Dr. Glen A. Lillington, whose passion for teaching, writing and speaking about medicine influenced countless medical students and practitioners, died peacefully Saturday, May 7, 2011, at his Menlo Park home. He was 84.
Born Oct. 20, 1926, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and always proud of his Icelandic Canadian heritage, Glen was an internationally recognized expert in pulmonary critical care disease. He was an emeritus professor of medicine at UC Davis and emeritus clinical professor of medicine at Stanford University. He also served recently as ombudsman at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, where he began his long medical career in 1960.
He received a bachelor’s degree in science and his M.D. from the University of Manitoba, where he won many scholarships and prizes and participated in a huge range of activities, from sports (hockey, football and soccer) to glee club and, especially, singing. From high school onward he performed in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, choirs and barbershop quartets, and had an abiding love of grand opera.
He did a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in internal medicine and a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota there.
While there he also met his wife, Ellen Place, a nursing student. They married in 1957 and moved to California in 1960 after he was offered a position at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic. He also taught at Stanford until he had the opportunity to move to full time teaching as a professor of medicine at UCD in 1973. Upon retirement in 1994, Glen and Ellen moved to Menlo Park, where he returned to clinical teaching at Stanford and also took on his ombudsman role.
Glen authored an influential textbook on chest diseases that has been translated into several languages, and wrote nearly 200 journal articles during his long career. His clear, elegant and often amusing writing style led to many medical journal board appointments, and he particularly enjoyed doing short editorials, often recalling a personal experience or medical history anecdote.
Described by the Wall Street Journal as the nation’s “unofficial curator of medical humor,” Glen was also a repository of medical jokes and brought a joyful sense of fun to his lectures and hospital rounds. His warmth and compassion made him popular with generations of students, colleagues and patients.
He won many awards and honors during his distinguished career, including the California Medal from the California Lung Association (1995).
Glen’s former resident and UCD colleague Dr. Samuel Louie said of Glen: “A generation of colleagues, physicians and professors has learned from Glen Lillington. A ‘Professor for All Seasons,’ his important and pioneering accomplishments in the discipline of chest diseases are enhanced through his natural gift to teach young physicians the expertise necessary to provide consultation, and to bring a smile to a patient’s face with his delightful bedside manner.”
He is survived by sisters Claire Burns (Robert) of Modesto and Barbara Williams (Roland) of Winnipeg; wife Ellen; daughter Karlin (Chris) of Dublin, Ireland; sons Peter of Placerville and Barry (Dawn) of Fairfax; and grandson Zachary. Memorial contributions may be made to the “Glen Lillington Pulmonary Endowment” at UC Davis, 4150 V St., Suite 3100, Sacramento, CA 95817 or the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.