Dr. Norbert (Nobby) Gilmore RIP

Written by  //  June 10, 2024  //  Absent Friends  //  Comments Off on Dr. Norbert (Nobby) Gilmore RIP

Nobby left us Saturday (8 June 2024) night BC time.
So sad but a blessing for him. He died peacefully with friends around him. Irene did a marvellous job making sure he was looked after.
Yes, very sad. I’ll miss him dreadfully. We were close friends and colleagues for over 40 years. ,
The person who most looked after Nobby was Irene Simons, although John and all Nobby’s other friends were great. However Irene was amazing she literally devoted her days and often parts of her nights to make sure he was getting the care he needed. Irene even set up rosters for people to be with Nobby and bossed them into it so he was never left alone. We would be very blessed if we could have an Irene when we needed them as was true for Nobby.
Margaret (Margo) Somerville

Norbert Stephen Gilmore
August 4, 1942 – June 8, 2024

With deep sorrow, we write that Norbert Joseph Gilmore (BA, PhD, MD) died peacefully on June 8, 2024, after several weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC. His last days were filled with visits from his many friends and colleagues, some flying in from across Canada, and others calling from around the world.

Nobby, as he was affectionately known, was born in 1942 in Lowell, Massachusetts, and grew up in Burlington, Vermont. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree (1964) from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, he studied medicine at the University of Vermont, interrupting his studies there to do a Doctorate of Philosophy (1968) in pharmacology at the University of London where he conducted research with the Nobel Prize winner Sir John Vane. He returned to the University of Vermont to complete his Doctorate of Medicine (1970) and then was recruited by McGill University. He did his internship and residency at the Royal Victoria Hospital and was appointed to McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in 1975, becoming a Professor of Medicine in 1991 and a Professor Emeritus in 2010.

He has 150 publications as author, co-author or editor in pharmacology, allergy, immunology, issues related to drug use, prisons, immigration, and especially the clinical, ethical, legal, and policy aspects of HIV infection and AIDS. Perhaps best known for his pioneering work in the latter at the height of the AIDS epidemic, he has been a Director of the McGill AIDS Centre, a member of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, and has directed or served on many university, provincial, national, and international committees, including being Chair of Health Canada’s National Advisory Committee on AIDS from 1983 to 1989. His academic contributions include lecturing on HIV and AIDS topics in Canada, Europe, Africa, Australia, India, and elsewhere.

Nobby also loved art. After retirement in Victoria, B.C., he was on the Board of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Before that in Montreal, he had a studio in an old industrial building in Pointe Saint Charles where he created objects d’art from discarded metal, wood, glass, and stone on the streets, which he and his beloved dog Buddy found walking in Montreal neighbourhoods. These were featured in a one-man exposition, and displayed in his friends’ homes, his Montreal home, and his Victoria apartment overlooking the harbor along with his collection of huge, avant-garde, and sometimes quirky paintings. In his last few days of life, his favorites surrounded his bed. He was going out in Gilmore style. And style he had. Often it was food. He loved planning dinners, sharing recipes, cooking, and serving while wearing his big chef’s hat. He loved telling jokes and stories galore. Though many were repeats, something new would also pop up and provoke a laugh.

More than his enormous erudition and style, it was Nobby’s generosity and humanity. His total dedication to his AIDs patients was rewarded with their affection, admiration and absolute trust in him. In fact, everyone with whom he interacted experienced something special that they could not forget. Through his many health crises, beginning with a fall down an elevator shaft at his Montreal studio that left him with serious mobility problems for life, one never heard a complaint but rather his concern for you, your partner, your kids, your parents, your dog, your cat. Nobby seemed to find strength in injuries that would have left others devastated and demoralised. He was always reaching out, even to strangers, inviting them to his fabulous parties, turning them into friends for life, and creating a sense of community. As his health deteriorated even more and blindness crept in, his cheerfulness and optimism still beamed into the looming shadows, lighting up those around him. He was everyone’s beacon, and that is why they gathered around him or called him from afar, so grateful for his friendship and inspiration of how to live life to the fullest and compassionately for others, even when in decline.

It is very difficult to capture Nobby’s unique and rare spirit in words. One close friend summed up Nobby as “an amazing person, humble, immensely kind, completely trustworthy, courageous – particularly on behalf of vulnerable people – the most loyal of friends, and brilliant.” An important source of Nobby’s happiness was making other people happy. He would describe his most successful entertaining as “everyone was happy.” Nobby showed us that happiness also likes company.

Rest in Peace, our dear friend. We will miss you dreadfully. A celebration of life will be announced.

Unsung Heroes of McGill 1821-2021
As part of the Bicentennial Celebrations, faculties, central units, associations, and unions were asked to nominate the Unsung Heroes in their department – the less-recognized faculty and staff who have walked the halls of McGill through the ages and who have greatly helped shape the community.
Dr. Norbert Gilmore
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
1991 – 2014 ‘
A pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Canada and a champion of human rights, Norbert Gilmore worked as a physician, teacher, researcher, and administrator at McGill University. He retired in 2014 after becoming a Professor Emeritus of Medicine.
During his time at McGill, Norbert’s clinical and research work focused on immunology and immune deficiency — he has devoted his career to studying and helping people with HIV infection and AIDS. He served as Director of the Chronic Viral Illness Service at the MUHC, and co-founded the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR), where he served as its first president. A champion of human rights, Norbert played a major role in supporting work done with HIV-infected refugees in Canada. He was also one of the founding members of McGill’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. He didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk and spent time working on the front lines. In the media, Norbert spoke of “HIV as a social illness” shaped by political, economic, social and behavioral forces. Nobody ever called him by his full name, or even by Dr. Gilmore. To everyone who knew him, from the Dean of Medicine to a homeless patient he might pass on the street, he was simply “Nobby.”
He remains one of the most respectful, encouraging, kind and brilliant people the McGill community has had the good fortune of knowing. A genuinely kind and generous colleague and mentor, AIDS activist and pioneer, “Nobby” is well respected and highly regarded by all who know him.
Nominated by Professors at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

