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  • J. Garber Galbraith

    1981, Los Angeles, CA

    James Garber Galbraith was born in 1914 in Anniston, Alabama. He was the first son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Love Galbraith. His father, a banker, was a quiet, retiring man and, before his marriage, a Presbyterian. His mother Sadie was a petite, vivacious, well-loved Southern lady, a devout Catholic who set a first-class table. Her father, Dr. James Rhodes Garber, Sr., was one of the early physicians in Alabama. Garber, his brother Wilfred, and his sister Mary were all reared in their mother's religion. Garber was an excellent student at St. Bernard's and fell in love with golf at a young age. He was influenced early in his life towards a medical career by his mother's twin brother, Dr. James Rhodes Garber, Jr., a prominent obstetrician in Birmingham. Indeed, as his uncle's namesake, Garber was almost obliged to pursue a medical career.

    After high school, he attended the University of Notre Dame from 1930 to 1932 and subsequently received his B.S. degree and M.D. degree from St. Louis University, graduating from the School of Medicine in 1938. He interned at the Lloyd Noland Hospital in Fairfield, Alabama and remained for a year of general surgery. One of his friends recalled that Dr. Galbraith routinely had a big party for his friends and fellow physicians every Labor Day and asked his guests to bring their own food and drink. After the party, he allegedly had enough spirit to last until his next Dutch-treat party.

    He went for his neurosurgical training to the New York Neurological Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, completing his training there in 1943. He entered the Navy in 1943 and was assigned to New Orleans. Subsequently, he was transferred to Guadalcanal and, upon completion of his naval duty, returned to medical practice in neurological surgery in Birmingham, where he enjoyed an active private practice and served as the neurosurgeon at the University. He assisted in the training of Dr. Stanley Graham, his first partner, and subsequently formed an association with Dr. Griff Harsh and others in an outstanding neurosurgical group. He remained in charge of the neurosurgical training and the private practice from 1946 to 1965. He became associate professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 1946 and became professor and director of the Division of Neurosurgery in 1954. As professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical School, he was pleased at the appointment of his long-time colleague and associate, Dr. Griff Harsh, as director of the training program in 1978.

    His academic honors include membership in Alpha Omega Alpha and Alpha Sigma Nu. He received the Alumni Merit Award from St. Louis University in 1973 and the Citation for Distinguished Service from Columbia University in 1967. In addition, in 1974, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from St. Bernard College. Dr. Galbraith has had many medical honors, locally, regionally, and nationally. He was president of the Jefferson County Medical Society in 1960 and president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama from 1974 to 1975. He has been president of the Southern Medical Association, Southern Neurosurgical Society, American Academy of Neurological Surgery, Society of Neurological Surgeons, and chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. He served as a member of the Board ofGovernors of the American College of Surgeons from 1974 to 1980 and has long been a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. In addition, he is so well respected by his peers that he served as a member of the Board of Censors for the Medical Association of the State of Alabama from 1969 to 1976. He has been active in public service in Birmingham, both as a member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and as a member of other public service boards.

    In addition to training a host of neurosurgeons, his scientific contributions consist of publications concerned with cerebral aneurysms, cerebral occlusive disease, brain tumors, and craniocerebral trauma. His area of expertise is craniotomy for meningioma. One of his residents has stated that Dr. Galbraith occasionally has shown the influence of profanity-inducing hemostasis, particularly with a difficult meningioma. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a devotion and contribution to neurological surgery in every aspect imagined. As a clinical neurosurgeon, he is known as a man of great common sense and decisive action.

    He is married to Marguerite Stabler Galbraith, affectionately known as Peggy. They have been blessed with four daughters, Ann, Jane, Kay, and Laura, and in 1981 had three granddaughters and a grandson. Dr. Galbraith has maintained his interest in golf and has long been a member of the Mountainbrook Country Club in Birmingham. Every Wednesday afternoon has been reserved for golf for as long as his associates can remember. He is so intent on his game that allegedly he played golf with an old friend on two or three occasions during which time the friend was developing a mild hemiparesis with a subdural hematoma. Garber's pride at his repeated victories over this friend during this period were suddenly deflated.

    His medical achievements represent the contributions of an outstanding clinical neurosurgeon. Of equal importance are his personal attributes. He is the epitome of the Southern gentleman. He has a wonderful combination of humility and common sense tempered by intelligence. He has the unique ability to disagree without appearing to disagree. He has been a counselor to neurosurgeons young and old in the South. He has the ability to listen, immediately determine the problem, and quickly and compassionately offer good advice and solutions. There are numerous stories of his counseling; perhaps one of the best is exemplified by the story of a frustrated new program director from Tennessee who asked to speak to Dr. Galbraith about adopting or developing a sense of direction. He was immediately invited to stop by Birmingham, picked up at the airport, enjoyed a sandwich in the quietness of Dr. Galbraith's office, returned to the airport with a firm handshake, and departed with renewed purpose and a workable solution to his problems.

    Throughout all of his activities, Dr. Galbraith has been an ardent gardener, particularly with roses but also with vegetables. He secretly has been a fan of W. C. Fields for many years. He appreciates ladies and has a unique way of letting them know it. He enjoys dancing and most social events. The Congress was proud to have Dr. J. Garber Galbraith, gentleman, physician, surgeon, counselor, leader, teacher, and friend, as its Honored Guest in 1981.

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