A Tribute to Phil Hall
Article first published online: 3 MAR 2009
© 2009, Copyright the Author Journal compilation © 2009, Wiley Periodicals, Inc
Volume 36, Issue 1, page 4, March 2009
How to Cite
Klein, M. C. (2009), A Tribute to Phil Hall. Birth, 36: 4. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2008.00298.x
- Issue published online: 3 MAR 2009
- Article first published online: 3 MAR 2009
Phil Hall, a long-time member of the Birth editorial board, died peacefully on November 27, 2008, in Winnipeg, Canada, after a two-year fight against an unrelenting cancer. Throughout his ordeal Phil was more concerned with others than himself, and he continued to teach and work in nonpatient roles, despite undergoing multiple treatments. He maintained an extensive supportive correspondence with friends around the world, continuing to be a source of wise advice and erudite council during his illness. He was most proud to have been in shape for the marriage of his daughter Ashleigh last summer.
Phil was born in 1948 in Toronto, attended McMaster University in Hamilton, did his residency there in obstetrics and gynecology, and took a fellowship in prenatal diagnosis at Toronto General Hospital. The family moved to Ottawa in 1980, where Phil was a faculty member in obstetric perinatology at Ottawa General Hospital. In 1989 they moved to Winnipeg, where as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Manitoba, Phil worked at St. Boniface General Hospital. Most recently he was Director of the St. Boniface Fetal Assessment Unit, Obstetric Outreach Programs, and Chair of the Medical Advisory Council.
Phil was an incredibly thoughtful, generous, and gentle human being. He was a true Renaissance man, a voracious reader, expert on Shakespeare, pianist extraordinaire, orator, and lover of music, fine wine, food, and dusty martinis and was a proud supporter of the arts community in Winnipeg. His network of correspondents and members of the multidisciplinary Maternity Care Discussion Group Listserve (MCDG), where he crafted many hundreds of contributions, appreciated his lengthy, prolific, sardonic, and humorous ruminations on politics, life, and the evolution of maternity care. Last year, Phil was given Honorary Membership in The College of Family Physicians of Canada, where at convocation he gave a hilarious acceptance speech, quoting liberally from Cervantes and Harry Potter.
Phil was a friend of family practice and midwifery, aboriginal and northern maternity care, and always an advocate for what pregnant women needed. He was a major force in developing doula care in Manitoba and across Canada. His interests were encyclopedic and eclectic. He worried about inappropriate use of risk-scoring systems, alcohol and fish oil in pregnancy, the obsession with celebrity births, the trend toward routine induction at 41 weeks, and the misuse of randomized controlled trials. He felt that, after initial gains in evidence-based medicine, “we have moved from evidence-based decision-making to decision-based evidence-making.”
Andrew Kotaska wrote on the MCDG Listserve: “In a world where information is replacing the knowledge that displaced wisdom, Phil was a reality check: a skeptic who used his intellect to distill the wheat from the increasing amount of chaff, then shared it in his dry, ironic fashion, much to the chagrin of those pre-occupied with chaff. I have never seen anyone piss people off with such grace and humor.” Murray Enkin wrote: “…when you were a student and resident at McMaster, I loved the way you picked out, and picked on my many foibles, the way you gently mocked me…. I reveled in your magnificent blend of bard and book, of evidence and common sense.”
We miss you Phil, and we express our great admiration for you and for all your many contributions. To Judith and the family we offer our heartfelt condolences.