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C. Norman Gillis 1933-2001

C. Norman Gillis


C. Norman Gillis, Ph.D., a nationally recognized specialist in pulmonary vascular disease and pharmacology, died at the age of 68 on August 16, 2001.

In herbal circles Gillis is best known for his research on the production of nitric oxide by the ingestion of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Mey., Araliaceae) and the subsequent vasodilatation that results from this. He also formed the Herbal Medicine and Medicinal Plant Interest Group within the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Gillis published more than 250 scientific articles during his career. He chaired national and international symposia and served on numerous advisory committees, including the Pulmonary Vascular Disease Advisory Committee of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the World Health Organizations Expert Committee on Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. He was recently appointed to serve on a committee of the National Academies Institute of Medicine. He served as associate editor of Biochemical Pharmacology and as a member on the editorial boards of several pharmacological journals.

A native of Scotland, Gillis earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Glasgow in 1957. He taught in Scotland and Canada before coming to Yale University in 1961 as an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology. He detoured briefly to head the Cardiovascular and Autonomic Pharmacology section at the Squibb Institute before returning to Yale. He became a full professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology in 1973 and served as the director of research in the anesthesiology department from 19791993. He taught at Yale until 1997. Afterwards, he served as professor emeritus of anesthesiology and pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and as adjunct professor of medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.

Later in his career he brought his background to study herbal medications. His interest in this group of drugs came well before their current popularity. In the February 2001 FASEB Newsletter, he pointed to the need for rigorous scientific study of herbal medicines, and called for both basic scientists and clinicians to define the pharmacokinetics, toxicology, metabolism, bioavailablility and to assess gene expression in response to phytomedicines. In this guest opinion ("Biomedical Science and Herbal Medicine: A Reluctant but Necessary Alliance"), he called for public funds to support examination of herbal safety and efficacy.

Gillis is survived by his wife, Bonita; son, Steven; daughter, Sharon and son-in-law, Thomas J. Phillips; and two grandchildren.

LeAnne Hunt

[Peart K. In Memoriam: National Specialist in Pulmonary Vascular Disease C. Norman Gillis [Yale Press Release]. 2001 Aug 20.]