school at St Aloysius College. He started at St Vincent's Hospital as a fourth-year student in 1937, and graduated from the University of Sydney in 1940. That same year, partly because of the wartime depletion of medical staff and partly because of the promise he had shown, he was made a senior resident at St Vincent's. He also married Shirley Goldstein, a nurse he met in the casualty department.
On New Year's Eve 1942, Hall left for New Guinea, where he served with the 2/5 Australian General Hospital (AGH) and 2/9 AGH at the foot of the Kokoda Track and later at Bootless Bay.
After Hall had spent 13 months in New Guinea, his commanding officer, Colonel (later Professor) Lorimer Dods, recognising his promise, suggested that he take leave of absence and return to Sydney to sit for his membership to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). Hall received his membership with distinction and was promoted to major. He also served in Borneo.
After the war Hall returned to Sydney and in 1946, after a year in general practice in Randwick, worked assisting Dr Joseph Coen, who was interested in cardiology. Hall was then appointed as relieving assistant physician at St Vincent's. In 1947, he was made honorary assistant physician.
He had a rapidly growing consultant practice in Macquarie Street, but he moved to London at the end of 1951 and took his membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1952.
In London Hall worked with Dr Paul Wood and displayed his capacity for innovation by ordering the first pressure-recording equipment for their cardiac catheter laboratory. It measured the pressures in the heart through a small catheter fed through a vein in the arm, and improved heart-disease diagnosis.
When Hall returned to Sydney, he, Harry Windsor, Tony Seldon and John Hickie established the St Vincent's Cardiovascular Unit in 1953. Hall was also made honorary senior physician at St Vincent's. His excellence as a diagnostician was quickly recognised and his practice grew to be one of the busiest in Australia. For many years he was also senior physician at the Mater Misericordia and Lewisham hospitals.
As well as his practice, Hall found time to work in primary research into cardiac disease. In the early 1950s, for example, many patients who had had rheumatic fever suffered stenosis (abnormal narrowing) of the heart valves. Hall referred a patient to Harry Windsor, and this was the first time Windsor opened someone up to clear a blockage of the mitral valve. In 1959 the two men published a review of 100 patients after mitral valvotomy. In the same year, Hall, John Hickie and Paul George used a radioactive substance to study changes in fat metabolism in patients with arterial disease.
In 1960, Hall and Hickie studied a group of patients with cardiomyopathy and heart failure and the work allowed clinicians to establish the cause and progression of heart muscle disease. In time, this work led to St Vincent's heart transplant program, which started in 1968.
As well as his clinical and research commitments, Hall dedicated time to teaching and examining new medical practitioners. At the University of Sydney, he was a lecturer in clinical medicine from 1947 to 1968 and lecturer in therapeutics from 1963 to 1968 and also taught at the University of NSW. His late Friday evening postgraduate sessions, known as ''Hall's Hearts'', attracted students from all over the city. In 1976 he also represented the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as a teacher and examiner in Singapore.
Hall was on many medical committees and councils and a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the London College and the American College of Cardiology. He was made a life member of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand in 1989 and was a member and then deputy chairman of the board of St Vincent's Hospital for many years. In 1990 he was made an officer of the Order of Australia.
Away from work, Hall's greatest relaxation was horse racing, and over the years he treated many of its colourful identities.
George Hall is survived by his second wife, Ellen, children Anne, Peter, David, Jeremy and Anthony, and 10 grandchildren.