30 June 2017
House Beautiful: A haven on the harbour
Norbert Gilmore, 75, retired to Victoria two years ago and left behind a “glorious garden,” a big home and a big career in Montreal as one of Canada’s premier experts in HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis treatment and research.
(Times Colonist) He now enjoys a more salubrious climate, urban lifestyle and stunning location in a 1,200-square-foot condo that hangs over Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
“If you are standing on the balcony and fall, you’re fish food,” joked Gilmore, who can hardly believe the views. “I actually have friends who ask if they can come over just to watch the sunsets from my balcony.”
Gilmore’s condo is in the Victoria Regent Hotel & Suites on Wharf Street.
“I came here not because I’m failing, but because I’m frailing,” said the engaging scholar who retired here because of advancing macular degeneration as well as severe back and leg problems.
The latter was due to a fall down an elevator shaft in 1999 while sharing an art studio with two female friends in a decrepit old building. He was a healthy 57-year-old when it happened, but the six-metre drop smashed his knee and hip, which needed rebuilding. Twice.

19 December 2014
Dr. Norbert Gilmore, pioneer in the fight against AIDS in Canada and a champion for human rights, retires
Dr. Norbert Gilmore, a highly esteemed McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) senior physician, researcher at the Research Institute of the MUHC and McGill University emeritus professor will retire later this month. For the past 30 years, he has been a renowned HIV and AIDS specialist in Canada and a champion of human rights of HIV-infected patients within the healthcare system and in society.
“The first five years of Aids were just crazy,” says 72-year-old Dr. Norbert Gilmore. “At the very beginning, people were sitting on floor of the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) clinic, because there weren’t enough chairs, so we took up the allergy clinic a couple of mornings a week. When we dealt with HIV/Aids, we sometimes had to rob from Peter to pay Paul.”
“Dr. Gilmore was a pioneer with HIV medicine in Canada,” says Dr. Jason Szabo, physician at the Chronic Viral Illness Service at the Montreal Chest Institute. “He fought against stigmatization from the get-go, telling people that HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact. He also established the link between the promotion of human rights and HIV prevention.”
For Dr. Gilmore, human rights and health go hand in hand. “We have to protect vulnerable people and give them the same opportunities that everybody else in society has. They should have the right to be happy, to have a family, to get work and to be healthy.”
As a leading Aids expert, Dr. Gilmore was thrown into the media spotlight early on and gave countless television, radio and newspaper interviews trying to “sell HIV as a social illness” shaped by political, economic, social and behavioural forces.
“I used to tell everybody: ‘People with HIV/Aids need respect, so don’t discriminate, don’t stigmatize, and don’t delay doing what needs to be done.’”
Before the Aids explosion, Dr. Gilmore had been working as a physician at the Royal Victoria Hospital since 1975. Originally from Massachusetts, he studied Pharmacology at the University of London, England, and Medicine at the University of Vermont. From 1970 to 1974, he was an intern and resident in allergy and immunology at McGill University’s Royal Victoria Hospital, a “high-tech institution that also embraced care at the bedside”.
“In the 70’s this place was hot. People were curious, hard-working and superstars in their fields. I learned an awful lot and had a lot of fun,” he says.
Those rather carefree years were soon replaced by the dark times brought on by the Aids epidemic. “It just exploded and steamrolled. Everybody was dying,” he says. “Dr. Richard Lalonde, my predecessor, deserves great kudos for his work in building the RVH’s HIV unit at that time. Sometimes we had 20 people hospitalized. That’s how big the epidemic was.”
The onset was so sudden that before community organizations could be created, doctors had to play the roles of advisors, advocates and sometimes activists. In 1989, after six years as Chair of Health Canada’s Advisory Committee on Aids, Dr. Gilmore resigned to protest against government’s inaction on its Aids education programs. He collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and wrote research papers that are still consulted today. He was one of the founding members of McGill’s Centre for Medicine Ethics and Law.
“His ethics course taught us to translate concepts that we all hold dear into policy and action,” says Dr. Szabo. “He didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk and got his hands dirty on the front lines.”
Dr. Gilmore’s devotion to his patients is recognized by all. “He is respectful, encouraging, kind and, of course, very competent and a brilliant intellectual,” says Claire Duchesneau, social worker at the Chronic Viral Illness Service. “He has played a major role in supporting the work we do with refugees. He’s our human rights guy.”
In 2011, he was responsible for merging the RVH and the Montreal General Hospital HIV/Aids clinics. As medical director of the Chronic Viral Illness Service for the past four years, he oversees a group of 40 medical specialists, psychologists, pharmacists and social workers delivering specialized care to 2,500 patients.
“Our team is magnificent. Nurses Ellen Seguin and Gino Curadeau work tirelessly and everyone gives their very best,” he says proudly. “We don’t discipline people; we try to encourage them to follow their treatment. We created a unit that really works and is in perfect shape to go to Glen.”
His colleagues and friends gathered for a farewell party a few weeks ago. Thirty people were expected, but 85 showed up to celebrate Dr. Gilmore.
“In Dr. Gilmore’s case, medicine was never just a job; there was a sense of it being a vocation,” says Dr. Szabo. “He led by example and left a mark on many areas and on many of us.”

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